A wild education for Fife teens

Paula Cowie who is starting up Wild Woods high school learning project
Paula Cowie who is starting up Wild Woods high school learning project

Fast-paced modern lifestyles and pressure to achieve are seeing many young people growing up with huge stress levels.

Now a Fife woman is aiming to encourage them to get back in touch with nature in an alternative learning plan which will see them develop lifelong skills in an alternative outdoor classroom.

Learning outdoors

Learning outdoors

Paula Cowie is launching Wild Woods, an initiative which started in the USA, based around eight attribute indicators: self sufficiency; service to the community; common sense; quiet 
mind; awe and reverence; inquisitive focus; caring and tending and agility and aliveness.

Paula (52), from Monimail near Letham, will initially offer the Wild Woods programme two days a week, based around the woods at Letham and Falkland.

Young people of high school age, 12-16 years, will be encouraged to help set their own goals and challenges and work towards them, using a mentored programme involving members of the community with specific skills to suit their requirements.

They will take part in a six week baseline assessment period which will focus on the core routines of the model, such as making a map of Fife, walking in the woods and hills, sitting quietly and using their senses and observations to develop their resilience and connecting with nature.

They will take part in activities such as survival skills, outdoor cooking, map work; building with wood, earth and clay; quiet reflection and a host of other challenges to help them develop and grow.

And Paula believes it will bring huge benefits to those involved.

“The young people themselves are much more control in their own learning paths and we are there to help to facilitate them,” she said.

“In my experience from running Wolf Ways summer holiday schemes for primary aged children which is centred around outdoor skills and activities, everyone benefits.

“I have seen youngsters who come along who initially look pretty uncomfortable and like fish out of water who, through small steps get more involved and you can watch their confidence grow in front of your eyes.

“Their resilience increases and they learn to make decisions for themselves and get more involved with others. It’s amazing to see, and that’s what we want to bring with this new way of learning.

“It is all about helping young people to uncover their strengths and build up the areas where they maybe aren’t as confident.”

She said that there had been lots of interest in the new programme from people who currently home school their children and from others in mainstream education.

“We have a few who are about to go to Bell Baxter in Cupar and the school has been very positive about this, so it would be possible to have a combination of academic learning,” she said.

An open day to introduce the concept of Wild Woods to interested parents and children will take place at Letham Woods on August 6 from 11am until 

It will offer taster sessions to given people more information on the model and how it will operate.

It is on offer for youngsters aged 12-16 years who are about to go up to high school.

It will cater for small groups of between six and eight young people and will initially take place on Thursdays and Fridays beginning in September.

People will pay to send their children along and it will operate as a social enterprise company with any profit being re-invested in the business.

It is open to any children of high school age, whether they are currently home schooled or in mainstream education, with the agreement of their schools.