“I Saw a Bear!”
Walking through the squilchy, squelchy mud, the children always look at their feet, look at the mud oozing over their patterned wellies; momentarily forgetting we are looking for bears.
Most groups, if they have been introduced to the concept of clues, will notice footprints on the path – welly prints, or large dog paw prints and, depending on the recent traffic, there may even be deer prints to see.
One group of reception children on a Bear Hunt a couple of weeks ago which had been engaging in ‘Welly Wednesdays’ at school, even noticed trees with bear scratches, and spotted our concrete cast bear prints without prompting.
These children, having already been introduced to walking on uneven ground, encountering mud, picking up sticks and being slightly cold, could focus fully on finding their bear. They displayed a sense of adventure when they pointed out routes and directions we should go in, rather than just following our lead.
The most recent bear hunting group we welcomed, however, were not as lucky as their peers. Although older, speech development and concentration problems marked a level of deprivation in their local area, coupled with a lack of basic outdoor clothing.
In this group, there was naturally less of an emphasis on the bear, and more on the outdoor experience. They needed more encouragement to get involved in mini-beast hunting, although they displayed a gentle nature which was sometimes lacking in the more experienced Welly-Wednesday-ers.
The comparison of these groups begs the question of who would benefit more from a visit to an outdoor centre – the experienced explorers, re-living a book, or the children who are wide-eyed and in complete educational disequilibrium.
With a flexible teaching style and programme, a day can be tailored to the needs of both groups, and if at the end of their visit, the ‘city kids’ have at least had a new experience, without being over mothered; inadvertently learning skills of persistence and endurance – rather than being whisked away at their first proclamation of tiredness, hunger or cold.