All posts by craigarmiger

Head Coach for Outdoor Coaching Uk. Getting as many people into the Outdoors as possible. Been teaching outdoors for over 30 years. Never feel better then when I am outdoors - anywhere.

Maths and Maps

The National Navigation Award scheme has a set of junior awards especially designed for the younger navigators. These are particularly suitable for junior schools and they cover many aspects of the numeracy curriculum. It is a great way to teach using a different and creative method which engages those, that for the classroom is not an environment that appeals to their learning style.

This lesson was for year 3 pupils but can be adapted and differentiated for other ages. Using the classroom area we made a map of the desks on their whiteboards to understand how to orientate the map to the surroundings.

Each pupil then used their water bottle, which had their name on and placed it around the room as a control. They then marked the position of the water bottle on their map, which they then in turn stopped their maps to find their partners bottle. Much excitement then ensued as they set out on their journey of discovery searching for the bottles.

The next step was to draw six circles on their white board. This was towards helping with understanding of scale and positioning. This represented six cones of two different colours. They labelled the cones according to the colours of their cones. Then picking one of the cones on their map they circled the cone using a Triangle, the international Orienteering symbol for the ‘Start’. The class got quite excited they were using Olympic language in their symbols.

Each pupil had to orientate the map and go to that cone which was part of the pattern in front of them. The next step was to draw a line from this cone to another representative of a journey leg. They then had to make this journey, after which another 2 legs were added. At each step they had to orientate the map using the cones as reference. Once they had completed their journey they exchanged their map with partner in their group so they could follow their map. After this they swopped with another group using a different set of cones. The next stage was to place the cones in the same pattern but further apart, so each leg was a greater distance.

There was much excitement and running around following each other’s maps, this was a great way to introduce physical literacy and practicing following routes in a way which was a fun method of learning.

With a few more little activities added to their navigation understanding gave the class the opportunity to complete the Bronze National Navigator Award and have a certificate given them in assembly. What a great way to reward a maths lesson.

Taking this activity to the next levels add more cones to the pattern and use set maps for the competitors to follow.

To add another twist and to bring numeracy into the navigation put a number under each cone. At each cone on the route add the numbers together for a mental maths problem.

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Well Being Stones

As part of a continuing Welsh Arts Council Creative Schools Project a year 3 group are improving an area within the centre of the buildings. This is a central section which can be accessed by many of the classrooms and the family room. It has many secluded sections and seating areas to be used for thinking and thought collection.

In this area large beach stones are used to decorate post bases. As part of an activity on looking at ourselves and things that make us calm and smile each person with a partner picked a stone – blindfolded.

By using a blindfold each person could choose a stone by smell, weight, texture and what it said to them when they touched it. All stones were very similar but each one picked was special to them.

Once picked they had to explain the reason why they choose that particular stone to their partner. Once all the stones were collected they were studied individually and then left over break time to dry. Once returning each stone was reunited with its person. It was decorated by painting a picture or word associated with their thoughts earlier on what made them happy and smile. Once all the stones were finished with their thoughts and pictures in paint had dried they were placed out in the courtyard area as a symbol of their happiness area. The words are visible to others to help inspire them towards their own thoughts of tranquility. Some are hidden beneath the gravel to be personal to themselves. All are placed on the ground to connect with Mother Earth so she may spread their word to others and hold it for them. This concept was discussed as an earlier activity in the Tipi relating around First Nation spiritual beliefs.

The project continues with the addition of a Totem Pole and Small Tipi for story telling and chill out area. A great legacy for the rest of the school of a creative approach to wellbeing and working on increasing individual confidence in many areas of some disengaged boys in the class.

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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Nature-Blind

Richard Louv spoke of young people suffering from “Nature Deficit Dis-order”, in his book ‘Last Child In The Woods’ commenting on the vast divide between todays young people and the world’s natural spaces. In his global campaign his aim is to introduce more young people to the educational and personal developmental benefits of emersing themselves in the Great Outdoors. Increasing scientific evidence is being published demonstrating that this ‘free’ and natural remedy which reduces modern day stress and anxiety supports the cause as the pace picks up in this Natural Revolution (Benefits of Nature: How Nature Helps Your Brain | Reader’s Digest)


Founder of TYF Adventure Andy Middleton from Pembrokeshire, an Outdoor Activist with a passion of changing the way in which we think, play and approach our symbiotic relationship with the outdoors recently guided Richard Parks, a new TV celebrity and formally a Welsh Rugby player, during a coasteering adventure. Andy during the day posed a question “how do we use the wild play in some of nature’s most beautiful places to inspire millions more people to shift the way they live to protect them for ever?”.

I think that both Richard’s and Andy’s philosophy is incredibly important to the health and well-being of our future living, but there is one question I came back to when thinking about the practicalities and strategies – how we achieve this? Introducing more ‘Vitamin N’ into our daily diet and being a Nature Guide may well be the answer, but as the old saying goes ‘you can take a horse…..’.

On a recent canoe trip down the awe-inspiring Wye valley, in its infant autumnal colours, it became apparent that the young people on the journey were not bathing in its radiance. Not curious at the detail in the way in which the river bubbled over the moss strewn rocks, they were thinking of the end of the journey, looking straight ahead, blinkered to the natural medicine that was passing them by. They drifted on past a Little Egret oblivious of the effort this African birds impressive journey had been to display its contrasting beauty against the backdrop of the British countryside. IMG_0593.JPG

As I too drifted behind the canoes I entered a meditation thinking about the strategies surrounding this problem that was visible in front of me. Yes, we can introduce the Outdoors, yes we can guide an individual into an incredible location, but fundamentally it is important to the sustainability of this Outdoor Revolution that we find a way of taking off the blinkers, maybe more than this, we pull off the ‘Blindfold’ that makes us ‘Nature-blind’.

I can sympathise to some extent with not being able to see things in their true light being colour-blind and having my own view of the world. I see one number on the colour chart others see nothing and vice-versa. I have had many journeys in the car with my wife when a loud “STOP’ interrupts the passage at traffic lights as I have not seen the red light. As one person sees the detail in a view others may not, so how do we get others to appreciate the wonders of the Outdoors? Is it just an age thing? Does empathy come with increasing years? Many years ago taking a climbing group to the sea cliffs at Porthclais where the view of the location is hidden from view until the final few metres, a teenager proclaimed looking out over St Brides Bay, “look at all that water…..and thats just the top!”. Is that empathy?

We need to take more time in this ever pressurised and digital world we live in to appreciate the surroundings and soak up the natural remedies. This could make our lives a healthier and happier one, making a more effective population and having a massive affect on the GDP world-wide. Noticing the small details and slowing our journey down, allowing the body to self-heal in the Outdoors is one step forwards in the right direction. We should be walking our pathway into the Outdoors with our eyes wide open and spending more time distracting ourselves with the Outdoors so we spend less time on our phones. This can only bring benefits. Our lifestyle today is one quick blur of so much information that we block out much of what is around us, like the journey down the river, the paddlers of the canoes did not notice the slightly submerged rock waiting beneath the surface until it abruptly stopped them mid-stream. Had their passage over that section been slower and more attentive they would have had been able to respond to altering their course. They had been instructed and informed of the skills to recognise the change in surface water indicating a submerged rock. However during their journey in this environment they had reverted to their default vision.

My thoughts are that all the combined efforts of the members of the Natural Revolution, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant make a valuable contribution  and are much needed with this recent momentum. Every person who loves the Outdoors, works, lives, plays, teaches, guides and reads about it are all crucial to continue this movement. We need to change that other well known saying  ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’.  We need to gather advocates of Nature along this journey in order to succeed. If you just look out through the window and see it as a pane of glass, you are off course. Its a portal to the Outdoors beyond.

“We must teach our children

To smell the earth

To taste the rain

To touch the wind

To see things grow

To hear the sunrise

And night fall”

John Cleal

 

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UN NATURE TRAIL

As part of a days Outdoor Learning Festival in a primary school an activity used was an ‘Un-nature Trail’. Along a hedge, but have done it along a pathway before, I had placed items that were all ‘man made’ or all un natural. Some were at eye height, some were high, some were at ground level all designed to make the participant use their observation skills. However, because we as humans have so much information being received at any one time we filter out the vast majority. This means that if we don’t focus then things get missed! What colour top was that person wearing that you just passed? If it wasn’t really bright or stood out in some way you filtered it out. No need to put it at the front of your mind. So small everyday items can be filtered out on this activity. 
It can be run in different ways and you will think of differentiation all the time. A list of the items can be given and you have to find them. You can tell the class how many there are and they have to list them – they may well find others if you’ve done a walk of the trail before. 

You can develop this into sorting the materials after the trail and this can be planned into items that are selected before the trail starts. 

Rules say that no pointing. Try not to give away the fact that you have seen the item. Do not remove it. 

Here is a list I have used before. Some create discussion. 

Paper clip 

Coat hanger

Wooden clothes peg

Shoe lace

Pencil

Fluffy hedgehog

Ruler

Tent peg 

Cup

Sweet wrapper

Battery

Paper bag 

Fabric

Have one idea for using an app for collecting your score which can be used for any collection of data. Could be counting leaves, a wildlife study, ecological survey, tadpole count, but in this case the criteria is materials. The app,used is ‘ Dartfish Easy Tag. 

You can use existing templates or create your own, change the criteria to fit your survey or score. You can then look at the data and use how you wish. I took a photo at each stage to record and then put into Pic Collage for this this post. Once the data has been saved it can be emailed to an account or you could share the results over a Seesaw class account with the rest of your class and teacher.

Tipi Ceremony – Values

craigarmiger - OutdoorCoaching

In the beginning, the idea of the Tipi was the USP (unique selling point) of my new business Outdoor Coaching UK. It is has now developed into a very versatile piece of equipment which enables the introduction of a variety of Outdoor Learning and life skills.

The first outing was to Maesglas Primary School in Newport to use Outdoor Learning as a vehicle to help engage pupils that had poor attendance (70%average) back into school. It was also to look at the values of who and where they were in relation with family and school.


I had been speaking via Facebook to a friend (funny how this new world of social media creates friends who you have never met, but have a relationship with) who teaches in Northern Canada and has become immersed through marriage and occupation as a headteacher into the Cree First Nation people. Bruce was able to…

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Outdoor Mental Health 

‘Just going outside for a breathe of fresh air’, ‘ go outside and play, it will do you good instead of being inside all day!’.

A few phrases that I had heard from an early age and now have a more profound ring to them. As our screenagers get engrossed into their own virtual world,  they are cleverly marketed into the supposition that they are engaged socially into a green and healthy world because the online game is set Outdoors.

A single hour outside during the day would aid their whole life health plan. A few litres of air blown in by the wind instead of recirculated teenage bedroom aroma, a stride across the garden or woodland track instead of an excited leg twitch of another kill on the screen could put years on their healthy calendar.

What’s the alternative? Statistics that are quite shocking today that apply to our young people. High security prisoners now get more daily outdoor time than our average young person. Wales has the highest obesity rates in young people than anywhere in Europe, you can’t blame that one on European legislation!

What is available is Free! Wales has a double Free prescription but only tablets are the drug of choice from our doctors surgery. It should be that our Health Service is linked  to our amazing Welsh Outdoor environment. A walk in a green area, a city park counts, will bring down your blood pressure, reduce stress levels and aid recovery from health problems.


So, when feeling down, recovering from illness or surgery get Outdoors, scientifically it is proven that the Great Outdoors is indeed ‘Great’ at making you feel better. But then we already knew this, as when we came back indoors from being Outside we were always told to ‘calm down’ as we had too much energy! How do you feel after that walk?  – ‘recharged’. Just listen to the language of the Outdoors in relation to Health in general it says it all!

More young people can recognise a Dalek and not an oak tree. Time to change our learning and approach to helping ourselves with our health plan and improve our life NOW , rather than in the future saying ‘I wish I’d have got out more!’.

Have a bit of ‘eco therapy’ in your daily dose of medicines and tonics.