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Environmental Education Activities

Solo Walk

Description of a Natural Experience Exercise

James Neill
Last updated:
09 Nov 2004

Solo Walk

  • Walking to a location in silence helps to set the mood and tone, especially if the group has physical/social energy, the walk helps it to dissipate and the mind transitions.

  • Arrange a walk or small journey to a place in nature.  Even if the walk is quite short, it can help to create a sense of "a place apart" where new and different games and activities can be encountered.  The walk also provides a real outdoor experience, a basis from which to start building shared personal and group outdoor group experiences.

  • Make sure logistics are well set up before briefing a Solo Walk (e.g., participants know how long, have the right gear, etc.).  Also, bring a first aid kit, food, water, etc. if considered necessary.

  • There are many ways to walk, yet we get stuck sometimes in walking where and how culture, society and personal habits tend to lead us.  Provide opportunities, space and permission to walk in different ways.

  • Walking in Silence: I ask students to walk in silence.  This is often difficult for people to do.  Sometimes I stagger the times at which groups leave, but this tends to work better for longer walks and smaller groups (other it takes too long, with people waiting at each end).  If the group sets off together, then I more strongly brief that it is a silent activity.  If the silence code isn't followed, sometimes I let that happen if isn't disturbing others too much (e.g., a quiet conversation between two people) and then address it in a debrief when the group is together.

  • Finding Your Walk: I often start by asking people if they've seen Dead Poet's Society, a movie that makes you feel like you want to go out and teach kids.  In DPS there is a memorable scene in which the teacher (Robin Williams) takes his students out into a courtyard and asks students to "find their own walk".  The students walk around the courtyard feeling somewhat nervous and awkward, but the teacher persists and encourages them to find their own funky and exaggerated ways of walking.  I say it is not necessary to walk like a chicken down the track but it helps to frame the idea-space to open up the realms of "walking styles".

  • Sacred Run: I ask if anyone's heard of the "Sacred Run", a native American Indian ritual that now takes place around the world.  It involves people running all day, often in relay, and staying each night in different local indigenous communities and sharing indigenous ceremonies and celebrations.  The run itself is a spiritual celebration/exercise in which each step is considered a sacred contact with the earth.  I simply invite and suggest that this is an example of one way to walk.

  • Debrief: Since this is the first "outdoor experience" in this session, I have learnt it is important to use it an exemplar in terms of debrief process.  A simple way to start is to gather together in a circle (very important to have everyone standing so they are in the circle (not behind others - set this example early)) and ask "What happened on this walk - what do you notice about how people walked, how you walked, what you noticed in the environment, what kinds of thoughts and feelings occurred to you...."  I then strongly show appreciation of people's contributions. Any contribution is OK - just simple observations are fine.  Some people spend more time with their own thoughts; some people pay attention to environment; some people can't remember what they did.  If there was talking, I ask why.  Was this out of their comfort zone?  Are there other topics on their minds that need to be addressed?

 

 

 

 

Equipment:
A trail in nature.

Time:
Total ~ 10 - 60 mins. Reconnaissance of location needed beforehand.  For a longer session, combine with Solo Hour in Nature or other activities in final location or along the way.

Brief description:

A group walks in silence as a form of "physical meditation". Helps to calm minds and set tone, providing an initial personal and group experience in the outdoors.

Variations:

  1. Pick up rubbish along the way - who can pick up the most?

  2. Pick up a piece of nature that "represents who you are" - then share with group at the other end.

  3. Find someone else who walks at a similar pace and walk in synchronization.