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Kindling an Adventuring Spirit [and why small adventures still count and are actually crucial ]

Adventure Dictionary Definition

noun exciting or very unusual experience.

2.participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises:

the spirit of adventure.

3.a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Adventurer definition from the urban dictionary:

A very brave person who is willing to put his life in danger for the right thing. Adventurers usually fight nazis, evil voodoo priests and any other bad guy that gets in his way.

"I'm an adventurer just like Indiana Jones."

Lets face it, not everyone has the resources to be a full time global Adventurer. So lets just stop being 'adventure snobs' right now! However, our much loved fictional adventurers such as Indiana Jones, Phileas Fogg, Bilbo Baggins, Tin Tin and even the Moomins do have something that we also can have, no matter what our circumstances and that is, an adventuring spirit.

In my mind and my heart. I am an adventurer although, in reality I have done very little global adventuring [so far!]. I seek adventure everywhere else that I can find it. We are as a family committed to the microadventure movement created by Alastair Humphries, for just this reason. I am curious and always delighted and surprised by the things that I find even on a short walk with my dog [who incidentally does look a bit like a Victorian Adventurer!]

When I work with some groups their opportunity for adventures may sometimes seem to be even less than my own. Maybe a parent is anxious about the outdoors and mud and dirt and germs. Or, maybe the only times they really get to go outdoors is on the walk to school or to go shopping. Or maybe they don't have a garden. Or maybe going to the park is the biggest adventure that they can have. All of that needs to be o.k. as those things are hard or slow to change and then that means there needs to be other ways to have adventures.

In my work I try to kindle the adventuring spirit. This would probably mean different things to different people but it can also overlap with other educational or parenting ideas such as BLP skills [building learning power], or FAIL [first attempt in learning], Bounce Back Parenting/Teaching, Resilience, Grit and Growth Mindset. Google any of these for tonnes of information, research, approaches and ideas. [It is worth a google as much research says that success isn't about intelligence, social or emotional intelligence or even hard work on it's own but actually it's about grit and resilience.]

To me an Adventuring Spirit means:

Trying new things

Working/playing with new people

Change can be exciting and scary at the same time

Observing and noticing what's around you

Not giving up too soon

Having a curiosity about and how things grow, work, live, function etc.

You are outward looking but able to look inwards to overcome personal challenge

Overcoming obstacles and working through the uncomfortable

Working together to achieve a goal

You push your physical boundaries, whatever they are

Sure, there are more things we could add to the list but you can see if you approach adventure from this angle it opens up many more opportunities. Then, that walk to school and that half hour at the park can become adventures after all.

Each session taught of outdoor learning is a small adventure. Kids are always challenging themselves physically and emotionally, getting wet and cold and muddy, working together to move a log, learning about bugs, the sky and clouds, lighting a fire, being around a fire in the smoke or maybe in the dark, making and tasting new food, rolling down a hill, resolving issues with each other, using tools, maybe camping overnight without a parent, taking small risks, managing their own risk and I could go on. It is not always rosy mind you.

Some of those challenges require reassurance that what they feel is o.k. An adventurous adult who says "If you feel safe, it's probably safe, if you don't feel safe, it probably means it may not be safe. How can you make it feel safer?" is sometimes needed to prompt and kick start the managing-your-own-risk-confidence-system.

If I refer back to the original dictionary definition there are always children who feel that what they are doing is risky or hazardous. They may not be climbing a volcano but for them it is still a challenge, my job I guess is to make it more exciting than it is scary. Much of the time there are children who are not comfortable but each time they try again in the next session some of their anxieties fade and are hopefully replaced eventually by excitement and curiosity.

So this week I asked some reception children [aged 4/5] what adventure was for them some the answers I had were:

"Going on a Bear Hunt"

"Going to the park"

"Hunting the Gruffalo"

"Looking for tigers"

"Playing Mario"

"Going to the Sea"

"Having a picnic"

One boy had the most amazing response, he said "feeling uncomfortable, you need to feel it in your body" Incredibly, when I asked my own children the same question, my eldest said "You need to feel uncomfortable"!

I think that is really important. The discomfort that you may initially feel needs to be overcome and worked with. This got me to thinking, maybe on some of the trickiest days in the trickiest sessions when it doesn't feel like much success has been had, maybe those are the times when children have been challenged with discomfort and we helped them to keep going on their adventure anyway. [This makes me think of Ellen MacArthur breaking the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe but is famous also for crying continually!!] Maybe when they have cried or have taken a moment out because they felt a bit stressed, maybe that's a moment when they are in their own small adventure. Maybe we should as parents or educators not try to rescue them from that straight away, lest we deprive them of a valuable learning experience. That's the point, adventures aren't always easy but we have them anyway and we learn about ourselves, each other and the world around us in the process. [DISCLAIMER:There is however clearly a point when a child is so unhappy that making them continue can only do damage, there is a big difference between that and encouraging them to overcome challenges that they will feel good about in the end]

Conversely, maybe those relaxed and easy sessions mean it wasn't challenging enough, but that's a blog post for another day!

This Friday we had a whole day of small adventures. We listened to adventure music and had some imagined adventures through drama and movement. We made books of small adventures where we could write about or draw the things we found on our small adventures. We went off and had the freedom and space to run and jump and lift logs and dig holes with sticks. We then ended with stories of adventure.

This week I have reminded myself that a small adventure for some is a huge adventure for others. Adventure is relative. Even a small adventure is still an adventure. And all adventures are important to our learning and self development. Dream about your big adventures and I hope you get to have them one day soon but for now you can walk out of your front door and go on a small adventure, right now, for real. Trust me, you will still see and find things that you didn't expect and you will always feel better for it.

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