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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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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. 

Operation Natural Well-being. 

The day of operation ‘Nature’s well-being’ had finally arrived. I had been walking through my outdoor journey for the last few months now as my hip replacement  operation had been cancelled several times. I had been on the walk in daylight, dawn, dusk, night-time, sun, wind and rain. Frosty underfoot and very soggy lately. Taking in all the detail of the path, it’s ups and downs the angle of where the trees cross above. The colours, the textures the feelings of the moss and leaf-litter. All this was my master plan in readiness for my thoughts going into the anaesthetic to use Nature to become calm and for a feeling of well-being and a positivity in my mental health. Also using it with the  recuperation afterwards when I am home and for a short while unable to walk the route. 
There is a spiritual side to my thoughts in walking in Nature but there is now scientific medical evidence that green space and fresh air aids recovery. Even the view from your bed window can have an affect on the time of recovery and most importantly the frame of your mind. This was one the incentives in my natural master plan. 

With all this in mind and with the thoughts initially that the wards all face the wonderful vista of the Blorenge and green mountains I entered  the ward on the morning of admission. However, as all plans there may need for some iteration along the journey. Certainly this was the case when they lead me to a side ward of my own with a magnificent view to aid health and well- being.

The ward opposite my room had a magnificent green view. 

My room had a different twist to the meaning of  ‘green’ ! Which meant my plan to become a success had to be a truely walk completely in the mind. 

Another iteration came when a few problems with introducing the anaesthetic meant I did not even open the gate to the woods to start my walk for the journey into the operation.

 Oh well, not to worry. Post operative positivity was in full force, which I am sure came from the influence of the saturation into Nature therapy for months prior to my NHS therapy. 


Within days I was home and using my green journey as part of my recuperation plan. Daily in my exercise routine I finished with a meditative walk along my route through the woods. 

Within a two weeks I ventured onto the walk alongside the stream but not into the wood as my crutches sank too much into the mud. 

Once I had the ability to access fully to the green gym – which is free by the way! the recovery sped up daily. My incentive to walk further in my normal journey motivated my efforts. 

 By week seven I had been to the top of Pen Y Fan much to the surprise of my physio. 


My time in preparation in using Nature to aid my recovery from my hip operation has been in my mind  been essential. The use of Nature and its natural medicine has in my case been a complete success. I can only compare with two years previous when I had my first hip replacement and recovery was so slow in comparison without Natures remedies. 

I am a firm believer in the use of Nature to help with all aspects of health. Taking off the top of the bottle with the label ‘Nature’ is the best move you can make if you have a medicinal need. It’s a tonic that should be taken daily. 

Natures Plug-In

An amazing quick visit to Stackpole Quay last night. The evening was perfect, the tide was in the full moon rising from the horizon. I had the place to myself and the sounds of sea a perfect opportunity to do some reflection. The power of Nature to recharge your soul and spirit never fails to amaze me. These moments are like a natural plug-in for your mental health and well-being. 


We may not realise it at the time as the tonic is taken in so many different methods. The vista is an eye lotion that writes its own label describing to us the awe and wonder of the moment. The sounds of the swell of the in coming tide against the shoreline, ear drops that soothe the inner soul. The taste of the salty sea breeze is a freshness for vitality in adding to that inhalation of breathe. Your toes in the sand, your palms on the cold exposed rocky shore connecting you directly to nature and grandmother earth. 


So just in ‘that moment’ you are plugged into a power unit that is unmeasurable but charges in way like no other. It’s price per unit – priceless. 

Day 1 Wild.    #walkintherain

craigarmiger - OutdoorCoaching

As I drove along with the windscreen wipers heavily in motion a strange ritual was being conducted on the pavement by two non- jacket wearing teenagers. A partially blonde teenager was being helped by her boyfriend to stay out of the torrential Welsh sunshine. In order to prevent the vital locks from becoming drenched and therefore unveiling her camouflage he had placed both his hands above her head. This unconventional butterfly shaped fascinator was certainly keeping me smiling as I headed to my destination. As I passed the end of school day gates, the road became clogged with traffic and waiting parents. Surely not all these children lived that far from school? They lived on a large estate only minutes from home why was there a need to protect their precious cargo from getting wet? We live in a Wales we should be used to the dampness of the environment…

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