Faye Kavvadias-Large

My journey to Outdoor Learning could be described as rewilding myself! Aged 8, my parents took the decision to up sticks from suburban London to the idyllic countryside of East Kent, where cows and sheep were our new neighbours and a castle, and its woodland was our new play park.

Having been raised on a diet of David Attenborough programmes, I took to our family’s new environment like a duck to water and was further encouraged by my nature-loving parents and community groups who cultivated an adventurous childhood outdoors. My love for the natural world very much took root and in my early teens I developed aspirations to become a Marine Biologist, however somewhere along the way it became clear that my skillset very much sat in Communications, rather than scientific study and so I embarked on a degree in Journalism and Broadcasting at Cardiff University.

The years that followed, saw most of my professional life spent indoors and so any opportunity to have that deeper connection with the natural world was seized on and somehow, I managed to sweet-talk my way into a career break to Africa. This once-in-a lifetime trip, saw me visit countless reserves and wildernesses and gave me the opportunity to mentor vulnerable young people, working with them on a variety of different literacy and development projects. These experiences provided valuable insight into youth work.

Over the next few years, I juggled big life changes including raising a family of my own. I was then to find myself on entirely new terrain, as we all were in 2020, with lockdown requiring me to home school my children, all while juggling the new model of working from home and with the time outside of own homes being reduced to a mere hour! As owners of a large garden to explore and play in, our family was extremely lucky, but I found myself craving wild spaces so much more. Equally, I deeply missed connecting with people in-person and consequently, decided on focusing on finding an employment opportunity that was more closely aligned to my personal passions: conservation, the protection of wildlife habitat and a love for the countryside.

I volunteered at Brockhill Country Park and was mentored by Kent Country Park’s Education Team, assisting with their weekly Forest School Sessions. It was easy to see that inspiring children and their families to interact with the outdoors via several creative activities brings many positive aspects to personal development. And the younger we are immersed and build a connection the sooner we come to understand the magic of nature.

As a consequence of that placement, I was able to secure paid-for-employment, leading both Forest School sessions, a wide programme of family-fun activities, primary school and community groups. Engaging people in nature-based fun and inspiring them to get out among it was extremely rewarding and inspiring because of the freedom to be creative, inventive and the potential for spontaneity. We live in a digital age where traditional methods of youth engagement can be disenchanting and unsuccessful, particularly when it comes to conservation.

I am so excited to be working at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and aim to drive education programme for children, young people and families that is fun, encouraging and that can foster self-discovery, all while raising awareness of the work that is going on at the Observatory.

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