Forest School in an urban environment – how can it work?

Forest School Training & Forest School in an urban environmentAt Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run our Forest School Training Level 3 from a beautiful, mixed broadleaf woodland in the heart of the Sussex countryside. In this environment, it is so easy for our trainees to understand the ethos and principles of Forest School, to see how child-led learning can take place, the resources that are available and the importance of nature connection, they can feel it just by being here.

In a woodland environment there is so much stimulus. To our  trainees, it is clear to see how the children can explore and lead their own learning.

There are places to climb, logs to balance on, mud to dig, creatures to discover, leaves to throw, sticks for dens, the list is endless….but how to translate all this to an urban environment, where there is no woodland?

Forest School in an Urban Environment?

We run Forest School Training Level 3 in East SussexThe answer is to remember the ethos of Forest School – child-led, learner-centred sessions, which take place regularly (weekly if possible), with opportunities for supported risk taking, in a natural environment…this could be your local park, the school field or even a corner of the playground.

This, plus a little bit of creativity can go a long way towards giving the children the same sense of connection, freedom and opportunities for exploration and learning, regardless of where they are.

Forest School Sessions - find out more here

 

I have seen an excellent example of Forest School run on a small patch of grass, with one tree, in the middle of a housing estate in East London.  The children walk there from their nursery every week, the site is a public space overlooked by hundreds of residents that used to be empty apart from the broken glass, used needles and empty drinks cans.

 

Now once a week it rings with children’s voices, the litter has gone and the local residents know that Forest School is taking place.

As for the children, they are motivated, engaged and learning. They find worms, they dig, they make paint from mud, they use the tree to make shelters and homes for the creatures, they lie on the grass and look at the clouds, they play, they learn…to these urban children, this is nature.

Activity ideas for Forest School in urban spaces:

Activity ideas for Urban Forest School - contact us for more informationDen building – if you don’t have any natural resources use tarps and ropes – tie them to trees, fences, benches, bins, goal posts.

Mini-shelters – ask the children to bring in a bag of sticks and leaves as their homework. Have this available as a resource for free play. Leave pictures of different types of shelters as inspiration.

Clay – use it to make mini-beasts, creatures, fairies, faces on trees (or brick walls).

 

Natural paints – bring in a bucket of mud if you don’t have any, use frozen blackberries, crushed chalk, charcoal – mix with water and paint on the playground (it will wash off) or an old bed sheet.

Listening activities – tune in to what is around you, what sounds can you hear? Can you identify which sounds are from nature (birds, leaves rustling, wind in the trees, rain) and which ones are human sounds?

Mini beast hunting – Use magnifiers to search carefully in the corners of buildings, in the cracks of the pavement, in flower beds….. it’s amazing what you can find, even in a concrete jungle.

The most important thing is to get out there, the environment (even if it is urban) and the children’s imagination will do the rest.

By Katie Scanlan, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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Endorsed FSA TrainerForest School Training Level 3 Courses:

If you are keen on Forest School Level 3 Training in East Sussex, our next courses are:

 

 

Course One
Part one: 4th & 5th March (Mill Woods) & 6th & 7th March (Picketts Wood).
Part two: 29th April – 1st May (Mill Woods).
Part three: 20th – 21st May (Mill Woods).

Course Two
Part 1: 26th, 27th & 30th September and 1st, 2nd October 2019.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February and 2nd, 3rd March 2020.
Location to be confirmed but will be East Sussex/Brighton area.

Please visit our website for details.

 

Circle of Life RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

World Thinking Day – Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Earth Right’s and Child’s Rights

World Thinking Day – Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Earth Right’s and Child’s Rights – what do they all have in common?

On World Thinking Day, I have been thinking about how I have always been fascinated by how change happens. It was only in 1965 that the first Race Relations Act came into law, when at last, it was illegal to discriminate against somebody because of the colour of their skin. Our western mind-set supported the notion of superiority, if your colour was white.

World Thinking Day - Civil Rights

Many of us have followed the story of the Civil Right’s movement in the US, and Martin Luther Kings’ ‘I have a dream’ speech. What we have in common is fundamental. Though our society likes to believe that one person is intrinsically ‘better than’ the other – for colour, status, religion.

 

In 1928 the Conservative government passed the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act giving the vote to all women over the age of 21 on equal terms with men, it still relatively recent. The Woman’s Rights movement changed the law despite years of ongoing sex-based discrimination. “Land, like woman, was meant to be possessed”.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg - World Thinking Day 2019“The enormous difference between fighting gender discrimination as opposed to race discrimination is good people immediately perceive race discrimination as evil and intolerable. But when I talked about sex-based discrimination, I got the response, ‘What are you talking about? Women are treated ever so much better than men!”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States).

None of this is meant to say that white men or any man is not discriminated against. All of us are vulnerable and positioned to being treated as inferior, and feeling inferior.

And what of our children? World Thinking DayAnd what of our children on World Thinking Day? This voiceless generation of young people, who were until 1800’s without protection. Children could be abused, put to work, and killed. There were no Rights. In 1919, the League of Nations created a committee for the protection of children. Five years later, it adopted the Geneva Declaration, first international treaty on children’s rights. With the creation of the United Nations, The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was formed.

Today, in 2019 on World Thinking Day, we are still grappling with what kind of society we want to be, with what values and morals. I believe, human law is a necessary vehicle to align us with these morals and values.

“The strength of the social hierarchy and the importance of status serve as indicators of how far a society departs from equality. The further the departure from mutuality, reciprocity and sharing, the stronger the basic message that we will each have to fend for ourselves.” (Resurgence 2019: K. Pickett & R. Wilkinson).

So now we face a similar need to change the law and our way of thinking towards the land. To place human law in line with natural law. To go way beyond the idea that we possess the land, women or children, and can do what we want. We need to realign human law with a higher moral code.

Polly Higgins, is leading the way for a change in law that would protect the earth – giving us Earth Right’s, in the form of ‘ An International crime of Ecocide’. Ecocide is serious loss, damage or destruction of ecosystems, and includes climate or cultural damage as well as direct ecological damage.

Under ‘Earth Rights’, we all benefit when we look after and respect each other, our beloved men, women, children and earth.

EcocideWhat can we do to create Earth Rights?

It’s simple: all it requires is an amendment to the Rome Statute (not a whole new treaty) which is the governing document for existing international crimes and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It’s possible: any member nation State to the International Criminal Court, no matter how small, can propose the amendment. Once tabled, it cannot be vetoed.

Sign yourself up now as an Earth Protector to help fund this law:

Mission Lifeforce is the campaign Polly co-launched in order to launch ecocide crime into the wider public domain. In an unprecedented step, an Earth Protectors Trust Fund was created. The fund provides for representation at the annual Assembly of the International Criminal Court for Small Island Developing States and their delegates costs.

Finally, on World Thinking Day:

Greater equality across humans and non-humans is critical to protect ourselves and future generations of all species. Our ‘human systems’ are based on a power structure that provide privileged access to resources for those at the top, regardless of the needs of others. ‘The others’ – in history people of colour, women, children have been (and still are) discriminated against and history has shown this voicelessness & powerlessness describes a value-system, that we can and are trying to change.

We have many different models within us. At least one, based on friendship across people and non-human, and another based on ideas of superiority and inferiority. We are also hardwired for survival as well as to appreciate great beauty and belonging. Many of us who are reading this, do have choices and are able to share our views and contribute to challenging older views that stem from fear, scarcity and power over.

Let’s remember that it did take courage for individuals to stand up and be counted and it is possible to make massive changes that over time help us to live more in balance with the rest of life.

Marina Robb, Director – Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

 

Circle of Life RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

 

 

Neuroscience of Early Years: Attachment and Sensory Enrichment

Neuroscience of Early Years

Neuroscience of Early Years – here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine you have been asleep in a warm and comfortable snug place .… a feeling of such safety encompasses you…  but … you cannot remain there … you are being forced out. It is inevitable you have to face a tunnel which leads to something never encountered before … bright light …. unmuffled sounds which resonate in your head …. and an almighty gasp leads to you to make the loudest noise … you scream … you cannot stop screaming … then a familiar sound and you feel the touch of something holding you … fear subsides as your mouth finds the food source…. you can return to the warm cosy La La land you know … but just for a short while… it will take you months and years to be able to subdue the innate fear and instinctive drive to seek an ‘other’ to comfort and protect you…. so …

What do you need to do to start feeling less fearful?

 Neuroscience of Early Years: Attachment and Sensory Enrichment by Kate Macairt“If it is true that as infants we are indeed “born into trauma”, is it possible that as adults we have the experience of trauma at the very foundations of our psyches and emotional lives? If so, does the degree of trauma vary from individual to individual?” 

Dr F.Woolverton 2018 (psychologytoday.com)

PROTECT AND SURVIVE

Find out more about Neuroscience of early yearsAs soon as any baby mammal is born the major task they face is survival. Human babies can survive even if the ‘other’ is a wolf or monkey as long as their basic needs are met. This is the premise of Attachment Theory (John Bowlby 1907 – 1990):  the human baby needs a primary care giver as the human mammal is the least well equipped for survival.

Human babies rely on an ‘other’ for at least five years before they have really learned to control body functions, walk, communicate and feed themselves. A chimpanzee’s childhood also lasts 5 years but what they learn in those 5 years equips them very efficiently for survival, I am not sure the same can be said for a 5 year old human child. But then we expect our human offspring to learn so many more complex activities than mere survival, in fact perhaps we are moving further and further away from helping show our young how to survive life?

Child psychologist Donald Winnicott identified the basic needs a baby has as Holding, Feeding, Mutual Cooing, Reflection, and Shelter.

These behaviours, as well as helping the baby begin to control their body are essential for learning how to relate to ‘other’ and begin to trust ‘other.’ Recent research in neurobiology also suggests that another basic need for crucial healthy brain development and sociability is sensory enrichment. The baby brain requires a rich and diverse experience of sound, sight, taste, smell, touch if the foundation structure of neural pathways is to be strong and firm. If the foundation brain is strong then the child is able to begin to rationalise feelings and reduce fear. Humans need positive experience for relationship to ‘other’ and environment.

It is essential to provide opportunities for baby to experience natural and organic sensory stimuli as well as man-made stimuli. Why?

If a baby is to develop an understanding of the world and how she fits in it, she needs to explore other living growing things as well as inanimate objects. A sense of confidence and resilience can only grow when we feel in control of our life. We learn that feeling by being allowed to explore and discover what we can control and what we cannot.  WE CAN KEEP ON BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND RESILIENCE THROUGHOUT OUR LIFE IF WE KEEP ENRICHING OUR SENSORY INPUTS (Read about our Therapeutic Play training to learn more).

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

What's love got to do with it?Goldilocks Fear alerted by the wrong eyes, ears, mouth.

The new-born infant screams for attention and the ‘significant other’ responds. Bowlby identified the need for that ‘other’ to be consistent. Why? Because the baby is responding to the ‘other’ as a mammal and is learning to recognise certain sound, smell, taste, touch, sight as the important ‘other’ who supports her survival. What Bowlby called Secure Attachment is the relationship between baby and ‘other’ based on the ‘good enough’ meeting of the baby survival needs.  Out of attachment comes the feeling which as the child matures, she identifies as love. She can begin to extend her circle of trust and permit ‘others’ to contribute to meeting her needs.

Circle of Trust

Trust starts with one to one relationships. The baby needs a consistent primary relationship if she is beginning to develop CORE SAFETY. If the primary relationship provides good enough basic needs then as the baby grows she will seek more relationships.

If the ‘significant others’ ability to meet the baby’s needs is lacking the child still attempts to attach to ‘other’ but she learns that ‘others’ will not support her survival all the time; she cannot quite trust ‘other’ to keep her feeling safe and she will never quite prevent Fear impacting on her experience of life. That too becomes what love means.

The quality and energy of our early relationships become the model for future relationships. We have stored information based on what we have experienced.  It is helpful to consider our early attachment relationships to truly understand our Self – and it’s never too late to re-file feelings under different headings! Growing up continues throughout our whole life.

LEARNING TO BE OUR SELF

All our memory of events passed have their origin in the cocktail of sensory inputs our brain inputted at the time of the event.

Learning to be ourselfWe make sense of our life by building a story; this is my beginning my middle and end.  How we remember the story is defined by the sensory inputs which have occurred and whether they resulted in feelings of joy, sadness, anxiety, guilt, or Fear.

 

Because we have two systems of thinking: System 1 – unconscious and automatic and System 2 – conscious and controlled, we are not always aware of how stored sensory feelings may impact on our everyday events. Have you ever encountered a sudden change of mood which seemed to come from nowhere but emerges after chatting with a colleague? Or perhaps you may have an ‘irrational’ fear but no memory of any reason why you should have that fear?

These are some of my sensory triggers; a certain smell which makes me think of home, a song on the radio reminds me of teenage days, looking at old photos floods me with feelings of nostalgia which are happy, sad, the smell of polish on old wood stimulates deep memories of my old nursery, the feeling of moss under foot, hearing a robin sing, the feel of the trunk of a large oak tree, watching wood lice, making daisy chains. The sensory experiences I am having today may be fresh and new or they may resonate with sensory experiences from the past and the same feeling from years ago re-emerges in the present moment.

Neuroscience of Early YearsChildhood is the time we all have used to build our sense of Self and there is so much to learn if we are to be able to ‘exist as oneself’ as Winnicott said. If you have or look after babies, infants, children the most significant benefit to their development is to go exploring. Crawling under tables and meeting the challenge of the stairs, feeling slushy mud splash your face, crunch across dried leaves.

 

 

Many early years providers now incorporate outdoor play and the mud kitchen as a regular feature, but if this sort of indoor and outdoor exploration is limited to a school/nursery environment it cannot become a fully integrated resource in the child’s life. The level of self-confidence and resilience that helps us know and understand our Self will largely depend on the diversity and strength of the sensory foundation brain neural connections. Because the brain is plastic we can continue to strengthen neural networks and shift feelings and thoughts if we provide the right sort of stimuli. The importance of sensory inputs to brain growth means we continue to benefit from enrichment and deepen our understanding of Self through connection to environment and Other.

Neuroscience of early yearsSo ….get out and explore the world with babies, infants, children, old folk!  Make a point of finding a new smell, a new sight, a new taste, a new noise and a new touch every day. If you like competitions then see who can enlarge their sensory input the most in a week! There are endless ways – just make sure you are having FUN and that no one feels JUDGED.

Kate Macairt, Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC

Circle of Life RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Find out about our CPD’s here and our Forest School Training here. If you are keen to hear more about events and training please join our newsletter here.

Nature Pedagogy – the teaching of nature within a nature-centric worldview.

Nature Pedagogy

NATURE PEDAGOGY AND GAMES FOR LEARNING - CPD course in AprilWhilst the use of the terminology ‘nature pedagogy’ may appear relatively new, developing a deep nature connection and understanding how our needs and interests can be met successfully though nature to provide a meaningful contribution to our lives, is our most ancient and biologically responsive blueprint.

As a teacher we often use this word ‘pedagogy’.  Simply stated, it is the method and practice of teaching.  It involves understanding the learner’s needs, their interests and providing relevant experiences that our meaningful.

 

Our modern culture is very disconnected from nature.  Our rational approach to this inconceivably complex and successful living system, is diminished to an object that we can exploit and deny our own animal heritage.

The development of our pre-frontal cortex, that defines human evolution, rest on a much larger sensory-based brain that thrives on relationships and filtering sensory information and feelings.    Our capacity to view nature as an ally, a necessary partner and great, great, great grandparent is determined partly by our capacity to be empathetic, to feel through our senses, and to see a much bigger picture of our past and our future.

The Big Questions?

I have been largely influenced by the big questions: Why? What? How?  I suppose I never stopped being the person who wanted to know why? Why do people believe in god? Why are some people more valued than others? Why is life unfair?  How do people know they are right? What happens when we die? Why is it so difficult for our society to create systems that look after nature – as an absolute priority.  I don’t think there are easy answers, and I know the different points of view are inevitable, despite nature as our common interest.

Nature Pedagogy, Well-being & Therapeutic training in East Sussex this yearWhat I have observed is that young children, particularly the early years have a wonderful facility to experience the world as animistic, that everything is a subject not an object.  A child can easily converse with ‘inanimate objects’ and are very comfortable immersing themselves in their own imagination, which for them, is real.   In the west this facility seems to diminish, whereas in earth-sensory-based cultures it usually prevails.

I have studied many different cultures and worldviews.  I tried for many years to square what seems like story-making about a mountain, or river, the apparent communication that many traditional people have with nature, as not real.  I can’t stop objectifying.  Yet, I have been fascinated by healing practices and the intimacy of those people with nature, all offering different ‘answers’ to those big questions.  How tantalising.

Recently I was listening to a Ted Talk on Animism and the Maori people and the presenter beautifully explained that their worldview is like belonging to a vast family – tree, the humans, the animals, the plants, the seas, the stars, are all family. He asked if we consider our pet dog as part of the family?  Yes, of course.  I know and love my dog Ruby, she doesn’t speak, but she communicates and empathises.  It is only a little more of a jump, and a lot more time,  to feel a meaningful relationship to land, mountain, or tree where  your worldview  transforms to a friendly, caring approach, with gratitude for life.

Our entire system is operated by nature’s own manual.   It is the primary way our neurological system is strengthened and extended.   With our natural senses intact, we can be happy and healthy. Without time in nature, our systems become dysfunctional and we are undernourished, mistaking shopping and screen life with life-sustaining human and nature connection. One cannot replace the other, it will never do that.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.Nature sends out a multitude of natural chemicals (at quantum level everything is energy) and we respond, even if we don’t know it.  This ‘serve and return’ between nature and humans is the way we grow, learn, and thrive.  Nature pedagogy puts us back in touch with our natural and original operating system. Not the human-imposed one, but one that sits in a large wheel of life representing all of life, as we can possibly know it.

From ideas of creation to the life cycle of a plant.   There are many models and methods, tools and skills that help us to find our way back to nature’s medicine, and to provide this for ourselves and our children.  Learning through experiences in nature, building psychological flexibility and pursuing important values increase our well-being and restores a natural balance in all of us.

Keep in touch to find out more about Nature Pedagogy and:

  • Approaches within nature education and key differences
  • Connection Practices & nature awareness games
  • Nature-centric models that inform our planning and holistic approach
  • Experiencing and activities that support an inclusive and nature-centric worldview
  • Indicators of awareness and attributes

Our work draws on best practice from Forest School, ecopsychology, ecotherapy, indigenous and western knowledge,  earth education and deep nature connection.

By Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

Nature Pedagogy related CPD’s & Courses:

21st & 22nd March: Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth
This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash.’
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 17.00. Cost £175.

1st & 2nd April: Nature Play & the Therapeutic Space
An Experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces’.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £175.

17th April: Nature Pedagogy and Games for Learning
This workshop brings together new thinking around ‘Nature Pedagogy’.  This includes exploring the models, methods, worldviews and values that underpin our teaching practice in nature.
Location:
Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £95.

25th & 26th May: Landplay Therapy
Post qualifying training for Play Therapists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists. This two -day training will provide you with the tools you need to extend your therapeutic practice to include indoor and outdoor sessions.
Location:
Brook Farm, Messing, Essex Time: 09.30 – 16.00 Cost £165.

Visit our website for full details.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226