Your contribution to The Natural Revolution

Walking along the beach for the first time for far too long a period between salt intakes had a different feel. Usually there are children in tow and even adults to consider, but this time I was surrounded by excited children, but they were not my responsibility. 

White sands or Porth Mawr in Pembrokeshire has always had a special place in my heart and the perfect place to re-invigorate and inject salt back into the system. However as I strolled across the sand and between the rocks and seaweed my Outdoor eyes and child-like character imerged and thoughts came to “Wow look at that rock pool!”.  

 

Reverting back to childhood I became excited about the contents of what might lurk beneath the surface and hidden under the blanket of weed. Looking around the beach there were dads doing the same, digging frantically to create a water system that would flow as the tide came in and fill the moat. Basic physics and understanding of natural environment. Balancing and moving smoothly over the barnacle mats stretched out on the rocks, beckoning to the little timid slow moving person behind. In control of the kite zooming back and fro up and down spinning and turning whilst explaining the fundamentals of wind direction and aerodynamics. Mum telling the story of how the jelly like blob turns into a dancing waving sea anemone when covered in water. 

As I watched these enthused adults introduce this new world to their children, it dawned on me how important the need for “The Nature Revolution” is to make our future generations appreciate the environment around them. Not only to find out that it has huge potential as a free wild playground but that the hidden benefits of emerseing themselves in this product would benefit their health, education and well-being. 

As I walked through the rock gardens I heard a small boy ask his dad “which one is it that pops?” A small but fundamental fact about bladder-wrack (Fucus vesiculous – the original source of Iodine) that he would not have known if he’d not experienced the audible sounds of the seashore. As I scrambled over the exposed rocks I met a sister and brother about to enter into  a small cave. Shafts of sunlight danced across the ceiling like natural glitter, inspiring feelings of pirates and dragons. After a few metres they emerged back into the sunlight smiling and accomplished after their adventure.

  

It made me realise that “Yes”, we do need to show our next generation where they can taste, smell and hear the exciting new world which is not “screen-time”, and that innate gene which drives our Adventure Literacy is not yet bred out, it’s just dormant. As adults we need to facilitate and open the door to explore nature and then step back once the fuse has been lit and watch the explosion into “green-time” begin to work its magic.

It’s Autumn I’m Leafing!

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I have passed this place every morning on the school run for the last week and every time another idea came into my head. Luckily it was on the return trip and only once did I drive past the stop with my passenger shouting “Dad!” very loudly to bring me back to present time!

It finally got the better of me and I loaded the I-pad into the car and pulled in when the bus had gone……….. it inspired the following.

Leaf it Out! 

1.  Find a spot and mark it so that your partner or group member can find it easily. You could scrape a spot moving the leaves away or mark it with a stick – or both! Make sure the ‘finder(s)’ is not looking!

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Starting Point

2.  Take two or three photo’s of the leaf-carpet in front of you. Variations of differentiation could be, getting the photographer to use 360 degrees from the spot they are standing at and to give the finder an angle to use to find the spot – ‘It’s between 90 – 180 degrees’. For early years or KS1 or special needs you could arrange the leaves into easily recognisable patterns or shapes for them to find.

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IMG_0169IMG_0172_2Rearranged patterns

 

3.  This could be done using the canopy as a spot to find without marking it first. ‘find the spot where this photo was taken from?’ or the trunk of a tree.

The photo’s could be developed into a photo – trail, connecting all the pictures together.

Moss and lichen bring in geography and biology, prevailing wind directions and clean air, compass directions.

Canopy IMG_0174_2IMG_0175_2 Moss and Lichen

Take a selfie of yourself to add a bit of humour to the session, see if they can find the same spot? It might take a while and lots of selfies to find. I must admit even if it was correct the first time I would say ‘No’ just keep the activity going.  Making sure that the ground is not too wet if the appropriate clothing is not being worn! (it was at this point that a car stopped and asked if I was Ok! – I explained that I was an outdoor teacher- and before I could add the explanation they drove off ! for some reason that seemed to satisfy him? )

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4.  Use an I-Pad and with the picture you have taken place the I-Pad down on the ground and use it to find the spot it was taken from – how do we get to reduce the size of the photograph to the same as the actual leaf litter?

When back in the classroom the photographs can be used to inspire creative writing or artwork. Try using the app ‘Phoster” and make a poster for the class. Another using voice recording and other medias is ‘Explain Everything” a great way of understanding when you have to explain to somebody else. You can play it back. It gives it real context.  If choosing a sycamore leaf carpet then seed dispersal is instantly recognisable with its ‘helicopters’ as a method.

IMG_1782 IMG_2648 Phoster app.

IMG_2649  CollageGuru app.

CollageGuru app. means you can make multiple pictures of different shapes of the leaf pictures you have taken.

5.  Using the leaves around explore the shapes, colours and structures. Using a pre-prepared cardboard handmade protractor measure the angles of the stems of the leaves, root structures, branches of the veins in the leaves – compare with any manmade items around. Record and discuss in groups. It’s amazing what will come out when comparing each leaf – length, width, angles. What criteria do we use? Use the evidence back for the content of Maths lessons – maths for a purpose.

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6.  Leafman Game       Sit two people back to back. One person gets to use leaves and ground materials to create a ‘leaf man‘. Then using oracy skills describe their picture to their partner to see if they can create a copy of the ‘leaf man’ in front of them. Once they have finished, compare. Discuss or record how the communication could have improved, any problems, any ‘top tips’.  Take photos to compare and use the recording of the communication along with the photo as evidence.

With imagination, creativity and any child enthused by being in the outdoors will take this session further then you can think of.

Just don’t be frightened of doing it – go and kick some leaves around. You never know it might be you that’ s  enjoying it more than the ‘Little people’!

 

You can’t buy a stick in a toy store.

‘You can’t buy a stick at a toy store’
It was a gun, a walking stick, a bow that shot many different shaped arrows that over time got straighter and developed small flights and later became a light-sabre. It was always a stick to start with but soon became anything you wanted it to be. A magic stick. A stick that gave you freedom to wander the universe and beyond. It gave you the authority to roam, to live another life, create another persona giving greater self confidence with a wand in hand.
It expanded your creativity in language, fluent in 6 different galactic tongues, confident in musketeer French, Apache, a touch of German statements and a good healthy working knowledge of Second World War English.
Problem solving was easier with a stick to point, wave and when drawing diagrams had the ability to to enable others to see them in 3D.
The forked stick was not only a medieval catapult but sub machine-pistol too, versatility was it’s middle name!
Divining for water in deserts and wastelands of the regions of a geographic selection from the imagination of a fluid mind.
The size of your stick was an important selection criteria to the type if day you were going to have. Small twigs could give birth to a fire. It excited the individual or group you were with, at first, then as the larger sticks were gathered and added, inhaling the calming smoke gave rise to reflections of stick games from past expeditions.
So a simple stick was far from simple. It could be a stick if that’s what you saw…….. But look again with your ‘outdoor eyes’ it will be what you want it to be within your imagination.20140707-141223-51143642.jpg

Change of Character for the better

The bottom of the climb had been a fluid experience. The shade of the trees was a comfort and made the ascent more of a pleasure than a chore. The climbing was not difficult, althought the route was classified as Very Severe, a sign that I was at present climbing well. It fealt good, as the relationship between physical movement and my internal control at present was ‘in control’ and classifying every handhold and foothold with an intensity of concentration but creating a fluidity of movement over the rock, which gave a satisfying feeling. At the stance where usually you stopped to change leaders for the final pitch before the top of the cliff, i did pause but just to concentrate and prepare by dipping into chalk-bag and a smoke of calcium-carbonate plumed into the air. I steed out onto the final stretch and left the seurity of the tree-tops. It was now that I truely felt the heat of the summers day. I had choosen Tremadoc as it was easily accessable to the road as I had limited time on a part day off. i had also had no joy in finding a partner to climb with that day, not that I had looked as I had made the decision to ‘solo’ the route sometime months previously but had not got round to it.

I traversed to the right where I knew the crux was coming and it was now that a small feeling of doubt was creeping in, at this point I should have returned to the stance and safety, but I had choosen to do this route and it was going to be conquered and I was sure I could do it, in fact I knew I could do it as I had lead the route a coup[le of times before roped. I made the move to the bottome of the final crack, standing on my right foot I prepared to complete the route. But then a block. My doubt had got bigger, which now affected my physical movements. A quick dip into the magic bag of dust usually helped. Both hands were coated in chalk, but it still didn’t make it any better. I couldn’t move up or down! The exposure was beginning to rush in from all angles and decisions were beginning to get cloudy and irrational. More chalk and more confusion, many changes of feet hopping from one to the other. In one moment looking down I had picked my top branch of the tree beneath me. If I was going to fall then it was going to be a controlled effort on my part. I was going to jump before I slipped. Then a switch turned itself on – calm in thought, I had done the route before, visualize the movements needed, calm the breathing, think of the bouldering that you had practiced and make the movements positive. Making a balance to the right and reaching high up with the right hand I was able to reach a ‘thank-god’ hold. The second my fingers curled over the sharp edged handhold it was like every minute previously was insignificant. I moved up with confidence and couldn’t understand what all the fuss had been about. On the descent down to the car I thought about the success and not about the problems I had encountered. ‘One Step In The Clouds’ had nearly been one step too far, but had been a learning experience, that is what I was putting it down to in my youthful exuberant character.

Many years of experience later I had taken the decision to go paddling with friends and collegues on the Upper Usk. I had done the sectiond below here many times before in different water levels all with confidence and ease. I had not kayaked for over a  year on white-water. I had sold my kayak with the intention to get a more updated version. But that never works within a family sometimes. So I borrowed a boat from Mike and had a new paddle which I had bought two years previously and this was the chance to christen it. Moving swiftly down the grade 2 sections it was a great section and the muscle memory was kicking in and |I was feeling pretty good and confident and enjoying the scenary of the Usk valley. We came to a small 2 metre drop and our paddling team came to the bank to assess the drop. It was vertical, not high but the tow-back on the returning stopper was quite strong. Not big white-water but small airiated water rushing back towards the face of the drop. Two of the group took the route over the right hand side of the drop and cleared the tow back. Others of the group had decided that today they would avoid the drop and walk round, thus taking up position of safety cover with throw-bags for those taking the drop. I took position above the drop choosing to take the drop with the others I fealt that it was easily within my capabilities. My confidence was characteristically smooth on that grade of water. Moving over the lip of the fall I noticed Stuart on the bank to my right and Tom paddling around in the middle of the rapid. As I entered the water I knew emediately that my line was too steep and I was going too deep. In a second I was dragged from my cockpit with the force of the tow-back and circulating water. I was not in control at all but in a second heading deeper away from the surface. I tried to get up but had no joy . I was struggling to think of anything apart from panic and not being able to breath. Then that switch came on, a moment of relaxing and stillness came over me. A thump on my leg, it could only be one thing, my kayak that had left me moments earlier had returned. I pushed onto it giving me enough purchase to get my right hand above the surface hoping that the bow of Tom’s boat would come in to the rescue. It did straight and strong as we had taught many others in coaching courses. Once my hand had a grip of the bow loop we were heading towards the bank where I could empty the unwanted Usk water from my system. My kayak rescued and a rest up for a while we carried on down the river with much banter of stories of my excalibir moment. Another choice had come to and end and feedback from the others on my descent of the fall giving me a moment to think about needing more river running experience – practice makes perfect! or at least you take less embarrasing swims.

Looking back at those moments they are times when choices have had a finite moment where decision making had been taken away but I had been able to take control again with some inherant skill level . Although there was a another element that had played a huge part in me moving on.

Now years later simply putting a tray of coffee and cakes down on the table that moment had returned to take control again. This time I had not choosen to be in an adventurous environment where there is a chance of danger. I had no control over my body it started with a fainting feeling and blury vision. Moving onto an arm that wouldn’t move and speech that didn’t work. I was on the other side of my body I could see the outside world but had no interaction with it. I knew what was happening my mother had a massive stroke when she was 37 and still has little speech and limited mobility. I was really scared which didn’t help my symptoms. This moment lasted minutes and eventually came back to normal. Hours later after being evicted from accident and emergency with the information that I had  had a TIA a small stroke. Days followed and emotions very strong gave me a change in character and priority in life.

I had always been involved with teams, making, participating, and leading. But now after this character changing moment I know that family is more important than anything else in the world. When people say that they love work – how true is this? Is this the same as love for your family, course its not, but does it has another meaning? If family is more important shouldn’t we be trying to create a sense of ‘family’ in work rather than ‘team’? I know what I will be looking to create.

Getting Started on My First Blog

Take 2, as I just lost the first effort in pressing the wrong button on edit.
Many people make excuses and create barriers to stop writing their first blog and I am no exception. So in an attempt to get past this writers block even before it starts I have started this in a brief 10 minutes. However it’s a little longer now as take 2 may yet lead to 3. All I need to do then is to stay motivated to follow with another instalment.

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The Outdoors is the Natural Place To Learn.