A Mindstretching Event

5 June 2010 · 3 comments

in General Commentary, International, Outdoor Courses & Training

This forthcoming week is going to be a busy one! Each day will take me to a different part of Scotland. Getting children outside is high on the political agenda and as a result there is a lot of interest up and down our wee country.

“It is necessary to be outside for our brains to be stimulated from the flow of sound, light, shapes and colours that nature provides…
On Tuesday 8th June, a Scottish education consultancy, Mindstretchers, has organised a conference, A Child’s Right to be Heard. It is a unique event in that the line up of speakers comes from a wide range of professional backgrounds. Rather than preaching to the converted, this event may reach people who have yet to fully consider why it is a right and a necessity for children to spend time outside and in contact with the natural world.

…Especially between the ages of 3-6, when the energy flow in the human brain is at its greatest.” David Ingvar, Professor of Neurophysiology, Brain Researcher
The main presenter is Richard Louv. It’s his first visit to Scotland, following on from a busy week teaching a course at the Schumacher College in Devon and stopping by Worcester University en route north. For me, his book, Last Child in the Woods, is a highly persuasive mix of research and opinion about the role of free play outdoors.

“Outdoor activities reduce the levels of stress hormones among children aged six in primary schools…
Claire Warden, the founder of Mindstretchers, will also take her turn. She is a much sought after international speaker, providing humour and insight into early education matters. Her company run two of the four nature kindergartens that have been established in Scotland.

…High cortisone levels indicate stress, and stress has a documented bad influence on memory capacity.  Outdoor activities give better learning in a pure logical sense.” Anders Szczepanski, Director National Centre for Outdoor Environmental Education, Linköping University
Tim Gill is a highly influential researcher and writer about children and risk. His book No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society is a must buy for all who work with children. He also co-authored Managing Risk in Play Provision. This blueprint document advocates using risk benefit assessments which is becoming widely acknowledged as an effective approach to risk management across the outdoor, education and play sectors. His latest document Nothing Ventured is a great up-to-date summary of statistics and research.

“The brain wants to have fun! A little child doesn’t have to go to school to be able to learn to walk and talk.  Movement is pure joy…
Finally, Pete Higgins is also presenting. He is Professor of Outdoor Education at Edinburgh University and over the years has unassumingly built the department up into one of the strongest and biggest within the UK. He has continuously queried the need for learning to happen indoors.

…Outdoor activities are especially important for children who don’t fit in the traditional classroom…”
So for anyone living in Scotland, this conference is THE one to attend in 2010. If you are reading this, then perhaps you see the need for children to have unstructured time outside in contact with nature. If you are planning on going, spend a little time chatting people you don’t know in a different sector. Getting children outside requires advocates and ambassadors from all walks of life. By enlisting support at grassroots and at higher levels we can all help improve the lives of children, enhance their childhood and give them a chance to experience an education that will last a life time of living in a more environmentally sustainable way.

…The outdoor pedagogical classroom values, activates and uses other abilities rather than the verbal. I call this outdoor pedagogy for good health.” Nina Nelson, Senior Lecturer and Senior Physician, Children’s Clinic, Linköping University Hospital
The quotes under the photos come from I Ur och Skur: Rain or Shine – Swedish Forest Schools Report (2008)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jenny June 7, 2010 at 09:13

OMG Juliet – there is a child playing with dangerous string in your photos 😉

I have to admit to being more than a little bit jealous about this event. That is one I would certainly like to attend.


Juliet Robertson June 7, 2010 at 21:51

Oh Jenny

Let’s magnify the concerns. Photos 1 and 2 the child is looking at an acorn nut…NUT…potential allergy there.

Photo 3, uh-oh! It’s a wee cliff they are sliding down. Risky and lets hope the centre did a risk assessment for all those bottoms that will have friction rubbings.

Photo 4 – Yep string….it’s a dangerous thing, rope is thicker but string is quicker. The wee girl managed to sort out the string all by herself. Fancy that!

Photo 5 – Could this be off the Risk Richter Scale? How many high risk activities is it possible to spot in this one photo?

Photo 6 – Full face photo! Aargh! Oh…it’s my nephew…

Photo 7 – I’m wondering is it safe for children to hold hands anymore? After all with swine flu and all these other illnesses being passed around….hmm!


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