Kindness Is The Order Of The Day

It’s seems a lovely coincidence that World Kindness Day, Anti-Bullying Week, and Children in Need all fall within the same stretch of a few weeks each November. A common thread runs through them all – kindness, compassion, and support. As a company that prides itself on doing the right thing and investing in community, we love to mark each of these three occasions and this year, thought we might unpack a little further how these values work perfectly in harmony with outdoor education and the Forest School ethos.

The Great Leveller

One of the things that Moose Mutlow mentioned when he was kind enough to join us for an episode of The Outdoors Group Podcast was about how the outdoors is a great equaliser. The rain falls just as heavily on the rich as it does the poor, the sun shines just as brightly on the adult as the child, the elements do not discriminate on age, race, wealth, gender, religion, or sexuality – when a human being is outside, they are treated just the same as any other human alongside them.

To have such equality is a rare thing in our world today and when you share these experiences equally alongside those with you, amazing things happen. Friendships are formed through adversity, bonds are made and strengthened through overcoming obstacles together, barriers are broken down when you witness awe and wonder in nature together.

A Learning Community

Alongside this equalising nature of the outdoors is the fact that most people working in outdoor education or Forest School provision, enter it with a mindset that they are joining a learning community. They may be there to facilitate certain skills or knowledge for the people they are working with, but they are also aware that we never stop learning and are open to learning from those attending, no matter their age.

When hierarchies are removed and all voices and opinions are valued, a lot of conflict and tension naturally falls away. When feelings are validated and those struggling are given support to explore why they’re feeling the way they do, lashing out as a result of those feelings happens a lot less.

A few years ago, one of our fabulous Pastoral Tutors at The Outdoors School penned a beautiful post looking at why some children and young people may display bullying behaviours. She said “from an outside perspective they may be deemed as bullyingHowever, rarely does the instigator have the feelings of the victim in their mind or as a priority; instead their actions are a response to something more complex than that and with an understanding of that, we support our children to overcome this.  A key message for all our learners; victims and bullies is that is it ok to have feelings (including those of anger, a need to feel in control, to be listened and so on), but that actions that cause harm to others, need to be explored so that we can all learn and move on.

Safe Spaces

Exploring these feelings and supporting children and young people so that they can work through the feelings that they are struggling with is easier to do in an outdoor environment. There are no walls to feel hemmed in by, there is more space to move in, no fluorescent lights or noisy corridors to provide sensory overload. Our experience over the last 11 years has been that when given respect, space, time, and support, behaviour that could be framed as ‘bullying’ tends to be minimal. And when it does occur, it can be addressed in a way that gets to the root of the problem, rather than just reacting to the manifestation of someone’s internal struggles.

Our staff try to model kindness, conflict resolution, and friendship every day and we believe that this makes all the difference to the children and young people we work with. When they see the adults around them looking out for each other, speaking kindly to each other, and sharing experiences and time with each other, they start to do the same with their peers.

So this week, we’re celebrating kindness, we’re celebrating friendship, and we’re celebrating the power of the outdoors to lift up and encourage these qualities. We’ve got our #oddsocks on for Anti-Bullying Week, have you?

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Tuesday 15th November 2022

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