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Chris Panda crop

It’s 05:00 am my family are still asleep like most other normal people. It’s the same at home as it is when I’m out on the path, lacing up my shoes I’m out for a run or walk to clear my mind & calm my thoughts. I’m not the fittest or fastest I never have been but maybe I’m just a little more obsessed. Getting home the house is stirring & I reward my first achievement with a fresh, hot cup of Partied out Panda Coffee. It’s a gentle way to set me up for a day of outdoor learning with my daughters.


Today we’re learning about trees, fungus & natural features that can help guide our way when we don’t have a map, it’s a skill that won’t be taught in school but I want them to be comfortable in the outdoors and know how to navigate their way through life. Everyday we learn a new practical skill that keeps us connected with the outdoors; cloud formations, nature’s signposts, rock and plant identification, all manner of things I know will serve a higher purpose later in life.

I’m not a teacher but I hope to inspire my girls to be part of the natural world, to respect and understand the environment around them and learn from it. There’s no right or wrong out here, they can explore, jump, run, climb, roll and fall. We eat together sat on a log by the river and a kingfisher flits down and back up. They’ve never seen the electric blue flash before, I look at them looking at me and I know they’ll remember this moment forever. I often think that conventional education is limited and the way forward must be Forest School, as an ambassador for the Institute of Outdoor Learning I’m keen to promote the value in aligning our values as humans with respect for the outdoors.

Girls outdoor

Together we’ve learned that the willows love water which is why they grow so high by the river & that they provide a perfect habitat for kingfishers among others & that the dragon flys, nymphs & minnows they feed on are all connected in this eco system. We’ve learnt that we’re connected to this system and we’ve got a responsibility to protect it. We’ve learnt all this just from going for a walk, it’s been calm, serene and engaging for all four of us as we head home along the muddy path.

Chris Howard is a dad of three from Cambridge who’s setting out on a long walk to raise money for BBC Children in Need. He shared some tips with us on how to make the most of your local environment with the family.