Chris McGeown, our Outdoor Programme Leader in Glasgow, reflects on Programme Delivery through the Covid-19 lockdown
Delivering an outdoor personal development course in this ‘new normal’ was undoubtedly going to be an interesting challenge.
How do we replicate a 5-day bothy trip, the shared experiences of spending days out undertaking challenging group tasks, the thrill of completing a gorge walk as a team, the endless days in the natural environment learning about ourselves and each other, the conversations by the camp fire, the list goes on and on.
Well to be honest there are some things you (just) can’t replicate, however with a bit of imagination, a willingness to experiment with new approaches to delivery, and invaluable unput of the young people, we came up with a solution that we think worked very well, considering the circumstances.
So, as did many other folk in full lockdown, we embraced zoom. However, for this to work it needed to be inclusive. We needed to ensure that everyone in the group had access to a computer or smart phone and if not, figure out how could we support them. The answer for some was ‘no’ but we managed to get them computers which were delivered by Venture Scotland volunteers through our partnership with People Know How.
We had biweekly Zooms for 4 months. During these zoom chats we checked in on everyone’s general health and wellbeing (including staffs and volunteers), collectively discussed strategies for supporting each other during lockdown, set each other goals to encourage everyone outside the house and to discover nature on our own doorsteps.
We also ran cookery Zoom sessions from our kitchens,
sharing recipes and replicating the food we could eat communally at the bothy – highlights included the veggie curry and brownies.
We experimented with running problem-solving games, reviewed films and discussed current affairs such as Black Lives Matter, Brexit, Trump, after all it has been an eventful year.
From early July following guidance from Youthlink Scotland, we were allowed to take groups outside in our role as essential workers. The fact that we couldn’t take the minibus out (due to Covid-19 restrictions) provided an opportunity to acquaint the group with some fantastic venues only short train journeys and walks from Glasgow.
We learnt map skills by navigating up the hills in The Kilpatricks, walked extensive parts of the John Muir Way, some of the West Highland Way, and learnt how to identify plants and trees using phone apps. All in all, we ran 25 activity days using public transport – for some of the group that was the first time they had ever been on a train before. We completed a John Muir Award which included a conservation project working with the Park Rangers at Pollok Park.
The group are now coming to the end of their Venture Scotland ‘Discovery’ programme. It has been a challenging time for everyone but that hasn’t prevented us from delivering a slightly adapted but also very successful programmme – one helped greatly by a very dedicated group of 8 young people, who supported each other through tough times and in the process, developed their empathy, communication and increased their awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.