Posts Tagged ‘Institute for Outdoor Learning’

Nearly Ten Years Ago …

With the lockdown and limitations to freedom of movement, I have had plenty of time to think about writing, do some writing, find things that I have written long ago, write a few words ….. and then have another coffee or go out into the garden and watch the tomatoes growing.

I discovered the attached article when tidying up my desktop. There are so many things that have drifted into the deepest corners of my mind. However, this continues to be of relevance.

Horizons Article

I can report that the topic has been discussed at Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL) conferences, has been written about further in Horizons has and has also been the subject of some presentations and papers at The European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE) conferences.

I know need some time to reflect on this further. Time for another coffee and check on those tomatoes. Watch this space.

P.S. When setting the Featured Image to appear on the main page I had to deliberately avoid sunsets. Then I find that the selected photo has the word autumn in its title. Time to think a bit more about stereotyping!

Research blog

Here, I will be recording my developing research writings. These are part retrospective and part looking to the future.

After a life time in outdoor learning, I am eager to pass on some of my insights, and just as interested in developing my ideas and thoughts. I have been greatly influenced by colleagues here in the UK and with my involvement in the institute for Outdoor Learning,  and by the many academics and practitioners I have met through the European Outdoor Education Network.

Almost twenty years ago, I was fortunate to gain a Winston Churchill Fellowship and to travel to Australia, exploring connections with nature. I have also travelled on a number of occasions in Canada, my mother’s birthplace, and taken the opportunity to explore informal learning opportunities. Recently, I have had the privilege of exploring ideas when vacationing in South India.



My current interests are concerned with:

  • how does being an ‘outdoor’ person affect the ways in which we adapt to being older and possibly less physically mobile?
  • what role do photography and other aesthetic approaches affect our connections with the outdoors and the non-human?
  • are there any lessons to be learnt for the outdoor learning curriculum?

A term I am frequently coming across is ‘healthy ageing’.

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship: 2001

Outdoor Education for Women: Journeying Gently Through Australia: Making Connections with Nature.

In 2001, I travelled to Australia on a Churchill Fellowship. My Fellowship was an inspiration. Colleagues and friends told me that I walked around with a smile on my face for weeks. It confirmed that I am not alone in recognizing that some people feel alienated from making connections with nature. It helped me to identify ways that people can be encouraged to engage with the outdoors.

The Fellowship

As an outdoor educator, it is easy to become hooked on ‘adrenaline rush’ activities. However, it is these activities and the associated image of the outdoors that can alienate.  Some of my colleagues have even expressed a personal fear of venturing outdoors. In my work in play, youth and community development, I have been concerned that many colleagues, and particularly women colleagues, have been reluctant to offer outdoor experiences to the people with whom they are working. In a broader context, at a time when there is an increasing concern about the local and global impact of our carbon footprints and the consequences of global warming. this may have an impact on environmental awareness and literacy,

The purpose of my Fellowship was to explore ways in which women, in particular,  are supported in developing relationships with the outdoors through adventure and learning. My Fellowship took me to Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territories and Western Australia. Initially I met with outdoor educators. However, as the Fellowship progressed, I met with naturalists, artists, museum curators. I also explored a range of tourist sites.

My stay in Australia showed me that low key activities can be just as powerful in facilitating connections with nature as ‘adrenalinerush’ activities. The exploration of cultural activities was the most significant experience, providing me with ways of developing activities that value their cultural context, for example story telling and art. I became more conscious of the power of community and environmental arts projects, as a vehicle for enabling people to work together and connect with their environments. In addition, my understanding of the meaning of sustainable communities was challenged.

My Fellowship was an inspiration. Colleagues and friends told me that I walked around with a smile on my face for weeks. It confirmed that I am not alone in recognizing that some people feel alienated from making connections with nature. It helped me to identify ways that people can be encouraged to engage with the outdoors.

Since the Fellowship, I have lead workshops for play, youth and community development workers on exploring the ecology microenvironments; creating stories and writing poems in and inspired by the outdoors; and using photography as a means for increasing the powers of observation, capturing the essence of a place or group experience and increasing environmental awareness. I have also worked on community-based projects to support residents in developing their local open spaces so that they are attractive and accessible. This can be a first step in encouraging people to start making a connection with nature.

My learning from the Fellowship has prompted me to deliver workshops on informal learning and serendipity for both the Institute for Outdoor Learning and the European Institute of Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE) in England, Wales, Scotland, Sweden, Finland and Poland. In informal learning, it is the role and responsibility of the facilitator to open up stimulating and varied opportunities for connecting and exploring, while the participant takes responsibility for the direction of their learning. Serendipity involves optimizing the chance occurrences and opportunities that are encountered as a part of an activity or of everyday life.

The Fellowship has certainly changed the direction of my career and life and I trust that through my work with colleagues and children, young people and adults I have influenced the aspirations of others.