Transforming how schools support young people into adulthood

What we do

Wellbeing

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We enable students and teachers to flourish by supporting their individual wellbeing and connecting them with their greater sense of meaning and purpose. We teach essential life skills including self-awareness, emotional intelligence, self-responsibility, holistic self-care, building resilience and an opportunity for self-discovery.

Community

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We empower schools to flourish into supportive environments that nurture the whole community by providing support, mentorship and guidance for teachers and young people. Together we lead the education sector to a happier, more sustainable future.  We help build trusting relationships between students and teachers, as well as peer trust and support. It takes a village to raise a child. Let us support our village.

Nature

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We support schools to develop a vision for a more sustainable future and give them the courage to make it happen. Our programmes take students and teachers out of the classroom, off technology and, through deep immersion in the wilderness, explore how to live in harmony with nature. This is where the magic happens…

Our Vision

Empowering school communities to raise the next generation of changemakers, who care deeply about nature and who are driven to make the world a better place.

We support young people to transition into society with purpose, stewardship towards nature and empowerment to become positive changemakers in their community.

The Challenge

Teenage life is such a pivotal time when young people are presented with a wide variety of options in the road and enter a cultural, social and personal period of tremendous transformation. Social media culture, increasing issues with mental health, body image, unhealthy eating and an overemphasis on external ways of defining success all contribute to an ungrounded arrival into adult life.

With so little being formally taught in contemporary education about how to cultivate successful relationships, hone emotional intelligence, deal with conflict and build self-resilience, many young people arrive into adulthood unsure of themselves and bereft of a sense of purpose. The work of ‘initiation’ – the symbolic crossing of a threshold – is about helping young people to make the leap to take full responsibility for their lives and how they impact the world; to become active agents.

The Programme

Empowering adolescents and teachers to lead us towards a healthier, happier, sustainable future.

Be a changemaker.

Be a Visionary.

The Visionaries takes young people and their teachers on a transformational journey of personal and collective flourishing. The programme is delivered through a combination of in-school workshops and camping trips.

What does the journey involve?

Preparing: Laying a foundation for growth on which to build.

Training: Introducing the tools and practices to students and teachers.

Adventure: Confidence building micro-adventure into the wild.

Embarking on the Journey: An expedition into nature including reflective solo time.

The Return: Embedding transformation through celebration with wider community.

During the programme participants leave behind the addictions and distractions of the everyday and reduce down to simple and vital tools. Together we will look to step beyond our current consumerist thread of society and dream about a brighter future.

Giving participants the chance to slow down for the duration of the programme without gadgets or ‘normal’ routines encourages inquiry into their passions and values, instilling courage and confidence for both connected and independent thinking and being. Simplifying our connection to self offers tools for decision making in the future that have a significant positive effect on self-worth and one’s own sense of value, translating into healthier choices – especially around job, behaviour and lifestyle.

Spending time in nature requires learning new skills as well as taking responsibility for self care and group wellbeing, thus encouraging and inspiring a new sense of self to emerge. This has the potential to support young adults to break free from unhelpful old stories of self whilst also empowering the forming of new, healthier concepts.

Outcomes

For Young People

6 things young people feel when they have finished the programme:

  • A toolkit of practices and processes to navigate everyday life
  • Enhanced self-worth and belonging, and less need for external validation
  • Greater sense of purpose and aspiration to bring about positive social
    change
  • Engaged and connected to the natural world
  • A more intimate knowledge of their inner landscape
  • A deeper understanding of the gift of stillness

For Teachers

6 things teachers feel when they have finished the programme:

  • Equipped to support students’ wellbeing
  • Fulfilled by having better relationships with students
  • Empowered with a toolkit of practices and resources to use in school
  • A greater sense of purpose and aspiration to bring about positive social
    change through education
  • Inspired to connect with, and care for, the natural world
  • Equipped to advocate for the importance of developing a ‘whole child’ approach in school

Our Impact

Impact evaluation runs through the core of our programmes, as a deliberate and conscious practice involving participants, parents and teachers. Our experience tells us that involving all stakeholders in a conscious and continuous self-other evaluation exercise deepens the learning significantly. This allows us to highlight:

  • The impact the project is making on the individual and the school as a whole
  • The advances students and teachers see in their own growth and progress
  • A deeper understanding of the wellbeing needs of our participants and how to better support them going forward and the school as a whole to address future wellbeing areas.

“An overview of literature on the effectiveness of 370 different wilderness experience programmes, carried out in 2009 for the Wilderness Foundation, showed that these programmes had contributed significantly to successful changes in participants’ health, behaviour, and attitudes. However, the findings also showed that wilderness experiences improved: physical fitness, increased cardiovascular health, reduced fat in body mass, improved sleep patterns, and lowered tension. Along with enhanced physical health, there were also significant improvements in mental health, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-control. These programmes also greatly improved participant’s personal sense of belonging, social skills, and interpersonal relationships, not to mention highlighting the long-term social benefits of reduced need for welfare support and involvement with the health and criminal justice services (Hine, Pretty, & Barton, 2009).”

– Roger Duncan – Mentor to The Visionaries and Systemic Family Therapist for the NHS

About Us

The Visionaries is a Community Interest Company established in 2018 as an offshoot from Way of Nature UK. We work with a breadth of experienced wilderness guides, teachers and schools to deliver our programmes in the UK.

Our Founders

Max Girardeau

Max has an infectious passion for the restorative power of nature. He has a wealth of experience supporting schools to develop transformative educational programmes using nature-based learning experiences in the mountains of Snowdonia, Lake District and Scottish Highlands. He also runs the Forest Family Camp, helping inner-city families with young children to connect with nature and explore living in a more enriching way. He has a background in youth work, working with the National Citizen Service, among other outfits. In his spare time, you’ll find him playing in the snow, climbing on rocks, mountaineering, cooking, camping or dancing.

Adrian Kowal

Adrian is wellbeing expert, social entrepreneur and community builder. Adrian himself pines for a healthy mix between adventure (doing) and slowing down (being), both of which he brings into the retreats and expeditions that he runs. Adrian deeply enjoys supporting the balance in people’s personal holistic well-being, working with men’s groups and also guiding adventures and expeditions. When not out in the wild, Adrian is the co-founder of Evolve—a centre of yoga and well-being in Central London, and also a co-founder of an alternative school in Tuscany. He works on a host of other businesses and projects that involve being of service, supporting the emergence of a better world for our grandchildren’s grandchildren and having a great deal of fun and connection along the way.

Adrian Kowal
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Nikki Levitan

Nikki’s passion is youth work and community organising, creating spaces for young people to self discover. At the heart of what she does is creating leaders in others and helping them spot their greatness.

Nikki has worked for over 20 years with young people in both formal and informal settings. She is a professional coach and a Wellbeing practitioner in a secondary school, supporting students and staff to make the wellbeing of each person a priority. Nikki’s dedicated work with young people focuses on their life skills, teaching emotional wellbeing, leadership and positive psychology. She does this by creating safe, non judgemental spaces, working with people to identify and understand their driving values and their strengths. Then build on their purpose and action this into their schools, personal lives and communities.

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