A Travel & Tourism teacher at Shrewsbury Colleges Group has been published in Coaching Today.

Students and teacher on woodland trail

The journal for counsellors and coaches provides a platform for education, debate and sharing of best practice for those working in the diverse field of coaching, from private practitioners to line managers, peers, mentors, trainers and educators. The journal forms part of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

In the article, Jane Owen describes an innovative outdoor coaching project that supports the wellbeing of young people through engagement with nature and woodland.

Jane teaches 16 to 19 year olds. She also teaches education programmes and supports colleagues through training and coaching. Each year, the learning coaches are asked to develop a project based on an area of interest.
After completing her coaching qualification, Jane said: “I was particularly interested in using coaching techniques to help young people with building tools for resilience, creating positive life goals and supporting their holistic development. Sessions have included growth mindset, visualisation, and goal setting through a classic coaching GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model in classroom groups.

“However, I wanted to try something new. My students at the college are of mixed backgrounds and academic ability and are at a stage in life where they have lots of choices and decisions to make, which can be both challenging and stressful. They often work long hours in their part-time jobs, in addition to their college coursework, and have a high dependency on mobile phones and social media.

“Having observed the changes in my own son in a woodland environment, I decided to open up a discussion on forest school experiences with my own tutor group of young people in the College. Half the group had experienced forest school in their primary schools and remembered it fondly. Equally, they were keen to experience it again as young adults, with a view to providing some form of ‘stress-busting’ relaxation.”

Her article Jane discusses the origins of the forest experience project working with students and describing how the project has particularly helped the mental health of one student who was finding life challenging, in addition to a number with exam anxiety.”
In partnership with Severn Gorge Countryside Trust, Jane was then able to take her students on this experience, which involved a guided forest walk with rules such as staying silent, the turning off of mobile phones; avoiding labelling the nature observed.
She said: “This was a very emotional experience and a golden opportunity for young adults to reconnect with their inner child, with nature and to find a new approach to destressing their lives.”

I believe that coaches, counsellors and educators can use forest experiences to help build and support the development of resilience, confidence and self-esteem for teenagers and young adults?

Following on from my students’ session, I asked the participants to complete an evaluation of the afternoon. This highlighted a clear desire to complete more sessions, and so we have agreed to visit different woods, seasonally. Our winter walk took place in February this year, with other walks planned for later in the year. Using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale each time, I hope to demonstrate sustained improvements over the year.”

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