These are just a few of the phrases that we retain every day, living with your children the adventure, action and exploration in the Greek countryside.
We plan and implement outdoor activities for children and teenagers. What does this mean; You might think: a little hiking, a little archery, a snack, a game.
That’s all great, but our work is a little different. Do you remember, as parents, all those times when you feel surprised or proud, for a phrase, observation, or even for your child’s first words? When you think, “how did he say/understand/learn/feel that?” This is our desired result after each action. We must have witnessed such moments.
How is this achieved? There is no recipe. Education, learning, love, motherhood/fatherhood, friendship, love, the cloud
help the children to enjoy an adventure in the mountains, an action on the beach, a dip in the sea. Children are nature , and the forest is their home. By defining flora and fauna as “nature” but not ourselves (and let alone children), we are by definition cut off from it, we enter a position of defense, fear and self-righteousness. Worst of all, we experience something we like so much, unaware that we are a part of it.
Children learn that there is “nature” and “the other”. What is this? The city, the streets, the buildings, the exhaust gas, the everyday life, the lessons. Or indeed everything that is not brown, green and blue. Entering a forest at best we declare ourselves “guests” and formulate rules of respect, littering, silence and attention to the poor flowers trying to survive under our footsteps. Nature is something outside of us, precious, that we must take care of. And then what are we?
It is important to separate nature from the outdoors. In the countryside there is indeed a strong physical presence, and this is our goal: To encourage physical presence. We are as much nature as trees, rivers, peaks, the bottom of the sea. The red leaves of autumn are as natural as the curls in children’s hair, the flow of water as their running, the branches of trees as their climbing, the rock as their struggle for balance. Flowering has as much nature in it as kindness and solidarity, rain and lightning as much as human sorrow and joy, courage and the need to seek. Air and bee pollination has in itself the same nature as our office work.
The more children realize this, the more they enjoy and benefit from outdoor life. And gradually they take care of their garbage, respect the animals, protect the plants, don’t shout, help each other, share, take care of themselves, not because the rule says
The activity, the “strong” and the “less athletic” children.
Many times we equate outdoor activity with physical activity and this is partially correct, but incomplete. Even hiking requires “reading” the ground and getting used to the footing, because the terrain of the mountain or a beach is completely different from that of the street or school. In the outdoors, no activity is purely physical, and that’s what’s fantastic: Whether we’re playing or learning, we’re in a constant process of body-brain coordination-cooperation. Every child responds so differently to play and learning, and all ways work equally well.
A few days ago a mother asked us if her six-year-old son succeeded in the hike because he is not an athletic type. Her son that day led his class on the trail, with a special talent for keeping pace and moving the group.
The psychologist Pavlos Giannakis has said, “fear is like the anchors of the ship, you lift them one by one after you have made the proper preparation to set sail, if you suddenly lift them before you are ready, the boat will rock uncontrollably”. In the countryside, fear is created for various things which, most of the time, are associated with prejudices: Snakes, bears, snow, height, water, depth, even soil (“dirt”). It is necessary to separate the fear from the promotion of why children deserve more than a response like “there are no bears in Hymettos”, or “get off the tree”. Certainly when a child says “I have height phobia” he probably has no idea what height phobia is, yet at that moment he is saying “I am afraid”, and that deserves a lot of respect. We neither encourage nor discourage it, we respect it – because at that moment he is experiencing something new, fresh, unprecedented. Fear occurs when we step out of the safety zone either physically or mentally. Our body tries new movements, our neurons make new synapses. And that’s wonderful.
Who are “the experts”?
Given and following safety standards, what is the appropriate method for children to be active in the outdoors? All. As parents and educators, we gather as much knowledge as we can, about everything, into our quiver every day.
A mountain activity involves (in addition to safety) knowledge of pedagogy, psychology, kinesiology, mountaineering, botany, zoology, geology, archaeology, landscape interpretation, acting, group escort, and our team consists of people with these specialties. In practice, children do not trust or follow a degree title, nor do they get upset if they don’t get an answer for a particular herb, or if they stop playing because the team must continue: Enough, to understand that our quivers are full. And the kids understand.
Adventures! With hats or raincoats, with games and songs, efforts and emotion, with dirt or salt, with open palms and feet that tread the earth… With children and teenagers. Completing each experience is an amalgam of self-confidence and creative anxiety, because – no lies – we are professionals, adults, experienced, some parents but, as N. Kazantzakis said, above all we must “paint heaven and enter inside”.