Over the last few months I have been working with an outstanding team on Crafty Explorers, an innovative project to improve the health of children aged 5 and below. A response to the Knee High Project design challenge that is run by the Design Council and funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, Crafty Explorers is a friendly and affordable place for families to make clay creatures.
Other than boogly googly eyes all of the materials we use are natural and could be found for free with a bit of foraging. Acorn tops and pebbles make great eyes too though, so some are 100% natural. After making their crafty creatures we challenge children to complete missions with them in local parks. Challenges include going outside into green spaces to fly, climb, make a nest, find a worm, hide from pigeons and many more.
The pop-up shop that we opened to trial our ideas in Nunhead (Southwark, south London) was a massive success. Parents reported that we were having a positive influence on the physical and mental health of their children, as well as helping them to connect with nature and learn new skills. Many families came back several times over the six weeks that we were open and a few visited us daily for periods. This is high street, popular and engaging “learning outside the classroom” and “fieldwork” that we have linked to local schools, but is independent of them.
The building was provided by Southwark Council who are doing some great work to lift Nunhead’s village high street. With many central shopping areas in the middle of identity crises, we can see a role for Crafty Explorers not just in helping to improve the health of children, but in being an alternative centre for communities.
Helen, Carolina, Lesley, Tom, Alan, Pete and Mark are just a few of the excellent people from Explorer HQ, The Geography Collective and City Farmers who have come together to work on Crafty Explorers. A blend of great design, simple ideas, deep thinking and positive energy made the shop the success that it was.
The pilot shop is now closed, but the project lives on. This week we present our research, ideas and plans to the Knee High Project panels. With a blend of skill, hard work and luck we may just get through to the next stage of the design challenge. This will give us some added support to help bring Crafty Explorers to the next level.
I am currently working with the Mission:Explore team on a new Mission:Explore Water eBook. The free download follows our series of outdoor activity books Mission:Explore, Mission:Explore Camping, Mission:Explore on the Road and Mission:Explore Food and numerous free publications including Mission:Explore John Muir (which is available in English, Welsh and Gaelic) and Mission:Explore RSPB Big Wild Sleepout. The water book includes over 50 illustrated missions that playfully challenge children to think about water in curious, creative and critical ways. Alan Parkinson has been working on a set of supporting resources for schools, Helen Steer has been producing the book and the illustrations are by Tom Morgan-Jones. Made in partnership with some fantastic organisations, we’ll be making full announcements about how to download the book soon(ish).
I love this mission illustration as it gives you a great idea of what guerrilla geography and the book is all about. It’s also a great and affordable mission to do on your own, with children or with friends. Do you recognise the artist that we are giving a nod to?
I am currently working with our team at Explorer HQ on a special Mission:Explore Summer Camp, a virtual festival of outdoor activities and explorations that are aimed at kids and families. Click on the map above to have an explore and pick a mission to attempt!
I was delighted to be asked to speak at TEDxEHL last month at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. I used my 15 minutes to argue that we are currently going through an Exploration Revolution, but that we’re not making the most of it… especially in schools. The talk takes place during the 125th anniversary of National Geographic, a year in which many people have been asking the society “what’s left to explore?“. This short video answers that question and more.
I’m very excited to be heading to the Hay Festival this weekend. Our guerrilla geography Mission:Explore school workshops are booked out on the Friday and then we’ve an open space over this Saturday and Sunday. In The Sun last week we were listed as the ‘leading lights in guerrilla geography’… a quote that made me very happy for several hours.
This is going to be the first Geography Collective expedition in our new spaceship/time machine/HQ van. We’ve done a good bunch of the outside decoration and will have the inside ready for the launch of our next book, Mission:Explore Food, at the end of June. Thanks to Helen Steer for getting all the stickers printed, Tom Morgan-Jones for the illustrations and a day together unprofessionally fitting them, Seb (who is modelling the van) for his consultancy and Menah Raven-Ellison for her sticking skills.
We’re very proud of this new member of the Mission:Explore & Geography Collective family. Later in the summer we’ll be taking it on a little tour of the UK.
I’m currently spending a good chunk of my time doing the final writing for Mission:Explore Food, the next in the series of Mission:Explore books. Working with Helen Steer from City Farmers and Tom Morgan-Jones, our artist, it’s important to us that children who read the book understand where their food comes from. This is one of a series of challenging illustrations that feature in the Harvest chapter of the book. Alongside missions that investigate how animals are treated, transported and butchered, the mission for this illustration asks readers to consider the best way for animals to be slaughtered by speaking to a professional butcher.
Most of the book is not so intense, but we think it’s important to present the realities of where animal products come from… and the answer is not ‘the fridge’.
I’m looking forward to the next week. After months of work Mission:Explore 2.0 is going to be set free on the world. It’s something I’ve been working on with The Geography Collective and The Workshop. On Tuesday we will be showcasing www.missionexplore.net at the royal opening of the new Ordnance Survey building in Southampton. We’ve been invited because of our long term links with GeoVation, Ordnance Surveys innovation programme, who have helped us ever since we took Mission:Explore digital.
When it launches the new site will have less challenges on it than the current site, but loads more features and functionality. We’ll then be adding missions each day and bringing new partners into the site on a regular basis too.
Watch www.missionexplore.net this week for the gentle switch-on.