Green Care

As we begin another week of this strange existence, with no known end in sight, yet a realisation that we will, collectively, have to find a way of resuming a life that involves contact with others, our thoughts have turned to what we can offer schools, children and families as they consider how to move from the ‘now’ to the ‘what next’. We have, once again, found inspiration in the Resilience work undertaken by our friends at Boing Boing Community Interest Company, the Resilience Framework developed by Professor Angie Hart and her colleagues. If you are new to this approach, there is lots of information on the website. Those of you familiar with the Framework will be interested to know that there are now versions for primary children, for families and for adults, as well as versions in a variety of languages, all downloadable from the Boing Boing webpage here.

We have decided to take a building block each week from the Resilience Framework to inform our weekly updates. This week we are focusing on a block from the Basics strand, “we exercise and get fresh air”. 

A lot has been written in the past weeks about exercise. It is one of the few things we are actively allowed to do during the Lockdown, and it has been lovely to see whole family groups out together for their daily walk or cycle ride. This led us to think more about the well-being benefits of being outside, and to look at the mental health work on ‘Green Care’.

Beverley has written about her initial investigation into the area: “This week I looked into the research about exercise and getting outside. It has been found that children tend to be less active, and their fitness levels usually decrease, during the summer holidays. Keen to avoid this impact in lockdown, a variety of fitness videos have been made available online. Our favourite, ‘PE with Joe’ on YouTube (daily family-friendly workouts) typically have over 1 million views. However, the Royal College of Psychiatrists have helpfully compiled research (further links on our Research page here) which shows the benefits, both of exercising, and of being outside. Exercise, for example, has been found to promote positive behaviour and the wellbeing of children with autism and ADHD. I was also interested to learn that spending time outside can improve symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression. In addition to the research, the website above links to suggestions for engaging with nature at different levels – from looking out a window, to walking the dog, to gardening. Thinking about all this reminded me of child I worked with last year who, when asked what they thought might help them manage feelings of anxiety, suggested they run a quick lap of the playground. They were definitely onto something!

Dr Alan Kellas is the “nature based care and green spaces rep.” for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and here you can listen to an interview that he gave to Isabel Hardman, a journalist with the Spectator who has written about her own mental illness and depression. This interview is well worth a listen – it helps to explain why many of us are finding solace in nature at the current time.

Green Care for Children and Young People

This current period is a golden opportunity to develop ‘outdoor’ learning programmes for children. So often, when children are in school, their time outdoors is constrained by the school timetable and the perception that ‘real learning’ takes place inside a classroom. Now, they are positively encouraged to spend time outside, with their parents, and to go on foot or on a bike rather than being driven to an activity. What better time to develop their interests and build knowledge of their local environment!

Every child in Manchester lives within a short walk of a green space. To find the nearest park or green space, go to the neighbourhood information on the Manchester Council website, put in your school postcode, and filter on the link for ‘parks and open spaces’. You will see a map with all parks marked. Beneath the map are the names of the parks/open spaces, exact location and other information such as opening times. Manchester parks are open from dawn until dusk, so this is a free open air classroom, available to every family!

Some great ideas for the great outdoors

Outdoor learning can be really effective because it encourages curiosity, fosters motivation and is accessible to all children regardless of their attainments in reading, writing or maths.

Stimulating an interest in nature, in trees and in birds can develop into a lifelong hobby. Now that would be a positive outcome from the COVID19 lockdown!

Try these ideas from the Field Studies Council who have a special page with ideas for children at home and daily updates for outdoor learning on their twitter feed @NatureFSchools:

Maps: create a sound map (you can do this in a park, garden, or even through a (safe) open window. Download the activity sheet here.

Mapping your local area could provide a number of ‘spin off’ projects – map the route from your house to the park, map your route to school (how much can you do from memory), visit the park then draw a map of it when you get home

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt. The activity sheet here provides a list of things children could collect, and you can obviously produce your own lists.

Make a weather diary. The activity sheet here provides some ideas, including how to make a simple rain gauge. I also love the idea for ‘Sky TV’: just lie down outside and watch the clouds!

The RSPB website also has a number of outdoor learning ideas for children here, although the RSPB app is easier to navigate. The app allows you to filter for a number of different projects, graded from easy, and variable depending on how much time you have.

Positivity project

Parents and children might enjoy contributing to the positivity_project_manchester on Instagram. This is a positive psychology informed art collaboration in which anyone can upload photos of hearts seen in the environment. Have a look at @positivity_project_manchester on Instagram for more information.

Apps of the week

Seek (iNaturalist)

This is the child and young person’s version of the iNaturaist app aimed at adults. iNaturalist is a citizen scientist initiative jointly supported by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society that enables anyone to contribute to a collaborative set of observations of any given neighbourhood. This child’s version (“Seek”) doesn’t require any details such as email addresses and the child can choose whether or not to share their photos of observations. Children under the age of 13 require parental permissions, and this app might be best used with adult support.

Children using the app can search for common species of plants, insects and so on in their local area. They can also take and upload photos that will then be identified for them by the app. Experimenting with the app this weekend led me to spot a lot of plants previously unnoticed alongside the road on my daily walk.

British Trees is an app developed by the Woodland Trust. All children should be able to use this to identify trees in their local neighbourhood. The app allows the child to observe any part of the tree, e.g. leaf, bark, twigs and then to follow a series of questions in order to identify the tree. Another opportunity to be a ‘nature detective’.

We have been listening to….‘This corridor of trees unites 20 countries’

 My podcast of the week is the BBC Earth Podcast, available on BBC Sounds or on other podcast platforms. You can listen here.

The episode I have chosen is ‘This corridor of trees unites 20 countries” first broadcast in November 2019. The episode tells a number of stories about the ways in which different elements of our planet work together in harmony. This is a gentle listen with scientists who are great story tellers. I particularly enjoyed listening to the story of the life cycle of eels “a migration miracle” as told by Michael Malay, who teaches contemporary literature and environmental poetry at the University of Bristol.

You might have missed…

The British Psychological Society has produced a briefing paper ‘Teacher resilience during Coronavirus school closures. You can download the paper here. This paper is offered as a ‘conversation starter’ designed to promote teacher resilience, taking elements of practice known to foster resilience. We hope you will find this helpful at this time of significant challenge.

And finally…

If you miss walking along the canals at the moment, or visiting the centre of Manchester, you might enjoy this Vlog from Robbie Cummings. Robbie lives on  canal boat and presents a BBC series ‘Canal Boat Diaries. Here he is on You Tube describing a trip through Manchester on the Rochdale Canal:

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