I spend a lot of time taking young people out into nature, mostly the local kids and scouts. It could be a full weekend camp or just a night picnic in a local forest. I do this because I really believe that helping kids know in their bodies the pleasure of being outside will be something that can be with them for the rest of their lives. Oh and because its an excuse for me to get out too!
Kids and Teens need unstructured, off-line “play” for healthy mental and physical development. More and more research is emerging about this; as explained for example, in The Washington Post‘s recent article “Ten ways to help kids fall in love with being outside”.
Here are a three winners from me for all ages:
Any version of a hide and seek game – we have an ever morphing game called Mouse and Karearea which involves being super stealthy and quiet and then intense moments of action, using all the senses and diving head first into bushes. It always ends with “can we play again?”
A mini night solo – sitting on a track spaced about 10 m apart in silence and with your torch off just listening and looking and feeling then sharing about the experience after. It always grounds and brings more cohesion to a group of kids.
Unstructured fossicking – encouraging young people wherever we are to look out for interesting nature things and to celebrate and ask questions about what we find; a dead jellyfish, poo!, a crayfish shell. This encourages curiosity and learning and builds confidence and wonder.
It was a real priveledge to work with Carol Shortis on her Women's song camp in January. We spent a weekend at Waiohanga lodge in wonderful company singing, eating great food, swimming in the river and doing a weed walk. I helped run an evening singing session amongst the trees and ran a few non singing challenges as well; group juggling and tightrope walking no less!
The highlight for me was leading a sounds of nature session where we first tuned into listening to each other to solve a knotty rope problem and then a relaxing and focussing experience in listening to nature and then walking through nature together in silence. We all noticed so much more and when we broke our silence and talked together afterwards about our experience, many said how moving that was for them.
The Re-wild Yourself retreat was wonderful – for me the facilitator – but more importantly, for the wildsters who came along;
“It was the best fun I have had in a long time; with a great mix of luxury and groundedness. It felt like a treat for the body and for the soul. Now I have a whole new repertoire of ways to nourish and be nourished by nature.” L
WHAT DID WE DO?
We spent three days based at a charming and comfortable off grid lodge in the foothills of the Tararua Range near Carterton, Wairarapa.
“The lodge was: peaceful and inviting, spacious yet cosy with the log burner and candles adding to the ambience. Being off-grid added to the ethos”.
Through guided outdoor and indoor activities we experienced new ways to connect with nature and to ourselves. The programme included:
Gentle wanders and sensory walks
1-4 hour solo time (supported to be safely by yourself)
Loads of yummy nourishing food, including wild food
Exploring tracking techniques
Soaking in an portable eco hot tub under the stars
Trying out relaxation techniques
Sharing stories and song around a campfire
Enjoying a massage
Creating environmental “art”
Relating your wild experiences to the rest of life
Playing in the river
“What a fabulous way to savour a few days. It was an energising yet peaceful treat. I came away feeling recharged, and more in touch with myself and nature.” T
HOW DID PARTICIPANTS FEEL?
“Here’s just some of what I liked about the retreat: Your care and crafting of the activities, including the balance of group and individual exploration. Some time out, and a chance to lose time, think and explore. Luxury.”
“I’m feeling light of spirit, delighted, ever so slightly light in the head…. with fond memories of candle light too… thanks Liana and co-wildees for a nuturing, adventurous weekend journey and treat.” T
“I really enjoyed the opportnity to strip back the layers of a challenge and the luxury of time and permiossion to expereince nature without a specific purpose or job to do”
IS IT FOR YOU?
The retreats are for anybody who is curious about what focussed time in nature can do for them. We all know that getting out into the wild world can help you to see things differently, relax and recharge. The retreat, through fun, engaging and gently challenging micro-adventures aims to give you new techniques and insights into the power of nature connection. You do not need to be a super-fit outdoor ninja to attend – but if you are, you may find that slowing down in nature reveals new things. You may not even think you are an outdoor person, but there is something calling you to put your device down and come and just “be” for a while.
“Everyone would benefit from this kind of retreat. I’m so Grateful for the opportunity to participate. I had always felt connected to nature, but now I will approach her with more humbled and awakened senses. I have been given much to reflect on. The retreat felt like a personal journey as well as a shared one.” M
WHO HOSTED IT?
The guide is me, Liana Stupples.
Liana somehow helps you feel relaxed and open to new experiences; she will stick beside you as you challenge yourself. She can find the playful side of most things and she commits to bringing an engaging energy as well as sensitive facilitation skills to every event she runs. She has a deep love and appreciation of the natural world, particularly the Aotearoa bit. After a varied international “career” she has now relented to doing what she enjoys and believes makes a difference; connecting people and nature. Liana runs a smart and safe programme; she has a MSc in Natural Resource Management, has a strength in eco-psychology theory and practice, holds a Diploma in Outdoor Adventure and is current in advanced first aid.
When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favour. So says National Geographic.
It explains how science is proving what we've always known intuitively: Nature does good things to the human brain. It makes us healthier, happier, and smarter.
“People underestimate the happiness effect” of being outdoors, a psychology professor says. “We don’t think of it as a way to increase happiness. We think other things will, like shopping or TV. We evolved in nature. It’s strange we’d be so disconnected.”
It reports findings of people awakening to the nature around them:
“On the third day my senses recalibrate—I smell things and hear things I didn’t before,”
This is similar to our experience at a Re-wild Yourself retreat:
“I'm feeling light of spirit, delighted, ever so slightly light in the head.... I loved the simple but powerful experience in slowing down to notice nature and oneself.... thanks Liana and co-wildees for a nuturing, adventurous weekend journey and treat.” T
And the conclusion:
“At the end of the day, we come out in nature not because the science says it does something to us, but because of how it makes us feel.”
I’ve learned the hard way that being in nature is essential to my happiness and wellbeing. What about you?
In January 2016 I worked with the Department of Conservation to design a community consultation installation. We “pimped” a cute Caravan to encourage and enable people to have their say about the management of the Paparoa National Park. We created a feel of an old bush hut and a chat around a kitchen table with a cup of tea. We won a Champion prize at the Ingangahua A&P show and even more importantly the engagement of many local people.