As time passes the signs that our kids are suffering from nature deficit disorder grow stronger. Many parents struggle with the risk aversion and culture of fear that has gained weight over the last couple of decades, finding it harder to let their kids discover where they live. Colleagues with different sporting backgrounds that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s are finding ways to introduce youngsters to the great outdoors, driven by the acknowledgement that while our kids have more material wealth than ever the simplicity of nature contains the greatest rewards. Last week I wrote about my own love of Microadventures around where I live, todays post concentrates on the place where children spend the biggest part of their time- schools.
Celebrating 10 years of working with schools this year, after graduating with my Degree in Adventure Recreation and it gives me great pleasure to be designing and installing new Orienteering courses in schools. Children love maps, the bringing down to micro level of place and space connects into childhood awareness of the world. Remember your school yards? powerful memories for most of us. During this time our lives are dominated by the environment surrounding us, as children even small woods or playing fields become a whole realm of exploration, into this realm Orienteering courses fit perfectly. Wessex Orienteering have drawn maps of around 13 schools, and provided many with coached activities that use them, our latest school is the outstanding Talbot Primary on the Poolemouth border. Some months ago one keen teacher contacted us to re-map the whole site and provide advice on running Orienteering as part of the P.E curriculum. You may remember we have a course at next door Slades Farm, and use the University site and immediate area maps for events, holding the South West Sprint Champs here last year. Along with our Tuesday trail running on the heath, makes this area really my back yard. We are blessed with preservation of some great open spaces in the area.
With ingenuity you can set up all sorts of running activities using Orienteering, the key is to make it enjoyable. Something about the solo or paired aspect of schools intros mean that children who find team sports intimidating thrive on map and running activities. After redrawing the map on the computer,
and ordering a set of the permanent course markers,
I organised a mornings introduction with a group of year 5 kids and their teacher. For this I affixed a set of markers in different locations around the school, and made 4 different maps with sets of them that contained specific letters. These letters when all visited and written down comprised a bird name anagram, Lapwings, Nightjars and more. Pairs went around navigating and collecting letters to make the words, some of them using all 4 maps during the session, with all of them finding at least one bird and the whole group on debrief learning a name that was new to them.
Using the faithful gaffer tape this was simple to set up and just took map marking before the session, simple. Following this the school purchased a set of the markers and I gave them lots of session plans and ideas with which to work. Course is now set up in school with 20 lettered locations that can be used in a variety of ways. Orientation is the key skill learnt here, and returning to themes in the opening sentences of this post, is becoming ever more important. Just learning to establish a sense of place, how to connect short distances together, between home and school, play areas is valuable experience. Doing it without electronic devices that fail is even more important. Orienteering activities greatly assist this basic navigation. This a great year for ‘O’ sport, with the World Champs in Inverness this summer, and more locally lots of events in planning, our new courses opening in Boscombe Chine and Queens Park, upcoming meetings about a Satellite club for Autumn and even further into the future the new pavilion at Slades Farm as our club base, some of this is vision however I like that. If youre interested in getting some help at school do get in touch, just one more thing before coaching again- look out for a June- October challenge called POCNAV (Permanent Orienteering Course Navigation) all revealed on our Facebook pages, Wessex at:-
and partner club Wimbourne at:-
Its time to get outdoors.