Job shadowing bij Buitendoor
Outdoors as a Tool – Job shadowing for youth workers
The accommodation - our home
This year, in August and September, four people from Russia and Bulgaria participated in an international Job shadowing program in the Netherlands. This program was made possible by Erasmus+. Erasmus+ offers a range of opportunities for organizations to access funding for education, training, youth and sport activities. It supports cooperation between the European countries. For two months me (Svetlana), Kaloyan, Alexander and Arisha were living together at the campsite of our hosting organization, Buitendoor. It was green and peaceful place in the middle of the Netherlands where we got to know each other and became good friends.
Being close to nature is an amazing experience. You have the chance to explore more about yourself and others. At times there where difficulties, but these helped us to become even closer to each other. You learn how to trust and rely on yourself and others. There were situations in which it was not possible to complete a task on your own, so you had to ask for help. You learn a lot about cooperation and team work and how you can use this in every-day life.
Our hosting organization, Buitendoor, is focusing on outdoor- and training programs for youth and schools and facilitates courses for teachers. The main goal of these programs is to improve the atmosphere and cooperation within a group. According to Buitendoor, nature is the best place for people to improve their communication skills and to build a connection.
Every year Buitendoor hosts a tree house camp, where volunteers and young people build a tree house village. It is a very good example of how working in a team can improve cooperation and communication skills. Of course, you also learn a lot about climbing trees, abseiling and safety.
During our stay in the Netherlands the four of us were helping Buitendoor with the organization of the school camps. We started with a training where we learned about the way how the organization works. We met four Dutch people and got through the training together with them. We were lucky because they were good prepared and we learned a lot from them. It was a very interesting and intensive week. The method the instructors used was “learning by doing”. This means that we immediately translated the theory into practice. We had the chance to experience different team building activities. First as participants and second as instructors. It is easier to encourage and to explain to youngsters how an activity works, when you already know the feeling of doing it yourself. So this first week we were learning how the instructors of Buitendoor work and we stepped in the participants’ shoes.
What did we do? Mountain biking, tree climbing, Jacob’s ladder climbing, outdoor cooking, abseiling, walking on rope, ball factory, hiking, bivouac building etc.
After the training we immediately became volunteers of the organization and we were ready for the camps.
Almost every week there was a camp for a different school or class. They not only took place on the campsite of Buitendoor, but also on other locations in the Netherlands or Belgium. This gave us the opportunity to travel a lot and to see how much preparation it takes to organize a camp. A lot of attention goes to the logistics: where and when do we pick up the materials and the groceries? Who picks up the van? Etc.
The volunteers come together one or two days in advance to make preparations for the camp. They get instructions from the camp leader: who is doing which task? What activities will we do? We saw that organizing a camp is not an easy job. One of the volunteers is responsible for the camp and is camp leader. The camp leader takes care of the volunteers, the teachers and the students. He or she knows exactly what the program is and makes sure everybody is happy and satisfied. This doesn’t mean that the camp leader has to do everything by his or herself. They assign tasks to the instructors and try to separate the work between them. Everyone can give their preferences for an activity. Being an instructor is not only work, but it also should be a lot of fun. Every day, in the evening, the instructors give feedback about each other. What did we do today? What went well and what could we have done better? We were helping each other with the tasks and the activities and no one was left alone. This way you learn how to work in a group and to cooperate. Most of the time the students were also involved in the camp work. They were asked to clean after themselves, to do the dishes and the clean the toilets.
Working with students is not easy, but it gave me positive energy and joy. When you build on a connection with them, they can surprise you with deep conversations. They can come to you and ask you if you need any help They can be really nice, cheerful and talkative.
The team building activities and games
Most camps were introduction camps for students who just started school together. That's why the program usually starts with name games. In one of the games the students have to make a circle, so they can see and hear each other. An instructor has three balls with different colors and throws one of them to someone while pronouncing their name. Then this person throws the ball to someone else till everyone has caught it. When the round with the first ball is over and people remember the order, the second and the third ball are included in the game. The rule is that the order for each ball should be different. This game is a lot of fun and it's a good icebreaker.
Another name game is called Tutti Frutti. Again, all students are standing in a circle and the instructor is in the middle. The participants are asked to choose one fruit, for example banana. When the instructor points at someone he should pronounce the name of the person standing on their left side. Then students choose another fruit, fox example orange. This time when the instructor points at someone he should pronounce the name of the person standing on their right side. And when the participants hear “tutti frutti” they should change their places in a way that everyone is standing between different people than before. This is the best way to remember the names of others.
There is also a game that students have to start a short conversation about, for example, their hobbies. This game is called speed dating. After a certain amount of time, they change their partners and talk to someone else. The instructor gives a time, for example 12 PM, and a topic, for example pets. Students meet the first other student. They have their conversation about pets. Then they meet with someone else at 3 PM and talk about their favorite food, for example. The instructor decides how many dates they are having. In the end, students can meet randomly, not in order. For example, they can go to their 4 PM partner, then their 12 PM partner and so on. This game is not only good for getting to know the names of others, but also for learning more about themselves.
There are a lot of team building games that Buitendoor uses in the camps. One of them is called Duplo. Students are separated in two teams and every team receives one set of Duplo. On a table in front of the students is another set of Duplo in a specific structure. One person of the group can have a look for 10 seconds at the structure. Then they come back to their team and without touching the pieces they have to explain to them what they saw. Then another team member can have a look. The first team who manages to get the exact same structure as the one on the table wins. In this game students can experience how important it is to work in a team, to listen and trust each other. Together they need to come up with a good strategy.
Ball factory is a very interesting and challenging game. Participants should stand on the outside of a square made of wooden sticks. There are balls in one bucket, which should be moved to another bucket within a certain time. There a only a couple of rules: students can't throw the ball to the person right next to them and everyone should catch the ball at least ones. The balls are in different shape, weight and size. The goal is to move as many balls as possible within the given time. This is a strategy game where people need to think for the optimal and fastest way.
During all camps we met a lot of new cheerful and positive people and we had much fun with them. In addition, during our free days we managed to explore a lot of new places in the Netherlands. Now we know a lot more about the country and we all agree that we were treated very well. The people were nice and hospitable to us. This period of time gave us a lot of good memories and friendships. We learned more about communication and cooperation. We learned a lot of games, team building activities and what it is like to organize and participate in a camp. The other volunteers, the students and the teachers where amazing. Even when we were tired they could make us laugh and enjoy our time. We are happy that we had the chance to be part of this and we will recommend the Job shadowing program to everyone who enjoys nature and likes or wants to work with students.