Do all good things come to an end?

  Well were did the time go? It only seemed like yesterday that I was starting my 4 month placement with Play England’s Exploring Nature Play SW project. Now not only has my placement finished, but after 3 years involvement with the Exploring Nature Play SW project, that project has finished too.

However it’s been an incredible journey, and one that I am so glad that I had the chance to undertake. So a big thank you too: Jane Hembrow from Play England for believing in me and all the support you gave me and of course the Vodafone Foundation for operating the World of Difference programme.

 

You might ask what I have been up to? Well it has been a busy 4 months, and here are some of my highlights:

It started with me helping to produce leaflets and deliver a workshop  for Exploring Nature Play Project North’s Explore, Play, Connect conference in march, as part of Play Torbay’s play worker team. Which was an exciting and slightly scary opportunity, especially when I realised Cath Prisk was one of the delegates taking our workshop. However I didn’t have to worry, as it went brilliantly and everyone enjoyed learning to make fire with flint and steels as well as having a go at whittling.

Then I had the main task of my placement, which was to organise and deliver a discovery level John Muir Award, to a group of individuals in Torbay. It involved identifying two wild places to discover and explore, as well as find the families or young people to participate in the project.

In the end I had 14 people including two families taking part, as we discover and explored Primley Park and Fort Apache Adventure Playground in Torbay,  in seven, 4 hour sessions which included a lovely night walk listening and hunting for bats.

12 out of the 14 people participating, achieved a Discover level John Muir Award, which was handed out at Play England’s Exploring Nature Play SW exhibit at the start of August. I was delighted with how the project went and the sense of satisfaction and enjoyment the participates showed during the activities and sessions, as they made a connection with the wild places and each other.

This sounds like the end of the journey,I hear you say. Well you would be mistake, because the World of Difference journey has given me the confidence to step out on my own. And so Sylvan Adventures was born, an organisation aimed at connecting people to nature through adventure, for more details of what we have been up to please check out our Facebook page Sylvan Adventures. And it does not stop there, I am soon off to Denmark on a study tour to explore how the Dane’s Love Outdoor Play,  before returning home to help deliver another outdoor play workshop at Play England’s Exploring Nature Play SE Conference’s Explore.Play.Connect in the City. So please come and say hello if you are attending the conference.

 

 

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what’s in your bag, which helps you show you Love Outdoor Play?

Well I have been very fortunate not only with the lovely sunny weather, but also the great group of young people and adults. Who  have been brave enough to join me on a journey of discovery and sharing  in the form of John Muir Award for Play England.

As you can image I have been busy organising and delivering the visits to the wild places over the last few weekends, and its taken me by surprise how much time and effort it involves especially when you include social media  stuff on Twitter and Facebook e.g. Sylvan Adventures page, press releases in Torbay Times. But then I am also working full time in a day nursery and helping to deliver Play Torbay’s Woodland Skill programme.

Lucky I am an organised person, but whats surprised me is the resources and tools I have been packing for my play sessions, and this got me thinking:

What do other people pack in their bags for a nature play / play session?

My started off, with not much stuff and now includes:

String and / or Rope.                                 Set of Flint and Steel.                               Cotton wool and Vaseline.

Knife.                                                                Nature Identification Book.                   Empty Stuff Sacks.

Folding Saw.                                                  Blindfolds.                                                     Bells.

Water Bottle.                                                 Water Pistol.                                                 Food and drink bottle.

Hand Lens.                                                      Collecting Pots.                                          First Aid stuff.

Sun hat.                                                             Explorer or Adventurer Bear.

Yes, I hear you say that’s alot, and the bag is getting heavily. So that raises the question of what minimal equipment should do you think you need or couldn’t do with out?  For me, it would be a ball of string /rope, knife and Blindfold, because with these 3 things you could play or create alot of activities or equipment.

What three things would you take and why?

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What makes a Play Organisation more Playful?

During my Vodafone World of Difference placement with Play England and a partnership organisation Play Torbay, I have been involved in a variety of play sessions, and loads of meeting. Which you could think would be boring, but in fact they have been really fun and very informative. This is due to the playful and creative people who have the pleasure of calling themselves play workers, and make up the staff for these organisations.

So my placement with Play England is over half way through and I am now busy organising and delivering a series of John Muir sessions, so about 13 people can achieve a Discovery level John Muir award. For more information on these sessions and photographs, these can be found on:

my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SylvanAdventures.

So this leads me to my question, what makes a play organisation more playful? IS it more staff, training, more resources, or more children. Well it could be any of those or others, but for me its a  cuddle teddy bear. Now I hear you ask how can a simple teddy bear, make a play organisation more playful.

Well this isn’t just a simple teddy. This is Explorer Bear, who was kindly made for us by Madeby Nanny and here he is:

He came about during my planning of the John Muir sessions, because I wanted something the young people could take around the woods and photograph to show what they liked about the wild places. So I came up with Explorer Bear, and since then he has taken on a live of his own.

Jane Hembrow (my manager at Play England), has taken to him to meet the staff teams, play conferences, and AGMs of Play England and Play Torbay and other play organisations in the Southwest, with nearly everyone wanting their picture taken with him. Well I said nearly everyone, there was one person who wasnt and made a comment on Facebook, which made several other people speak out to defend Explorer Bear and then this photo appeared:

I have also been really surprised by the response of other play and nature education organisations, have taken an interest in Explorer Bear, with the organisation Council for Learning Outside the Classroom  (CLOTC) contacting me through twitter to find out how Explorer Bear is and how he liked the John Muir Session etc. There is even a rumor that Explorer Bear, could be having his very own Facebook page in the near future.

He has inspire me so much and created such a buzz, that I have decided to get a teddy made for my organisation “Sylvan Adventures” and he is going to be called Adventurer Bear or Sylvan for short. I will know when I see him.

 

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Volunteers sharing their Love of Outdoor Play in volunteer week 1- 7th June

Well its national Volunteer week 5 -7 th June. What are you doing for it?

I have been really busy, with not only organising and delivering the  first two sessions of  Play England’s John Muir Award project, but also two woodland skills session for Play Torbay. This volunteering is in addition to my normal day job at a busy day nursery.

The John Muir Award session was a great event and everyone appeared to enjoy themselves and were inspired by learning about John Muir and what he achieved. I was supported by volunteer playworkers from Play England and Play Torbay, and their energy and commitment really made the session extra special.

This picture is showing some of them getting involved whole heartily with a animal drama game, where they had to as a group create an animal for the other group to guess. Any ideas anyone of what animal it is?

I took great pleasure in seeing them enjoy themselves and share their experiences about the natural world. Two volunteers who say they could only help with one session, end up asking if they could do all the sessions, to which I said of course.  I then informed them, they could also be enrolled on the John Muir Award scheme with the young people and get a certificate. This goes to show, that volunteering can not only be enjoyable, and beneficial to the  community or young people. But also richly rewarding for the volunteer themselves with learning new skills, making friends, developing contacts for employment and getting certificates or qualifications.

I am looking forward to the nest session of the John Muir Award, which is taking place in Primley Park, Paignton and the chance t take Explorer Bear to this beautiful wild place. Which John Muir himself would have loved to explorer.

 

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Do we ever really grow up? or are adults scared of showing we Love Outdoor Play?

Sorry for not blogging last week, but I was on a much over due family holiday, which was spent on the beautiful and unspoilt island of St Martin with three generations of the Gibson family ranging from 4 1/2 to 60 years old. This blog was actual written at the end of the holiday, being inspired by the beautiful surroundings and observation of people playing on the beach.

For those of you, who have not had the pleasure of visiting St Martins. It is one of the Scilly Islands, which are 23 miles of the Cornish Coast. Were we all enjoyed discovering and exploring the clean white sandy beaches, which glitzen in the sunshine, climbing the rocks or just sitting and relaxing watching the island’s wildlife. It’s a special wild place, which I feel John Muir would have loved.

Whilst watching my four year old son playing on the beach, making sandcastles,  it didn’t take long before his grandpa got up and started to make his own sandcastle. This started me thinking about play, and do we actual ever stop playing? or does the nature of adult play change due to lifestyle demands or society expectations on what adults should do?

Back with the sandcastle builders, and after a few more minutes my son’s attention has moved on and his now off exploring the shoreline, for treasures. Mean while his grandpa is still making his sandcastle, but is now joined my partner. The sandcastle they built is pictured below, including a banana skin (they said it was a banana republic).

This reminds me, of when I volunteered at nature reserve and use to lead family groups pond dipping. Were the children would immediately get stuck in pond dipping, hunting for Water Scorpions, Diving Beetles etc, with the adults looking uneasy. Then slowly the adults would join their children, and then after a few more minutes the children would wander off to investigate other things. Whilst the adults get stuck into the pond dipping getting really excited about the creatures they were catching.

So it appears that adults still need or want to play, but just need the time and space to play or is it more to do with the presence of children / young people, which in turn gives the adults with them permission to play?

 

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Why it’s important to show children, we “Love Outdoor Play”

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Mine was good and sad.

The sad bit involved me going to see my grandad, who unfortunately is dieing of cancer. But was made better, because it was a lads only weekend with my 4 year old son joining me for the 320 mile round trip to Herefordshire. That’s us in the picture, if you hadn’t guessed.

Whilst we were at my grandparents, I spoke to grandad. Will helped my cousin weed granma’s garden and surprised her with being able to correctly identify a lot of the flowers in the garden e.g. Blue Bells, Dandelions, Daisy. She said to him, after correctly identifying Blue Bells if they are “Blue bells what are these flowers next to them?” Will said “Well there white and they look like Blue Bells, so White Bells”. He constantly surprises me with what he knows and remembers about our walks in the woods etc.

My grandparents, live in a beautiful woodland valley with just a  few houses and no busy roads. William asked me, if we could have a walk in the woods, well you didn’t have to ask me twice. So we went for a walk up the valley along the road, chatting as we when. I started talking about how I used to come and play / stay with grandma, playing in the woods etc.

This made me realise that family outings like mine and Will’s walk, are not only good for the body and mind through fresh air and exercises. They help to foster better relationships (connections) between  family members or friends, through positive interactions and sharing.

What I hadn’t given much thought to was how to create a sense of belonging or ownership to a place, or even how we fit into the natural world around us. Because for me and Will, this just wasn’t another woodland ramble (even those we were stalking four deer, which we had observed from the other side of the valley), but by me  talking to him about how I use to play in this wood as a child, I  was saying this was a special place to me and giving him permission to play or be in places like this.

So family outings to play or be outside in the natural environment are beneficial in so many ways.  Parents / guardians etc taking children and young people  out are not only making them aware of the wonders of the natural environment, so when they have children and young people of there own etc, they will not only feel comfortable taking them out, but they will want to share their own experiences of their childhood. The sad side to this, is if children are not given this opportunity, then they might not feel comfortable in taking their children / young people outside, and so the circle starts again.

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Volunteering can make a “World of Difference” in more ways then you expect

  When I started my placement with Vodafone Foundation’s “World of Difference”, to deliver a John Muir Award for Play England. I was hoping the experiences I was organising would make a difference to the young and old adventures participating in these first hand nature experiences, which  make up the awards.

We are hoping their involvement and participation in these project will:

Develop a greater understanding and awareness of the natural world around them.

Develop a connection or relationship with the natural world around them.

To breakdown barriers and raise awareness of local wild places, were they can visit and play.

What I hadnt really thought about, was how this opportunity would effect me and change my outlook on life and work etc. I have always had a passion and drive to get children and people outside connecting with nature, Because what is the point of conserving wildlife if we are not informing and involving people to appreciate it.

As a result of this placement, it has made be realise not only I am capable of doing more through the knowledge developed through organising this project, which has had me delivering an outdoor skill workshop at a national play conference: Explore.Play.Connect or social media skills in writing blogs, tweeting etc. This is turn, has boosted my self-esteem and confidence.

And now I find myself in the exciting but scary position of setting myself up as a freelance environmental playworker educator, under the name of  “Sylvan Adventures”. This is something which I have been thinking of for along time, but been worried to take the step, however this placement has given me the strength or drive to try. Instead of worrying about it failing, I have come to think I will kick myself later if I dont try.

Finally I am also only in this lucky position of delivering the John Muir Award project, because I have done voluntary work for other charities and organisations.

What is your experience of volunteering and how have you benefit from it?

 

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