Pavlov in the Outdoors

When Mountain Rescue dogs are trained they are conditioned to respond to work mode by their florescent coat being put on. This indicates stop playing, change to a work mode and search for a casualty.

Wandering around Twitter viewing all the great work that is being done in the outdoors I happened to find a group of young children being introduced to the Outdoors by the wonderful ‘Forest Schools’ programme.  I agree with the philosophy of the whole programme and the ethos of what it is trying to do – get more young people into the Outdoors and re-engage them with the Natural world and the scientifically proven benefits of the healthy outdoors whilst at the same time learning. However, you cannot transpose Finland onto Britain. You can research their best practice and apply through interpretation those advantages and apply it to our circumstances and culture, for the benefit of our children.

Freedom to mould education and a culture that is looking forward is fundamentally what we are still struggling with, trying to get away from our Victorian roots, something that the Scandinavians however, have grasped. We have replaced  ‘teaching’ children, we are now ‘administering’ them, placing them in boxes, positions on graphs and tables concluding that this will place them in the best possible position to launch themselves into the wide world! This seems to be the foundation of our evolution into launching ourselves into the Outdoors.

‘Cotton Wool kids’ was a headline a few years ago about children being wrapped up due to undue health and safety restrictions. This restricts the full development of individuals and this has handcuffed teaching staff who do not know which to turn without filling in forms and permission slips before allowing their class to dip their toes in the Outdoors.

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As we move our children along a journey in the Outdoors we must go carefully and not sculpt that young person so it looks like the person in the rule book. When are we going to be brave enough and discard the “Keep off the Grass” signs and allow free movement in the Outdoors?  To use the full experiential learning model that Nature and the Outdoors has to offer which will fill in all those gaps that are missing in education at present that produces the whole child and not just a colour segment on a pye-chart.

Coach our children, offer them opportunities to explore and the learning ‘will’ take place, we are naturally inquisitive as a human being. We can make this happen, but not if we are governed by timetabled targets, or driven by systems that are inappropriate but if we transpose the Outdoors onto our curriculum, ‘Our Curriculum for Life.

By placing a high viz vest on your child to go explore the vast Outdoor environment which is your forest school area, is dictating that learning in the Outdoors only happens when you are fluorescent yellow.  A Pavlovian approach to Outdoor Learning.

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