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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Nature and youth at risk. "I was at first sceptical..."

How does nature and wilderness-living-skills affect our youth of today. Here is some feedback from a one day course Hannah and I ran together when we were Natural Pathways. I think you will find the letter speaks for it's self.
Diana Packer
Opportunities Plus


My name is Diana Packer; I am a Team Leader with ‘Opportunities Plus’. This is a programme funded by the ‘European Social fund’ and the ‘Learning Skills Council’. The program focuses on building Confidence, Self Esteem and Motivation towards a positive personal progression for these Young People. Progression may include Basic/Life skills, further Training or Employment.

When hearing about ‘Natural Pathways’, we as team leaders were slightly apprehensive about taking our groups into an environment that encourages people to engage once again with their natural survival instincts. However, it didn’t take us long to realise that this activity and environment was exactly what we as team leaders were trying to achieve as a ‘Learning Experience’ for these Young People that (It was a day to remember).

With this in mind I will try to share just some examples of the many experiences that I have observed during one of ‘Natural Pathways’ activity days. Due to the dampness of the day, I was informed that lighting a fire could be a time consuming task for these Young People, however it was not impossible with time and effort.

Having been shown how to create embers with a Bow Drill, some Young People gave up after a short period of time, however, a small group continued. Hannah’s encouragement and further instruction towards perseverance was highlighted when they achieved their goal. “This small group actively encouraged each other to carry on, once achieving a glowing fire, this group of Young People were held in high esteem by the rest of the team. (This affected the group dynamics as a result)”

Once highlighting this incident towards the group, on our return journey back to the Centre, the remarkable effects of encouragement towards positive rather than negative natural growth emphasised the ability ‘that each of these Young People could achieve their aims and objectives facilitated by positive encouragement’. One Young Person even went on to say that. “This experience was better than the buzz of Burglary”.

Hannah’s ability to engage with these Young People is an asset that enhances her natural teaching qualities. Hannah’s natural skill of ‘emphasis on the positive rather than the negative self-attributes’, encourages confidence, dynamics and exploration of the ‘inner self’ which will facilitate a positive personal progression for these Young People. Encouraging them to explore their personal capabilities and their natural Survival instinct helps these Young People begin to trust adults within their environment, which in turn enhances confidence and self-belief for many of these Young People.

Geoffrey’s ability to engage with Young People became very apparent when ‘Boundaries’ were being challenged. (These Young People have perhaps very little structure within their lives some see ‘Boundaries’ as something to constantly challenge or kick against). Geoffrey’s patience and empathic understanding encouraged them to look towards personal progression rather than the negativity, which could be felt within the team as a whole when asked to accomplish a task.

Geoffrey’s positive support and encouragement emphasises ‘a need to succeed’ within working with these Young People. Drug/substance abuse is widely used within this ‘Youth Culture’ and is seen as ‘Cool’. When questioning Geoffrey about ‘Drug Culture’ (a misconception of the Young Person is that Geoffrey’s long hair implies drug use).

The Young Person began to take in a discussion of ‘harm Drugs/substance abuse can be to your body and the effects they can cause, when to actually ‘get back to nature’ can give you all the buzz you need without all these drugs. For instance, over hearing one Young Person describe their feelings, after an activity called ‘The Drum Stalk’, they described the experience as ‘better than being on Drugs’.

The Drum Stalk is an activity where the team divide into pairs, one will wear a blindfold whilst the other will guide their partner with the sound of a drum and their support, this activity enhances trust and relying on others, confidence and self-reliance.

I was at first sceptical of whether this activity would achieve the required affect for these Young People, however as I previously mentioned, this activity definitely achieved what it set out to achieve. Geoffrey and Hannah's ability to engage, encourage trust and support these Young People towards a ‘Positive progressional insight’ is not an easy task to achieve in just one day’s activity, however it has proved to be achievable and a highly enjoyable day which is discussed throughout the whole ‘Opportunities Plus’ programme.

Both Geoffrey and Hannah bring the male and female aspect into their workshop, providing a balanced role reversible, for example string making is often seen by the young men to be for women until they learn that without these skills they would not be able to string their bows set their traps etc. This is only a small example of ‘the natural teaching abilities’ that Natural Pathways facilitates towards our groups of Young People, however, the effects this has towards their personal positive progression is immeasurable.

Natural Pathways has become a firm favourite with all Team Leaders within the ‘Opportunities Plus’ programme. Therefore I would highly recommend this activity for anyone who would like to ‘get in tune with ones positive self’.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at the above address for any further information in which I may be of help.

Yours Sincerely,

Diana Packer ~ Team Leader ~ ‘Opportunities Plus’

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