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Virtually Outdoors

Today we prepare for our annual open day but in a pandemic. This year we offer a playlist of videos made by people who have a commitment to outdoor life but are now living it in lockdown. Restricted, as we all have been in the adventures that we can have with colleagues, with our groups and family and friends, adaptation has been key for most of us. March 14th was the last time we did any official Outdoor Education. We were with our Adventurers group for a beach session, already the start of changes to how we operate were showing, we had serious hand washing rituals, no communal food cooked on an open fire and a sense that it was changing.

It has changed beyond recognition. Thankfully many people report feeling more attached to nature during lockdown as it has given them opportunity to slow down. Dr. Mark Leather desribes in his video, how lockdown has enabled him to practice a slow pedagogy and to notice nature. Doug, a Secondary School P.E. teacher, still working on a rota with young people at school and providing and marking work online to students, now has his two children at home. He describes how this time with his children has been a gift as even his Summer holidays are often filled with work commitments away from home and now he has a teaching commitment to his own children. See their videos on their daily exercise, tiny adventures "A Lockdown Tale-There and back again"

Our outdoor practice often revolves around cooking together on an open fire in the woods. Lockdown means that we have utilised other means of cooking outside. Where we live, we are unable to have big open fire so we have used other cooking equipment more. We have made a video showing some of our favourite kit for when open fire is not the right choice. In outdoor education changes in planning are inevitable, being ready to adapt is part of the fabric of what we do, open fire is not the right choice often, so being able to utilise other cooking methods is not only good for lockdown but good for practice anyway. Find Jack's video on Mug Eggs, these can be made in various ways and has been one of our happy cooking accidents, now much loved by the Adventurers.

Many people have got more creative while at home. Major threads in the videos that we are sharing are creative ones. Generous video offers from our artist friends such as Sarah Drew, Dan Cole and Rogue Theatre show you how you can stay attached to the outdoors even while at home. We are so grateful that they have shared their work with us. Outdoor leaders are often keen to get creative and Sarah O Toole, Forest School leader and Early Years manager demonstrates Hapa Zome, the place where plants and print meet or try Heidi Kirk-Mackrell's funny drawing challenges like we did. Some of my own art practice is based around collecting and collections. Before Miss Elvy's Curious School of the Wild was Miss Elvy's Cabinet of Curiosities, so we have added some sketch book ideas and a cabinet of curiosities video for creative nature collectors. If you want a 3D project try the video from Richard Irvine, showing how to create a whittled wooden mushroom, one of our favourite whittling projects.

During lockdown, there has been much debate about play. Concerns that children are missing out on play opportunities due to the pandemic has generated some important discussion amongst academics, parents and educators, particularly regarding access to outdoor play. Maybe Dr. Mel Mcree and I will chat about this later, when we record a little video conferencing, Q and A to add to the list. We hope that it is clear that we are lovers of play. Several of our videos made by children and young people demonstrate, virtually, the importance of play, even if it is jumping or rolling in the grass. We are grateful to Artist and PlayTherapist, Carol Whibley and her charming video on small world play, I watched it and wanted to immediately go and make a small pirate battle, over buried treasure. Thanks to the video from Sid, we can all revise our technique for playing family rounders, he makes it look easy and totally puts us to shame. We have played alot of rounders in lockdown, it was about the exercise and the playing of the sport but also just the play-we are very silly rounders players.

Today new videos will arrive for editing and uploading, particularly from our Adventurers group and some from other amazing outdoor practitioners. We are not together, but through this project, we feel closer together and we hope you do to. As we move forward into what is an unknown future for outdoor education, it may be comforting to still watch video from the times when we were silly together, go and find the Dad Dancing videos from Ian Blackwell and his Dangerous Dads groups. We have watched over and over the digital story project that our Adventurers groups made with Aven Kernow last year, reminding me of the importance of Place but also of the importance of our outdoor community. Some of us have translated really well into lockdown mode. Chris Holland is a great example, already ahead of the curve with video in his outdoor practice, his music, reviews and story telling are a lockdown treasure. We are grateful for his video using story as a consolation and guide as we tenatively emerge like larvae, from lockdown.

It is impossible to write this blog about a virtual outdoor open day and not think about a previous blog that explored the relationship between technology and the outdoors; it seems like a much emptier conversation to have, now we have become so reliant on technology to keep our outdoor communities together. Like a day in the outdoors when the weather isn't on our side and we make a new plan, we offer a technological or virtual new plan, there's no such thing as bad weather and all that!

The Curious and Wild Open Day can be found on YouTube from 30th May 2020 on the Miss Elvy's Curious School of the Wild Channel.

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