The tree top course and the diversity of Social Pedagogy movements

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You cannot discover new oceans unless you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

Andre Gide.

This wonderful quote reminds us that you cannot achieve something big unless you take risks and move out of your comfort zone or leave the familiar shores so to say. It came to my mind when reflecting on the outdoor activity days we held at our demonstrations site by using the social pedagogy model of the learning zone and when taking stock about the many wonderful stories shared about initiatives in a social pedagogical spirit.

Stepping out of their comfort zone our brave outdoor adventures did for sure, leaving on to water and up into the tree tops. The three zones of the model -Comfort, Learning and Panic zone – have different meanings for each of us. On one day we explored canoeing, archery and climbing as activities and above this to make new friends, to catch up with old friends, to work together in a group and to be creative with adversities. It was wonderful to hear all the determined zombie noises during the play at the lake and the expression of wonder when observing a heron. Who let us come so close that we were convinced it is a statue, just to discover it is a real bird, just very focused and patient before then majestically circling above us.

It was very touching and inspiring to witness how participants, 16 children and young people and 14 grown-ups, were conquering some of their worries; if it was being up in the height, on the water, to speak to someone they haven’t met before, to share their name in our introduction game, to come to a group event in the first place or to help each other in the activities.

One learning for us as organisation was the difference a meaningful planning process with children and young people can make. In allowing this process we stepped into some uncertainties as we let go of the control about what was going to happen and a comfortable place we as professional at times tend to take of apparently knowing anyway what the children and young people need. The overwhelming response to the programme demonstrated for me the ownership the children and young people took about their programme.

An equally important element in this was the collaboration between us as the local team and foster carers in preparation and a growing sense of community building during the various activities in the Head, Heart, Hands programme; the shared effort we made in exploring and deepening our learning and experiencing it in practice.

I am amazed to observe how social pedagogy spread and grown at so many levels. There are so many discoveries in the context of a programme like the Head, Heart, Hands, which specifically explores social pedagogy. Nevertheless, equally there is so much happening in other areas in our country. I notice that more and more people united in their wish to “educate” children and young people in the “broadest sense” – learning for life, becoming confident and empowered members of our society, creating positive experiences.

You perhaps have seen the encouraging letter a school wrote in Lancashire at the end of the school year, reminding each child on their wonderful strengths and skills seeing beyond marks and empathising their motto of their education in educating the heart. There are many Happiness Projects growing around the world where children and young people exploring skills to build resilience and enhance their wellbeing and happiness. The National Trust had as its summer theme 50 things to explore before 11 ¾, creating a scrapbook of adventures. There are young artist who strengthen children and young people as active agents in social change, facilitating creative spaces for their self-expression and connecting children and young people across countries. An initiative rooted in the theatre of the oppressed which was developed in South America. This list is far from complete and shows the diversity of settings of social pedagogy.

As much as the children and young people at their events stepped in their learning zone by stepping out on the obstacle course in the tree top in a Wiltshire country park as much it is for us to reflect on our comfort and learning zone in our developing environment. How do we link and interconnect with various momentum and movements in working with children and young people? Some choices may feel as challenges and the variety can make one feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Taking the learning zone model into practice such feelings are mostly identified as leaving the comfort zone, as going beyond where we are and welcome new possibilities.

I have taken lots of inspiration from my observation during the summer months and learned lots from the children and young people and shall remind myself of this when becoming too complacent in my comfort zone.

Have a great autumn, full of enriching experiences and new adventures!

Martina