What to do and how to do it?

Outdoor Education in a post Covid world

By Anna Craigen – Education Officer

Children balanced on a rope tied between 2 trees.

2020 got off to a flying start – the weather wasn’t too horrific and I had lovely woodland education projects with a variety of fantastic groups of young people on the go. In addition to this, there were lots of new exciting projects in the pipeline for spring and summer. But then Covid struck and changed life as we know it!

As with everything, in all of our lives, my work with local schools and community groups came to a standstill. I’ve got to say that not being out in the woods with different groups each day left a large void in my world. I’m now back at work (hurrah) on flexible furlough and my chief goal is to devise a cunning plan and do my best to prepare, prepare and prepare for getting back out and about with groups, whilst meandering around many big question marks!

A circle of feet - shoes on

As we await the scientific data to guide us through these coming weeks and months there is still so much unknown about what our schools and education will look like by the time the proposed return date of 11th August comes around.

‘The ravages of ‘Lockdown’ on our mental health and general well-being is widely acknowledged, and children and young people are likely to have been greatly impacted in a negative way, particularly younger children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is anticipated that there will be a massive increase in ‘health and well-being’, cognitive, behavioural and emotional development focused interventions over the medium to longer term in order to support our young people’s needs in the recovery from this crisis.

Taking into account my research and the latest information updates from the Scottish Government, it seems likely that as we learn to live with Covid there will be an even greater surge in demand for all things ‘outdoorsy’.  

BFT have experienced ever increasing requests for health and wellbeing/ nurture focused outdoor education projects, and I think that this demand has the potential to grow exponentially over the coming months – years.  Where better to start the healing process than outside in the great outdoors – there’s space, fresh air, freedom and endless inspirational stimuli, it enables increased opportunities for GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) and aspects of Curriculum for Excellence, whilst also offering respite from the probable increased screen time required in the future delivery of education (a balance the Government and education establishments are working hard to address and solve).

So, back to the ‘prepare, prepare and prepare’ statement. At the moment, there is only one Education Officer at BFT, and until things settle and we can make further solid plans to expand our capacity – I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to be busy! Time will tell.

As a wee side note, for any Borders School and Education staff that might be reading this, if you have any ideas, thoughts, pearls of wisdom or requests for specific project support in the new academic year please do get in touch with me. I’d love to find ways to maximise the benefits of our ‘People in Woods’ projects and support as many local young people as possible.   anna@bordersforesttrust.org