The recognition in this report of the importance of play is very encouraging, but how does this work in practice? In brief, this is how I organise exactly these opportunities on residential visits and days out. The primary aim is to maximise the time for play in the outdoor environment.
Not canoeing, rock climbing, caving (all great fun) but exploring with friends, building dams, inventing games, discovering strange plants and creatures, falling off logs. No equipment just appropriate clothing, a packed lunch, a first aid kit and clear but broadly drawn boundaries.
Why is this a challenge to the outdoor education industry? Because it’s cheap, inclusive and very enjoyable. It frees children to learn from their experience. Teachers don’t need special qualifications, they just need to be confident in what they are doing and have ‘permission’ not to weigh down the experience with a pile of overt curriculum objectives and risk elimination strategies!
So why employ someone like me? Answer: There’s no need.
However I do offer the following:
- An intimate knowledge of local environments, woodland, moor and coast; and the best places to go.
- Long experience of drawing boundaries, engaging children in understanding risk, giving clear explanations and expectations in term of acceptable behaviour, .
- Understanding when NOT to intervene, when to make an open ended suggestion or hint. When to move on or change the emphasis.
- A positive environment that encourages observation and questioning, together with a knowledge of the natural world and local history with stories to intrigue and fascinate
- The experience of children and environments to be able to adjust and be flexible according to the group, the weather and unforseen circumstances
I also, plan the whole day or residential, provide risk assessments, highlight the social and personal learning that is likely to take place. Brief staff, children and parents. Even help with budgeting and kit lists, food orders, draft letters to parents etc.
Ultimately however it is about children having a great day out in the environment; allowing many to experience for the first time the important idea that as they grow up they will be able to introduce to their own families. ‘You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun!’