Wild Child – what’s really important?

Here is a summary I pulled together to give an introduction to facilitating Kids for nature connection.


Overseas Studies have identified the benefit of nature connection for people and identified the lack of it as “nature deficit disorder”.

Examples of recent research into the many general benefits of nature connection:

Ecotherapy from Mind the UK mental health charity

National geographic summary




“There is already research evidence that exposure to nature can reduce hypertension, respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue…..But more than that, feeling a part of nature has been shown to significantly correlate with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety.”



2  Research is showing this is also true specifically for nature and children


The UK natural childhood report




One recent study found that connection to nature is as important to children’s achievement in English subjects as life satisfaction and attendance at school. https://findingnature.org.uk/2016/02/17/better-well-being-and-education-results-when-connected-to-nature/

3  More and more research is pointing to how to best encourage the connection for children

“Rather than frame nature as a resource and place for occasional outdoor learning, there is a need for a more embedded and nuanced approach to ensure greater connection to nature. That is, there is a need to ensure contact with nature that highlights the enjoyment and wonder of it, while recognising our place within the natural world.   https://findingnature.org.uk/2016/02/17/better-well-being-and-education-results-when-connected-to-nature/


“For 350,000 generations humans have lived close to the land as hunter-gatherers; a sense of belonging, place, and feeling embedded within the broader natural world characterized these cultures. In some ways, then, it would be surprising if the modern life of being divorced from nature did not have some negative consequences associated with it and that being in nature had positive benefits.

When practitioners think of how to create settings to help clients feel better, they may want to think of more than simply how nature can restore depleted attentional capacity and reduce stress. They may also want to think of how people need to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves and that this need may be fulfilled through a sense of belonging or connectedness to the natural world.”  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cynthia_Frantz/publication/238428905_Why_Is_Nature_BeneficialThe_Role_of_Connectedness_to_Nature/links/543be72c0cf204cab1db5017.pdf

Unstructured and sensory “play” is particularly important:

“Nature connection is a contact sport.”  Scott D Sampson

“Unstructured experiences in nature are more beneficial than structured experiences and the benefits are universal across cultural and geographic areas. “

“Voluminous evidence suggests that outdoor play deprivation contributes to obesity and, over time, the social and physical effects of obesity contribute, in circular fashion, to play deprivation.”   http://www.childrenandnature.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LWS_Vol1_03.pdf

The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”  Brown, Stuart (2009). Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

“Being outdoors, learning about the environment, being distracted by clues and pursuing marked stations on a nature trail is not a great pathway to increased connection to nature. Likewise, a computer-based educational hike learning about animals and plants isn’t either. Engaging with nature through the arts however did increase children’s connection to nature”

“A connection to nature isn’t related to knowledge of nature, rather it comes through finding meaning in nature; experiencing emotions in nature such as happiness and wonder; having compassion for nature; making contact with nature and appreciating nature’s beauty. When creating nature-based artwork we must make contact with nature, find and express emotion and find meaning – which can bring about compassion for nature.”

“Make the perception of nature central – signpost joy and wonder; emotion and beauty; and experiencing nature with the senses. Rather than finding a series of marker stations, find other reasons to pause and engage the senses with nature, and provide places to reflect.”  https://findingnature.org.uk/2015/09/06/connecting-children-with-nature-by-nature-trails-and-learning-or-through-art/#more-1124

4  But Outside play levels appear to be declining in developed countries

“UK research found, on average, children were playing outside for just over four hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children.”  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/27/children-spend-only-half-the-time-playing-outside-as-their-parents-did

In the USA 24% of teens say they go online “almost constantly”.



5  Examples of Overseas Organisations set up to promote nature connection for kids

UK Wild Network  http://www.thewildnetwork.com

“Our mission is to support children, parents and guardians to roam free, play wild and connect with nature.  We believe all children should have the right to access the outdoors for play, learning, expression and – ultimately – the development of a healthy mind and body.  We encourage, provoke, nudge, support, innovate and campaign for children, kids and young folk to get up and get outside:

To wander freely

To look up and around

To find wonder, awe and empathy in all life

To nurture, steward and protect

To run, jump, climb, crawl and explore the world on our doorsteps

To seek imagination in wildness

To find inventiveness in the woods

To grow happy healthy minds and bodies

To find comfort in solitude

To become truly connected”

Australia Nature Play http://www.natureplaywa.org.au/for-schools

USA https://www.childrenandnature.org/


6   The research is also beginning In New Zealand Aotearoa

The Department of Conservation has a lot of recent publications:



DOC study on health and wellbeing benefits of conservation in NZ

current consultation http://www.doc.govt.nz/pagefiles/160872/advancing-eefs-background-document-2016.pdf


Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.”

“Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment, but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading.”

“We need to allow children to develop their biophilia, their love for the Earth, before we ask them to academically learn about nature and become guardians of it.”

“Research has shown that empathy with and love of nature grows out of children’s regular contact with the natural world. Hands-on, informal, self-initiated exploration and discovery in local, familiar environments are often described as the best ways to engage and inspire children and cultivate a sense of wonder. These frequent, unstructured experiences in nature are the most common influence on the development of life-long conservation values.”

7   In NZ our outside play levels are low and may be dropping on average

“96 of Auckland kids percent got an hour a day exercise needed despite lots of inactivity”    http://kidsinthecity.ac.nz/

“New Zealanders aged 12+ spend an average of 4 hours and 36 minutes a day on passive mass media and social entertainment activities – over 80 percent of all leisure time. The time spent on exercise or playing sport is just 19 minutes on an average day.”  http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/time_use/TimeUseSurvey_HOTP2009-10/Commentary.aspx

We are using our devices more and more http://www.researchnz.com/pdf/Special%20Reports/Research%20New%20Zealand%20Special%20Report%20-%20Use%20of%20Smartphones.pdf


8  Examples of New Zealand Organisations

Palmy dirty 30  https://www.facebook.com/PalmyDirty30/   http://palmydirty30.weebly.com/

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHF) the theme this year is connect to nature


Re-wild yourself



1 day Re-wilds for frazzled humans



You already know that a simple thing like a walk on the beach can help you see things differently, relax and recharge. Now, more and more research is revealing how time in nature can help improve your mental and physical wellbeing, manage stress, increase focus and bring joy. These fun and gently challenging micro-adventures will give you new techniques and insights into the power of nature connection. You will find how slowing down in nature reveals new things about the world and about yourself. You do not have to be an outdoor person at all, but you may find that something is calling you to put that device down and come and just be for a while.  You will come away refreshed and with a whole new repertoire of ways to “be in the bush”.


Each day will be different depending on the delights of the area, the weather and the needs of who turns up. You will be gently guided through activities to open up your senses to nature and to reflect on your own nature; including walking, relaxation, tracking, eating and talking together, a mini solo time to yourself and lots of wandering, making, mooching and general mucking about.  A delicious lunch and hot drinks are provided.  Come on one or both.



Your guide is Liana Stupples.  She will help you feel relaxed and open to new experiences, and stick beside you as you challenge yourself. She is a person who 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.  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.


Sun 23 October, Kapiti Coast. Meeting Point: Waikanae train station. Start 10.15 am. Finish 5.00 pm

Sun 06 November, Rimutuka Park. Meeting Point: Petone Train Station. Start 10 am Finish 5.00 pm

Drive or take public transport to the meeting point from where we will ride share to the location.


There are limited places so book now. Contact Re-wild Yourself by phone 021 154 6034 or email liana.stupples@gmail.com with your name, email and phone contact details and any information about your diet, mobility or health needs.  Further details on location and what to bring are provided after you have booked.

Cost:  $50pp.  If you book more than one day: $45pp. Early Bird $40pp before Sept 18th.


It was the best fun I have had in a long time. 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.”

Liana was an enchanting leader … It was an invigorating afternoon, with everyone leaving with smiles and wild sparkles in their eyes“.

Some time out, and a chance to lose time, think and explore. Luxury.”

Re-wild your Grown Up

In July 2016 I piloted a new family outing experience called Re-wild your Grown-Up.  I was so chuffed to read this write up about the work:

“On a cold rainy day a brave crew of kids rugged up their grown-ups and bought them along to Queen Elizabeth park to teach them how to be wild again. Under the guidance of Liana Stupples kids showed their grown-ups how to play in the outdoors and enjoy nature. Both kids and adults enjoyed reconnecting with their senses, moving quietly along bush paths and creating nests to have some time alone in nature.
Liana was an enchanting leader of both kids and grown-ups. It was an invigorating afternoon, with everyone leaving with smiles and wild sparkles in their eyes”.

Thanks to all the organisers and participants including Kapiti Coast District Council’s Number 8 Wire Week.

Contact me if you would like me to run a Re-wild your Grown-up session near you.

Extraordinary Facilitation



Extraordinary facilitation

tickets https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/extraordinary-facilitation-tickets-26912731705


A Two day Bootcamp for emerging facilitators and leaders

Master techniques outside the ordinary: from Outdoor Adventure, Community Building, Creative Innovation, Ecopsychology and more

This intense and dynamic training course is a fantastic way to develop extraordinary skills in effective facilitation and leadership so that you can be more engaging and bring about deeper change for the people you work with.


Who is it for?

The course is for people who have already started facilitating or leading groups of people and who are hungry to branch out and try more effective techniques and ideas from outside the box.  This course will expose you to dozens of new tactics and give you are chance to hone your skills in a fun and supportive setting.


Learning Outcomes


During this course, participants will:


  • Deepen their understanding of the ideas behind facilitation and participatory leadership
  • Develop a bigger tool kit of practical techniques and skills and the strategies to collate them to make facilitation more effective
  • Experience dozens of common and uncommon facilitation techniques including:
    • Working in non-office settings to achieve more impact
    • Honing skills in supporting innovation and creativity
    • Developing greater self-mastery in tricky or challenging situations
    • Dealing with controversial issues and divergent perspectives
    • Developing a wider repertoire non-verbal communication skills
  • Try out new techniques for themselves and receive feedback
  • Reflect on your own personal strengths and receive coaching to boost your unique and effective style
  • Develop your own follow up action plan


Who runs it?

Your guide is Liana Stupples a facilitator with over 20 years international experience.  Liana has drawn from her diverse work co-ordinating everything from international human rights campaigns, community engagement for controversial resource management issues, national social innovation projects, youth going on outdoor adventures to community singing and distilled the most powerful and extraordinary facilitation techniques for you.

She has worked for all sectors including business, government and not for profit and understands the challenges of good leadership and facilitation in each.  She has trained an equally wide range of people from international diplomats, to woman in prison.

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.  Despite the fun she is serious about building the capacity of people and organisations to tackle the real and the tough stuff. That is why she has been curious all her life about how to better facilitate and lead and wants you to practically benefit from this insight.

For more information see liana.kiwi.nz


What you get for your money

Two days training in a fantastic central venue including time outside

Fully catered lunch and refreshments

Full handbook of techniques and tips

Free follow up coaching session and peer support forum


One off Introductory Pricing

Waged/for profit or government organisations $450

students/unwaged/not for profits $250

early bird discount $50 off if book by August 31



Youth and Loving Nature

Fossicking Find on Kapiti island Grandma Crayfish Shell

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.

Right, off to organise a midwinter swim….





Nothing beats mucking about in the river!

Nature Sounds on Song Camp

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!


outdoor adventures and nature connection on song campDSC06450


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.

Thanks Carol and Juli for including me.