The cold can challenge you as an outdoor educator. Keep your group learning outside this winter with these tips.
The cold snap is here. It will likely be brief, but for the short time it engulfs the UK it will bring traffic chaos, and age old exasperations of how one inch of snow brings the UK to a halt, whilst Canada or Scandinavia deal with truckloads falling from the sky by the minute.
While much of the UK reflect in amazement at how the natural world can affect daily life so much in the UK, outdoor educators excitedly eye the prospect of getting good use from cold weather gear they’ve been itching to use. A fresh frosty February morning is glorious in its stillness and brings a new perspective to our natural playgrounds of woodlands, crags and lakes.
However, whilst outdoor professionals may be OK in these plummeting temperatures, how will their groups cope? Keeping your group warm is one of your basic responsibilities as a group leader. Bringing spare coats and fleeces is a must, but there are some other, more fun ways to inject warmth into your session. Here’s my top 5 winter warmers:
1. Soup. Get warmed up from the insides! American Footballers drink hot broth on the sidelines when they play in sub zero conditions in Wisconsin, so it must work. A hearty vegetable soup has great links with healthy eating programmes, it’s cheap and it can be simpler to make than you think. Bring some piping hot soup from home in a thermos or take 5 minutes to cook it on site with a Trangia Burner stove. Your group will love it.
2. Warm up activities. Get your thinking cap on with these, no need to stand on the spot and stretch. Have your group impersonating animals with arms flying as wings or jumping up high as frogs. Challenge them to disappear in 20 seconds prompting sprints to the nearest tree, or lead them on a foot stomping follow-the-leader march. Think outside the box to get them having fun and moving their extremities to get their blood pumping.
3. Light your fire. If it’s a Forest School session this is a must, but really challenge yourself to see if it can fit within any particular session you’re running. A late change of plans to your session because of bad weather is always going to be a potential threat in the UK. Whilst keeping your fire safe, get some big logs burning for extra warmth and build in a little more time around the fire than normal.
4. Hot Chocolate. A real treat for your groups, which will also warm up their fingers as they sit by the fire, hands wrapped around steaming mugs with smiling faces.
5. Hot water bottles. Sometimes you may have a member of your group that just can’t warm up. Keep a reserve thermos of hot water which you can pour into a hot water bottle, give them the hot water bottle and let them zip it up inside their coat. Instant comforting warmth! Re-useable hand warmers could also be given out and collected back in at the end of your session.
I hope these ideas help out with keeping your groups warm. Providing access to the outdoors in the cold and having fun in the cold is a valuable life experience for children and young people. Help them experience winter as it should be, with pink cheeks and red noses, watching their frozen breath disappear in front of their eyes!
Alternatively, if you would like a quick overview of how to keep your class warm this winter, see our animated video below.