Amongst the challenges, stresses and sadness, Covid-19 brought us a surprising amount of genuinely meaningful things: we were able to get outside more to boost our well-being and slow down the pace of life, think about what was important to us as a brand, and focus on our supply chain (visiting the awesome Amy in the process) with our move to organic cotton...and of course: Volume 1. The one thing we weren't able to do was run our first outdoor workshops. They are - and have been since the beginning - one of the core reasons we started BearMade.
We felt if we could facilitate (we're not teachers and don't ever claim to be) honest conversations around well-being, biodiversity, the growth of Nature Deficit Disorder, and how to have less impact on the planet, sprinkled with some fun and useful outdoor activities and skills development, then we'd really be onto something meaningful, which would truly resonate with the wonderfully diverse mix of brilliant humans we have on this little collection of islands.
In May 2021, we were finally able to run our first workshop with an amazing group of teachers at City College Plymouth. It took place in the campuses lovely forest (yes, they have their own mini forest). It was an honour to be able to pilot our workshops here.
Moj (our newest team member) has built strong links with the team at City College Plymouth, specifically Ben and Katie - who we are immensely grateful for giving us this opportunity to provide this workshop as well as promoting it to wider staff. They both were excited to see what we would offer, due to their own previous experiences travelling to Sweden to participate in an outdoor learning course there.
Yes, the lead up was a little challenging as we (the BearMade team) couldn’t meet up to discuss, plan and form the themes and objectives of these workshops in person. But via the ever faithful Zoom, caffeine, passion and some biodegradable seeded paper, we managed to form a pilot we were proud (if nervous) to run.
We don't want to reveal too much about the workshop, but we will say it facilitated open and meaningful conversations on various themes and issues and explored the benefits of nature, with Moj and co-founder Nell leading breathing, forest bathing and nature sensory exercises. We even got our hands a little dirty planting our wild seeded paper with each individual's goals/promises on them. An added bonus, Nell brought jars of her grandma's freshly made jam along for the attendees.
We can't promise fresh jam each time we do a workshop, but we can promise a relaxing setting for all involved - where we work through objectives like the challenges of outdoor learning, conservation, well-being and Nature Deficit Disorder together, whilst picking up some new skills and resetting our minds, breathing and bodies in the process. We know there's plenty more we want to re-shape and develop within our workshops (we're always tweaking, based on the invaluable feedback from attendees and as we develop and learn) and we can't wait to get back to Plymouth to see how our wild seeds have grown. Here's what Ben from City College Plymouth said, on reflection, about our workshops...
"A unique outdoor experience. I recently organised and participated in an outdoor mental health and well-being workshop facilitated by the fantastic Nell and Moj of the BearMade team. I've known Moj for a few years now through his work with Push.co.uk (supporting students with their choices and employability). When I suggested to Moj that we wanted to look at mental health and being outdoors linking in to our action research into alternative learning environments and what we wanted to achieve with the workshop he suggested BearMade. Cue my research hat. After a quick Google we were quickly sold. They sounded like the ideal people - and organisation - to facilitate conversations about how to engage people outdoors but also talk about mental health and well-being. It’s always a bit of a risk booking things in with people you don't know but the story of the ethos of BearMade - and Moj's recommendation - was enough for us to give it a go.
Then arrived the day of the workshop. Months of emails back and forth and we met co-founder Nell for the first time (and Moj for the first time since Covid 19 hit). We had nothing to worry about with Nell and Moj we were in safe hands. After a month of rain (May 2021) it’s always a good sign when on the day of an outdoor workshop the sun comes out.
The workshop itself was fantastic and informative. Staff instantly felt at ease and opened up to have conversations that would never have happened in a traditional classroom. The mix between sharing experiences, the science behind mental health and strategies combined with activities was a perfect balance. When we looked at a watch we couldn't believe how much time had passed.
I left, as did colleagues, full of ideas and enthusiasm as to how we could engage students outdoors and ultimately benefit theirs and our own mental health and wellbeing. If you are looking for people to facilitate your workshops book in the Bearmade team. 10/10" - Ben from City College Plymouth
If you are a school, college or university (or business) interested in our outdoor workshops, you can find out more here. We hope to see you soon.