This appears on The Institute for Outdoor Learning’s website (www.outdoor-learning.org).
Who are you?
Di Collins, Outdoor and Community Education Facilitator and Consultant, who dreams of becoming famous for just one photograph.
I’m sometimes ‘retired’, sometimes deliver training, sometimes a DofE expedition assessor, and sometimes a consultant.
Tell us about your most rewarding experience of outdoor learning.
I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship and travelled to Australia, exploring the many ways in which people make connections with nature, ranging from environmental arts and storytelling to wildlife tracking and learning about natural antiseptics. The Fellowship has had an enormous impact on the ways in which I work with people in the outdoors. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is enthusiastic about the outdoors and that some people are only ‘turned on’ by what seems to them to be a non-physical way of relating to the outdoors.
What is your favourite piece of equipment/kit?
I’m never without a camera, but apart from that, it has to be my Robert Saunders Spacepacker Tent. It’s light enough and small enough to push into my rucsac and I hardly notice that I’m carrying it. I erect it in minutes and there’s loads of space to stow away my gear. It’s extremely stable in the strongest of winds … and I can even sleep in it at WOMAD, with people tripping over the guy lines.
Outdoor learning is your career but how much of your spare time is spent in outdoor activities?
I get ‘cabin fever’ if I’m stuck indoors all day. If I have a day of working at home, I gravitate into the garden and end up having to work into the night to meet deadlines. I live in a city, but at the end of my road is Langstone Harbour, and I can be at a relatively wild stretch of coast within 15 minutes. I sometimes drive my van down to the sea, on the pretext of using it as a mobile office. This may not be particularly green, but is important for my sense of well-being. However, my real love is mountains.
Can you offer one piece of key advice to someone on outdoor learning as a career?
You may work in the outdoors because you love particular landscapes or activities, but at the heart of outdoor learning is the individual. You are supporting them to achieve. Your buzz will be seeing them achieve. However, remember that you also need to maintain your excitement at facing your own personal challenges in the outdoors.
Is there a message you would like to get across to the decision makers in education/government?
To cut opportunities for outdoor and environmental learning is short-sighted. Our planet is fragile. Its resources need to be used with sensitivity. How can a person be expected to understand and care for something that they have not experienced first-hand?
How do you see your future role in relation to being a holder of LPIOL and the influence that you might be able to bring to bear in the outdoor field?
I am surprised at LPIOL’s impact and the focus it has given me. It has spurred me to get on with some of the things that I was always planning to do ‘when I had a bit of spare time’, such as writing. I find myself looking at the IOL website more regularly, and volunteering to do things. I also notice that I’m again becoming more active in the outdoors – there’s no point in being an armchair LPIOL. I certainly see that it is my responsibility to raise the profile of outdoor learning in the many areas in which I’m involved.
Question Time or Top Gear?
Neither. The bombastic attitudes I hear on both programmes wind me up. For escapism I much prefer Time Team and Coast, and anything with David Attenborough … although I do have to admit to viewing Neighbours.