Many educators who work with children with additional support needs have a very real and genuine fear of children running off when undertaking outdoor activities. From the outset, I decided this was not going to deter me from letting children explore the grounds. I knew that in order to engage children and keep their minds on other matters, I would have to ensure each session was planned around the children’s interests. So here I enlisted the help of Fred the Ted. Here’s the story of his first visit…
Fred the Ted was new to the school. He did not know the grounds and wanted to explore them. Could the children help him? They thought they could. In turn, the children took him to different parts of the grounds.
We started off going to a bench made by Primary 7 children. We sang “I know a teddy bear” especially for Fred. The next child saw some yellow flowers – ragwort – across the field and that was our next stop. We smelled, sniffed and rubbed the flowers and threw them in the air when we realised they didn’t smell so good.
After that another child led the way through the rough grass and shrubs to a hawthorn bush. The children looked at the berries and wondered if they were raspberries. We worked out that they weren’t and would give us a sore tummy if we ate them.
The next child took Fred the Ted to the patch of feathers on the field. We all wondered what had happened here.
One child then led Fred the Ted to the steps. We estimated the number of steps and counted them. There were lots more steps than we thought.
We ended up at the place with lots of tyres. Here Fred did a Very Naughty Thing. He went into a litter bin. Imagine that! Some bears like foraging for leftover food.
The child who had been looking after Fred was quite surprised when I insisted that Fred should sit on a bench and have a think about what he did.
After a couple of minutes, Fred the Ted said he was sorry about going into the litter bin and went to play in a tyre.
The next week I laminated the story of Fred the Ted. The children used this to re-trace their journey around the grounds, working out which places they had visited. We explored the area in different ways – mostly due to the excitement of have fresnel lenses.
Interestingly, the children have always asked to bring Fred’s book along with them to look at. They are less interested in books about other subjects but like stories about themselves and Fred. So this is one “avenue” into literacy.
Since then, Fred the Ted has not misbehaved. The children enjoy having him accompany them. One child writes a letter to Fred’s mum each week – the result of which, Fred now has outdoor clothing including pink boots to wear. It was a useful tip I picked up as a ranger whilst working alongside a professional puppeteer – if a puppet or masked character misbehaves, then it is the character and not the child who is admonished. I apply this to soft toys too and find that it’s a helpful positive behaviour strategy for many children and a springboard into discussions about what behaviour is and isn’t okay.
And no child has run off either! We let them walk or run at their own pace to different gathering spots. Usually one adult keeps up with the active ones and another adult ensures no-one is left behind.