As we get older, many of us come to value the great outdoors as a chance to decompress, relax and reassess our priorities in life. But what if there was a way of kick-starting that appreciation, of helping kids benefit from nature’s healing powers from a very young age? One social enterprise in Scotland is doing just that.
Stramash was set up to use Scotland’s abundance of wonderful landscapes to make a positive difference in the lives of children and young people. Named after a lighthearted Scottish term for “uproar”, the organisation believes in the transformational power of outdoor play.
All the evidence points to the fact that young children thrive in an outdoor setting
Based in Argyll on the rural west coast, the Stramash team offers outdoor nurseries for two- to five-year-olds, and a wide range of outdoor learning courses for schools right across Scotland who have spent most of their education cooped up inside the classroom.
Both parents and teachers have found that quality time spent in nature boosts the self-esteem and personal development of pupils, as well as helping them appreciate their responsibility in looking after the environment.
“Our neighbours in Scandinavia have been educating their wee ones in the great outdoors for half a century,” says Stramash’s CEO Mairi Ferris. “All the evidence points to the fact that young children thrive in an outdoor setting and minds and bodies develop best when they have access to a stimulating outdoor environment. It’s where they can learn through play and real experiences and adventures.”
ECOTHERAPY: THE BENEFITS
- Mental health charity Mind says its “ecotherapy” projects – using the outdoors to boost wellbeing – found seven out of 10 experienced a significant psychological boost after working or spending time outside
- Over 50 per cent of people who took part said their fitness improved, and 60 per cent felt more connected to nature
- Men form 56 per cent of participants in ecotherapy, which helps older men in particular open up about their problems
Set up in 2009, the social enterprise now has campuses in Elgin and Fort William, having expanded from its Oban base. As well as creating a series of apprenticeships for young adults, it also offers team-building adventure days for adults in need of a physical and psychological boost.
Stramash is part of a growing “play” movement in Scotland that promotes outdoor education and the wider mental health benefits of encouraging children to spend more time outside.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
“If we believe in a better future for our children, we need to make playing outdoors a fundamental part of growing up,” says Rachel Cowper, a board member of Stramash. “Playing doesn’t need expensive equipment or facilities, just space – a street corner, a park, a garden or woodland.
“We need to start early and make outdoor play something children do every single day – not the preserve of school holidays or a lucky few kids,” she adds. “All children want to play.”
We need to start early and make outdoor play something children do every single day
Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue, has helped finance the groundbreaking work of Stramash. In fact, Big Issue Invest provides finance for a wide range of organisations, expanding educational opportunities and boosting mental health support across the UK.
“We have a strong interest in creating opportunity by supporting high quality early years education,” says Annie Minter, Investment Manager at Big Issue Invest. “Stramash make a positive difference to the lives of the young people they work with. We’re really excited to see them grow and extend their social impact.”