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

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Letter from a student...

Here is a letter from a friend who attended one of my courses, I really liked what he had to say about his nephew and ADHD. When I was a lad I was labelled Maladjusted maybe that was the forerunner to ADHD who knows. What I do know is society likes to label and yet if we just paid attention to each person learning needs we would have more people in work and a much better society because the children would rightly be learning from their mentors according to their needs, thus placing them in a position to serve others in our society. Just my opinion, it may not be yours?


Hi Geoff,

“… I was chatting to a friend of mine who is a forest school instructor and she is doing some "In the woods social work" with some kids with minor social issues. I found myself referring her to your website/blog. I have since left civil engineering and am now studying environmental conservation in Bangor (North Wales) - what a lovely place! This conversation with her reminded me of you and I thought I’d say "Hi".

My brain started spinning thinking about all the possibilities of "Natural Awareness". Ecosystem services (the woods used as a 'valuable' classroom), social adjustments, behavioural issues and addiction issues. Then I started thinking if this is an area that would be of interest to both conservationists who may be able to "increase the value of the land" by its use as a psychological tool and also by the psychologists. It just happens that a few of my friends are studying psychology at Bangor too. Unfortunately, at present, I do not have the time to consider it further (lots of essays and reports due on Friday!) but I think it is another area of mutual, potential, interdisciplinary benefit. Perhaps even worth a seminar at some point ;)

Anyway, here is my little story that may interest you.

I have a young nephew. For his 8th birthday I took him on a 'Family Bushcraft' course. His dad has never been there or even seen him. No contact. Callum has been "diagnosed" (I put it in brackets as I do not believe it to be a diagnosis - more a social issue -i.e. modern society being no good for us) with ADHD. He misbehaved! And would not participate, was throwing sticks, bashing trees etc. I'm sure you know the score. I almost had to passive-fy him with his lifeline - er, I mean his Nintendo DS, but thought "bullocks".

I took him away from the group and we went tracking! I taught him basic tracking sills and we followed a badger trail to a set even the instructors didn’t know existed. We found a predated bird egg shell and some fresh deer prints. I promised him we would see the deer later. We went back to the group for tea time. I told the instructors what went on and they were keen to go "deer watching" as they trusted my ability to gauge a fresh trail. That evening we went to watch the deer. The instructor "Knew where to sit", I disagreed. So I took Callum a little further away (from them) but also closer to the trail. It got dark and after 45mins Callum was getting a touch restless. I promised him we wouldn't be much longer.

I heard a noise. I said to Callum, "I think something is coming - stay still and quiet". After a few minutes I said to Callum "VERY slowly turn around and look behind us", there was a Muntjac standing on the trail about 5ft away from us. It looked at us and carried on undisturbed. We were the only two to see the deer. On the way back I explained to him about the rod and cone receptors in your eyes and why we do not need torches. The other kids were waving torches and making a racket. Callum said to them "you should be quiet, you will disturb the deer and turn your torches off or your rods will stop working". They were all stumped! We returned to the fire, Callum was well behaved and told his experience to the group. He mentioned how you should be quiet and still and be part of the nature then the deer aren't scared of you. He then proceeded to explain how amazing the fire was with all of its many colours and how much better than the DS this was.

The next day Callum was well behaved and integrated with the group. The other children were fatiguing and becoming troublesome, Callum was as good as gold! I have since taught him how to stalk, tracked further with him (he stalked a fallow deer to about 10ft) and how to shoot an air rifle. He wants to go bow hunting with me too. I have told him I will take him if he learns to shoot a bow and also after my degree.

He behaves very differently around me now.

Just a little story I thought you may appreciate. One, that makes me smile. I now seem to have written quite a lot. Ha ha, probably an essay 'avoidance' tool.

How are things with you? I like your blog. Is the nature awareness going well? I also like your little video on "Action indicators vs pressure releases" very diplomatic and spot on, in my opinion...”

I hope all is well.


Martyn Smith

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