This is the second post in the blog series.

“It’s nice to go for a day out, isn’t it Daddy?” my eldest son turned to me and told me. It wasn’t really a question or certainly one that he needed an answer to. It was our first real day out in over 12 months. Since last March we hadn’t really ventured any further than the local park and the excitement of finally being in the car for longer than 15 minutes, was palpable. Even the electronic devices had stayed at home – of the boys’ own volition I might add! A sure sign that big things were being anticipated.

We reached our destination, hopped out of the car and began to follow the footpath to the countryside walk we had chosen. It wasn’t a new activity; walking together is something we have regularly done as a family. Yorkshire, the Lake District, Wales and on the odd occasion several floors of Manchester Primark. However, the destination was new and the boys were instantly transfixed by the views around them. ‘What’s that over there?’, ‘Is that a horse?’, ‘Do you think that’s an electric fence?’ were all questions that began to flow as they explored their surroundings. We carried on a little further and talk turned to where we were heading as we spotted the first summit on our little journey. ‘‘All the way over there? No you have GOT to be kidding, Daddy! That’s not even possible.’’  My youngest son feigned shock before adding, “Come on then. We can do this.”

It struck me that a change of environment and a change of challenge, brought about an entirely different way of thinking and attitude towards accomplishment. Had I produced a piece of paper, a reading book or handful of calculations I would have watched a very different scenario unfold. Yet out in the open air, with the sunshining and their support network around them both of the boys acknowledged the challenge before them and decided to tackle it head on. “We’ll go in front and show you… you know… old people… the way to go!” My ten-year-old laughed as they passed through a gate and out into an open field. Over the proceeding two hours, they became adventurers, explorers and zoologists as they surveyed the land, discovered hidden streams and tried to track the mysterious footprints left by an unknown beast! (I hadn’t the heart to tell them it was most likely one of the many dogs we had already passed.) They became wizards creating wands and staffs from discarded sticks and long grass, casting spells of protection and challenging one another to a wizard’s duel.

Here they were, in the great outdoors and in the best classroom of all – the one roofed only by the sky *, using their imagination, drawing upon the resources they had, planning and evaluating and best of all collaborating. They worked together to navigate this unknown terrain and all the while continued to reference our destination. “Come on it’s just a little further. If we go over that way, I think there’s a path.” At one point as they picked up momentum and began to hurtle down a particularly steep slope, my nerves got the better of me. “Be careful!” I cried out to them, “You’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t slow down!” My eldest laughed, looked back at me and said, “It’s ok Daddy, sometimes the hardest path is the only one you can take.”  And on that point I could do nothing but agree.

Written by John Clarke, Early Years Education Lecturer.

John Clarke