Working with young people in the outdoors who have social and emotional difficulties.

All young people we work with are individuals and as such have their own preferred learning styles, strengths, pressures and qualities which we need to take account of when designing any outdoor activity intervention.

However, many young people who come to us often present similar characteristics, ie

  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Low self confidence
  • Mistrust of adults
  • Poor communication skills
  • Difficulty listening to and following instructions, and disregard of rules.

Through outdoor activities such as sailing and canoeing we work to develop a range of social and life skills with our young people.

Our aim is to teach transferable skills. We use strategies to promote learning and skills to develop self efficacy, which can be used to help the young people succeed in an educational or life setting.

From the Scottish Attainment Challenge Learning and Teaching Toolkit this can include;

 ‘Outdoor Adventure Learning’ and ‘Metacognition and Self regulation’.

Meta-Cognition and Self regulation involves teaching the young person techniques to understand how they respond as individuals, and how they can use this knowledge to regulate the way they behave and cope in potentially stressful situations.

From Interventions for Equity;

Social and Emotional Wellbeing / Promoting Healthy lifestyles

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We seek to develop self awareness, the ability to describe emotional and physical feelings, and to be able to reflect on the meanings they draw from this, and how this effects their behaviour.

We encourage young people to be able to examine their own responses, understand the triggers for negative emotions and behaviours, how to regulate these, and how to accept success and celebrate their achievements. From this, young people can modify their negative self image and low confidence, thereby seeing themselves as having the potential to be ambitious and successful individuals.

Promoting a high quality learning experience

Activities are managed to control risk whilst promoting success and increasing confidence and self efficacy. We grade exposure to the developing complexity of the task as participants become more confident and competent, and they learn to take responsibility for the activity through a carefully staged and managed approach.

Prior to the activity we use open questions to elicit responses about how the young people feel. We discuss both physical and emotional states. Often individuals need help in developing the ability to recognise and label emotions. We use Guided Discovery to gather information, comparing similar experiences and generating learning points, and listing the skills we will need to take part in the activity.

During the activity, we give positive feedback and encouragement, and explore progress together.

Afterwards we reflect on our experiences, again using Guided Discovery and seek to elicit conclusions about how well we performed individually and as a team, what strategies worked and if there are transferable skills to other areas of life.  In this way we are reinforcing learning points, ie, what ‘stands out’ for the young people from the day.

Engaging beyond the school

By taking part in the activity alongside the young people we demonstrate our own willingness to absorb the risks of the activity and share the experiences with the participants, we are quite literally “in the same boat”. This helps to build trust and mutual respect, and encourages the young people to participate.

Using evidence and data / Partnership working

We gather data and quantify our progress using a triangulated series of questionnaires, for teachers and school staff, parents/carers and young people themselves. We consult with psychologists and other professionals and where appropriate we contribute to or follow Childs Plans and IEPs. Participants are asked to grade themselves on a 1-5 scale for intensity of emotional responses and complete a checklist for skills such as recognising escalating emotions, communicating effectively, helping others, following rules and persevering. For each individual we create a ‘prompt card’ which can be used between sessions to generalise skills to everyday life. This is reviewed at the start of subsequent sessions.

By surveying attitudes and expectations of school staff, parent/carers and the young people themselves we can analyse responses to build a picture of how each young person is developing from the activities. This data and conclusion is then available to both schools and families, and can be used evidentially as a basis for assessment and comparison.

Contact us at adventuresunlimited.scotland@gmail.com         Tel: 07770 885619

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