<aside> 🌳 Who’s this report for? We have written this short report to share key insights, reflections and learning from the inaugural Visionary Guide Training, which took place from March through September of 2023, with the wider environmental education sector. If you are also interested in widening access to nature, increasing representation in the UK outdoors and tackling the systemic barriers many face to developing careers within the outdoor industry, then we hope you can benefit from our journey - the highs and the lows!

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by,

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Introduction

In March of 2023, supported by funding from Social Innovation Circle, we launched the inaugural Visionary Guide Training - a 6-month training for young adults (20-30) who aspire to tackle environmental, social and racial injustices via nature connection and ecological education.

This training forms one pillar of The Visionaries’ Systems Projects, which help to shift the current education paradigm towards more inclusive, regenerative systems and practices.

Context

Education hasn’t evolved to meet today’s unprecedented, intersecting and existential crises. Young people are demanding we address the root causes of climate and ecological destruction, that we tackle social and racial injustices, and build a citizen society that values their voice.

Young people do not feel represented within the environmental education sector and current environmental education is inadequate in supporting pro-environmental lifestyle choices and behaviour, with dominant life aspirations still based on consumer capitalism (Esmée Fairburn, 2021).

We recognised that more could be done to evolve educational practices to include the voices of young people and to empower them to become leaders in the field.

This training course was designed to help young adults from marginalised communities and those under-represented in this field to access and impact the environment and education sectors, by enhancing their leadership and ability guide groups in nature.

Our goals are to help those who may have had to face additional barriers in life to establish and develop themselves as facilitators, to get them working in ways that encourage people to see themselves as part of nature and to change the way environmental education happens.

The prevailing culture and educational paradigm in the UK inadvertently disconnect younger generations from nature as they mature [(4 year olds are more ‘nature connected’ than 18 year olds).](file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/JP032%20edition%201%20A%20summary%20report%20on%20nature%20connectedness%20among%20adults%20and%20children%20in%20England.%20Analyses%20of%20relationships%20with%20wellbeing%20and%20pro-environmental%20behaviours..pdf) This creates a psychological, emotional, and physical disconnection ****from nature, which then forms the basis of our whole society.

We are interested in changing this story.

A new community, venturing into the wilderness of education and nature-connection work together.

A new community, venturing into the wilderness of education and nature-connection work together.

Education can, and must, become a tool for social liberation and ecological regeneration.

<aside> 🌳 Regenerative /definition/

Put simply, something is regenerative when it helps all life to thrive, people and planet, now and in the future.

Regeneration in education means evolving the learning and culture within a setting to rehabilitate and enhance the health of the entire ecosystem of a community, society or place.

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Why a training course?

<aside> 🌿 We know that we cannot address the climate and nature crises without also addressing injustice and inequity in the environment sector”

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To address the human:nature split - our physical, social, emotional and spiritual separation - is to address a core wound of our modern world, and probably the key driver of climate and ecological breakdown.

When we see ourselves as part of nature, and remember our health is intimately interwoven with the wellbeing of others, it becomes much more difficult to create human systems and societies that are destructive towards nature’s health. So how do we create a culture of belonging, collective resilience, connection and reciprocity with the Earth?

We believe education is our most powerful tool for social liberation and ecological restoration. However, our education system is chronically under-funded, creating little room for innovation, creative experimentation and spending time connecting deeply with nature.

Despite this, and thanks to the many incredibly hopeful and resilient young people and educators we have the pleasure of connecting with across the UK, we feel a groundswell of interest in transcending outdated models that we know no longer serve us. Many young adults interested in education and learning are hungry to be trained in new, regenerative, ecological approaches to youth development. We launched the Visionary Guide Training to meet this growing demand.

The training had 700 times more applicants than spaces available on the course.

Successful applicants came from all over the UK - Glasgow, Brighton, Coventry, Yorkshire, Liverpool & London.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cC2HTXI-FF7PO4w5AJ-VDws7Py8sQ0Pe/view?usp=drive_link

The course design is informed by the following beliefs;

  1. We must learn from nature. Especially when it concerns future generations, we must transcend the trap of short-term, material goals, political jousting and narrow definitions of ‘human success’. Spending time closer to the land and tuning in to nature’s pace reminds us we are part of something much greater. We need to let nature guide us and shape what children and young people aspire towards in life.
  2. We must prioritise wellbeing and relationships. We are only as healthy as the environment around us. A toxic culture is toxic to our health. We see this in the worrying numbers of burnt out educators and young people’s mental health being at an all time low. When we nurture our individual wellbeing and create space for emotional processing, we restore health to the entire system, and vice versa.
  3. We must transcend silos and build movements. It’s easy for our time and energy to be consumed responding to everyday pressures and narrow organisational success metrics. Yet these slow down the radical shifts needed. We aim to gather trans-disciplinary leaders and thinkers to develop and implement a more expansive narrative for education.

The Programme

“This course has shaped me in terms of my confidence in facilitating workshops or nature connection experiences. Whilst I knew on a logical level I was capable of delivering nature connection and wilderness experiences, before this course I did not have full confidence in myself […] but this course has fully given me the confidence to be able to run these trips and experiences by myself.” - Oliver, 2023 trainee

This 6-month, part-time training convened 12 young educators and youth facilitators, with their own unique interests and ambitions to advance the fields of youth climate justice, environmental education, adolescent mental health, eco-psychotherapy and formal and informal education.

The training aimed to develop their leadership skills, ecological mindsets, capabilities and peer support networks to fulfill their potential as agents of change.

Our priorities were to provide participants with a syllabus that was rooted in experiential learning (i.e. spending significant time facilitating and guiding others), as research shows that many people learn best through teaching others.

In order to increase and democratize access to our work, we held many sessions online, with funded travel to London for in person workshops.

Our key priorities were to support participants to:

A workshop in the Story Garden, Kings Cross.

A workshop in the Story Garden, Kings Cross.

Overview of Programme

¹We were able to offer paid work opportunities to all participants at different stages throughout the course, supporting with the delivery of The Visionaries’ programmes.

“I’m hoping to continue the work of the four shields in my own facilitation and adapt it to my own interests and specialisms within yoga and creativity/art. I’m working towards running retreats that work with the four directions but are expressed through the body and through creative practices, rather than talking circles…being someone that is not massively inclined to express myself with language…Taking part in the course has really helped build my confidence in being able to do that.”

- Leah, 2023 trainee

https://drive.google.com/file/d/14pm3b7QByMDsGfNq3Z-6fu_oklqw_QHj/view?usp=drive_link

Creative Gallery

Come along on the journey with the guides and our community;

A quiet campsite during the Nature Quest

A quiet campsite during the Nature Quest

A ‘council circle’ with one of the faculty, Carolin

A ‘council circle’ with one of the faculty, Carolin

Relaxation Activism

Relaxation Activism

Book: There’s a flower at the tip of my nose smelling me, by Alice Walker

Book: There’s a flower at the tip of my nose smelling me, by Alice Walker

Foraged foods

Foraged foods

Guiding youth at The Village

Guiding youth at The Village

Exploring the art of storytelling

Exploring the art of storytelling

Learning tarp knots

Learning tarp knots

Practicing storytelling techniques

Practicing storytelling techniques

Hellen in her power at the Nature Quest

Hellen in her power at the Nature Quest

A happily erected bivvy in the woods

A happily erected bivvy in the woods

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Base camp on the Nature Quest - preparing for a night solo in the woods.

Base camp on the Nature Quest - preparing for a night solo in the woods.

Storytelling training

Storytelling training