Healthy, Active and Outside!
If you go down to the woods in winter you might find Dr. Jan Filer, Behaviour Improvement
Service, delivering bespoke TWS training. This term Upper Horfield Primary School has been
receiving training and mentoring in an innovative, early intervention that helps tackle and
prevent some of the challenges experienced in schools regarding children’s behaviour. Working
together as a team in the outdoors, through the ‘Healthy, Active and Outside’ (HAO) programme
(Filer, 2006) children are encouraged to develop personal, emotional, behavioural and social
skills (that are transferable back into the classroom) through the mastery of small achievable
tasks. Through the exploration of the outdoor environment, children are encouraged to grow in
confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. They learn self-awareness, awareness of others and
about building and sustaining appropriate relationships. They learn how to become more
comfortable in their own bodies, accept themselves and each other just as they are, as an
important and valuable part of a team. In addition, they learn about power and control, leading
and following, problem-solving, using their initiative and creativity, peer relationships and
personal safety. Children also learn how to overcome fear and to make their own risks
assessments to empower them to face the challenges and dangers of the outdoor environment.
Children, particularly those struggling to cope in class, to sit still, to listen, etc. are given the
opportunity to show a more positive side of themselves through a physically active, experiential
way of learning. The HAO programme addresses the areas of spirituality, mental health, inactivity, obesity, poor body image, etc. It gives children the opportunity to develop valuable life skills, to learn about themselves and each other through play and in a joyful way that lifts their spirits, enables them to experience a wide range of emotions and entices them away from the computer screen for a while.
The programme is evidence-based. It was trialled as part of a Local Authority multi-agency project to tackle the problem of children’s challenging behaviour in order to prevent exclusion and youth offending. Of all the interventions researched, the HAO programme was evaluated by a university and a team of Educational Psychologists as being the most effective and low-cost intervention in the project.
The teacher at Upper Horfield Primary implementing the programme reported that one boy who struggles to manage his challenging behaviour told her that, “it is the best time ever in school” and that he is no problem at all during the outdoor sessions. She thinks the HAO way of learning suits him better. At the end of the programme another boy surprised her with a weekly journal he had written at home about his outdoor experiences. One girl overcame her phobia of woodlice to climb a tree after being encouraged by her team. These highlights just a few of the positive outcomes of the HAO programme where children learn in an experiential way to use all their senses, their minds and bodies and their individual creativity.
Jan firmly believes that children have two basic needs that can be addressed by taking part in this programme: to feel at home in their own bodies and to be able to make relationships.
Filer, J. (2006) Healthy, Active and Outside! Routledge; Taylor and Francis Group.
The climbing tree
Exploring my neighbourhood
Exploring muddy puddles
Health, Active and Outside
Page still under construction. Book Review: Institute of Outdoor Education.
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