Saturday, 21 October 2017

What is it like to work outdoors with children?

The outdoors is fantastic place to be, it helps our stress levels, it makes us happier. It's beautiful and fascinating. We can learn a lot from being outside. But how often do we actually make the most of the Outdoors?

An article in the Guardian I was reading, mentioned a survey, stating that most children spend less than 60 minutes of time outdoors a day, which is less than is required for people in prison to spend outdoors, and in a separate article, I found that adults spend 92% of their time INdoors, and the time they do spend outdoors is mostly between the car and where ever they are going. 

I, on the other hand, spend 6 out of 7 days a week outdoors. and this is because I have chosen to dedicate my life to the outdoors. 
A bit of background. I work in pre-school childcare, and have done for nearing six years. I have spent most of that time working in indoor settings, feeling stressed, tired, and unhappy. I now work in an outdoor nursery, and the differences are amazing. Not only in myself, but in the children. Sure, it can still be stressful, but a lot less so. 

So now, I have worked outdoors with children for over a year, and am studying outdoors and doing outdoor activities in my spare time. Here are a few questions I get asked about my job. 

What do you do if it rains?
We play! Raining provides so many learning opportunities. It creates puddles so we can do jumping, or floating and sinking experiments. Or measuring how deep the water is, or using the muddy water as cake mix. The opportunities are endless. We make sure the children are wrapped up well in waterproofs, and have spare clothes on hand. This is the same for pretty much any outdoor setting.
It can sometimes feel miserable for us adults, but as long as we are in our waterproofs, it doesn't affect us too much. At the end of the day, a nice cup of tea is the best thing for it! 

How DO they go to the toilet?!

In most outdoor settings it's a case of using a hygiene bag, which includes hand sanitiser, toilet roll and a shovel, and going with the child (depending on their age) to make sure they're ok. My nursery has an outdoor toilet, gel sachets, and a tent. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it works well. 

What about winter?
We play! Again, winter provides LOTS of learning opportunities. The tree's go bare, the ice starts forming, what makes ice? What does it do when you hold it? We make sure the children are well layered up, (same for ourselves) and carry extra's and hand warmers just in case! Just because it's cold doesn't mean children shouldn't be going outside. For us adults, it can feel worse. Children are running around all the time, keeping warm, while we place ourselves in positions to see the whole outdoor area, and watch and to make sure everything is safe. We always end up having skiing gear on, and hand warmers in every pocket, glove, hat, and sock! 

Is there a difference between outdoor and indoor?

YES! After working in indoor settings for nearly 5 years, as much as I loved it, I was fed up with the restraint on the children. They didn't have the freedom to get messy, to push their own learning, to properly risk assess themselves. They weren't allowed to climb, and if it was raining we had to stay inside. In the outdoors, they carry all their own bags with extra clothes, and lunch boxes/ water bottles. They also climb trees, by themselves and know when to come down because it's a little bit too high (for them). They get covered head to toe in mud, and that's no exaggeration. They're resilient, when a child falls, 9 times out of 10 they just get back up without even thinking about it. They learn independently, finding things that interest them, asking the older one's questions about it and learning from their peers. Ultimately they are engaging in free play, risk assessing and self driven learning. And that's why I want to work in outdoor education as long as I can! 

As you can tell, I am VERY passionate about outdoor education, and if there is anything else you would like to ask me on the subject, feel free to start a discussion. You can find info on how to contact me on my info page, or through my Facebook page. 
Don't forget to subscribe to my page for more updates on my outdoor adventures. 

Until next time guys:

Jade- Your Introvert Adventurer