On a swelteringly hot day in the final week of school, I took my coaching group out of London for the day, to Epping Forest. (There is evidence of human history in the forest from 2,7000 years ago. It is the size of 3,300 football pitches. There are 50,000 ancient trees. Henry VIII hunted here. The ponds dotted around were born of bomb craters from WW2).
|Understand why people use green spaces, by conducting a questionnaire||Interacting with members of the public is always great. Especially when they are from a different walk of life – the old lady who had walked in the Forest every day for 50 years…|
|Have fun outdoors!||Once the kids got past their fear of dogpoo and bugs, finished playing games about who fancies who, then the beauty of their environment flourished. Climbing trees, throwing a ball about, excitedly watching birds, running to stroke a dog…|
|Spread kindness in the forest, by picking up litter||We became detectives, imagining the past life of the wrapper/can/condom that we were picking up. Who had dropped it? Why?|
By far the highlight (for me at least – the students’ highlight was lunch) was ploughing through the forest, navigating our way to Connaught Water by our shadows alone. Jaydan constantly checked that his shadow was behind and to the left, as Sophie had told us to do. We dived off the path, over streams, under branches, through bushes. Great teamwork, helping each other through difficult patches. Finally shades of blue spotted through the trees, and we emerged, joyous, on the lakeside.
At times I was frustrated at the hilarious fear with which they approached walking through a few brambles. It is useful to remember that over a three day weekend earlier in the year 7 of 15 students in the group had spent less than 1 hour outdoors.
Edit: wisdom from Kate on how to deal with negativity
(Kids are strange beasts: those who were most vocally against the idea of tramping around a forest told me two days later that it was the highlight of their two years with the coaching group…)
- Go bold on games, when tiredness is an issue
- Everyone is experiencing the same rain/hills/tiredness. There are two types of people. Drains only are interested in talking about the problems, focussing on the bad stuff. Nobody likes to be around a drain. Radiators focus on the good things, they recognise that some things are difficult but they think of solutions
- Completely ignore negativity
- Quiet words with ringleaders
All good advice for any groupwork. Somehow it becomes more amplified when outdoors. Just as students struggle to transfer learning from science to maths, teachers struggle to transfer techniques from the classroom to the forest?