Outdoor Classroom Day – The Power of the Outdoors

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog by Jon Cree

Communing with another – a ceremonial transformation. Encounters with a nettle.

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog, by Jon CreeThis week I experienced a palpable shift in one of the teachers on a workshop I was facilitating – let’s call her Jane (real name left out for anonymity). The workshop entitled “lost words”, is based on the book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, that seems to have swept up the country’s schools in its magic. It involves facilitating teacher’s sensory observation of non human beings then representing these encounters through various sketching and poetry techniques to rediscover the meaning of the name for said ‘being’.

What I witnessed in this teacher was more than something to do with rediscovering the meaning of adder, otter, kingfisher and willow – it was a shift where the inner and outer worlds met.

At the start of the day there was a distinct reluctance, indeed possibly belligerence, to ‘open up’ the heart to the possibilities of what might come if you just ‘be’ with other ‘more the human’ beings. There seemed to be resistance to allowing the inner and outer worlds collide…”what I can’t take my pen and paper to my sit spot?” was a retort.

On returning from said sit spot a shift had already happened and the shackles of culture started to slip away. Rules of poetry were there to be broken, and with the aid of the words ringing on the Guernsey winds of the likes of poets such as David Whyte, Ted Hughes and Mary Oliver you could see said teacher’s shoulders dropping and a sparkle and smile spreading across her face…Jane was definitely letting down her guard. After some working with senses and words, sketching exercises that emphasised a playful sensory integration of subject and paper, in her case this was flint and paper (I always feel rocks have so much to tell us), there started to be a melding of natural world awareness and expression.

The Power of the Outdoors - Outdoor Classroom Day Blog

Then came the big occasion of the day – 90 minutes of sitting with one being, in her case a nettle. Jane approached her subject as advised in a mindful slow yet playful way, observing from all angles and finding just the right spot and body distance to give both beings respect yet intimacy. I watched and witnessed a rushing at this point to distil the essence of nettle in sketch and rubbing, and then something extraordinary happened in this seemingly ordinary space.

 

Her words started to flow – she had exclaimed at the start of the day that she hated poetry (she is a leader in literacy in her school!) and there was a moment where she sat in ceremony celebrating this resilient yet vulnerable ‘being’ – she literally performed her own small ceremony for said nettle. It was as if Jane had entered her own mytho-poetic world where the inner and outer had collided…her soul and psyche had entered the nettle kingdom.

I know this sounds somewhat far fetched for to get to this stage can sometimes take years and many vision quests, but I was certain in just 5 and a half hours she had entered into a ceremonial conversation with the world…the words were flowing. It was a beautiful moment to witness she was participating fully in the world from which we all come from – not the technological but the natural. I couldn’t but help myself from going over to sit beside Jane and she willingly showed me her sketchbook, made that morning, and the words that just kept coming…she had entered into a deep caring relationship with the nettle.

The Power of the OutdoorsSome may say that this was nothing other than the keen observation and spending time with another being that provoked the words, i.e time for ‘contact’. But I am certain this was down to an opening of heart and the imaginal whispers of the nettle that created an almost sacred space in which Jane could, in her own soft way, make this a ceremonial instance to cement said ‘connection’ rather than ‘contact’.

My words may seem grandiose and exaggerated but I am certain, indeed we know from cultures of the past and present, that ceremony deepens relationship.

I came away feeling that we need to allow our learners more time with the non human and celebrate the ensuing relationship in some form of respectful way with a mixture of ‘gravitas’ and ‘levitas’.

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors – 3 day course with Jon Cree.
Optional Level 3 Accreditation available.

This course is aimed at any educator who feels they want to engage and work with students in the outdoors who may be reluctant learners (of any age).

This course will delve into:

  • What challenges us as leaders in the outdoors
  • Theory on challenging behaviour
  • Up-to-date neural research; triggers and causes for challenging behaviour
  • Ways of dealing with ‘real life’ scenarios in the outdoors
  • De-escalation
  • How to transfer outdoor strategies into an indoor and other settings – including looking at the validity of sanctions and rewards.
  • Reviewing your own policies

Date: 17th, 18th & 19th June 2019 at Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex OR 20th, 21st & 22nd November 2019 at Parkwood Campsite, Poynings, East Sussex.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree
Cost: £325 for the 3 day course, £55 for the Accreditation (optional). This Level 3 West Midlands Open College Network Accredited Course.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here for the June course or online here for the November course.
More information: please visit the website.


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.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Young Nature Leaders Initiative – Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s been an incredible journey on the Young Nature Leaders Initiative course with Circle of Life Rediscovery.  Spending a day out in the woods each month has been a wonderful and grounding experience and it has given me a tranquil space to feel connected to nature.

Young Nature Leaders Initiative If I was ever feeling stressed or anxious before the session, that was eased once I got to the woods as we always took some quiet time to listen to the sounds of the forest, relax and connect with our senses. This, along with the amazingly supportive facilitators helped everyone feel ready to engage and learn. We learned everything through practical experience making it so much more meaningful and memorable.

 

The art of square lashing!We met each month in the woods whatever the weather! From November to April, we experienced the woods through different seasons and what the seasons had to bring.  From fire lighting to woodland cooking, using tools to make animals from wood, charcoal pencils and picture frames, plant identification, nature games and woodland management, we have learnt so many new skills that we can apply to our future work.

Meeting new friends

 

The course has opened up new options for me and my future. It has taught me so many new skills as well as teaching me how to share those skills with children and adults.

 

Mushroom keyrings!I have now gained a Forest School Level 2 qualification. Being able to share this knowledge and help others find the fulfilment I have found in Forest School is really important to me and I hope to continue to do this. Since starting the course I have been volunteering at two Forest Schools which has allowed me to put my new skills into practice and has consolidated my desire to pursue outdoor learning as a career.

Having felt a bit lost a few years ago, my life didn’t really have any direction. There are so many pressures around us to look a certain way, feel a certain way and act a certain way. This course has enabled me to meet new people who perhaps feel the same and have taught me to be myself and accept myself – it’s a magical feeling and being in the woods only accentuates this. I feel excited about the future and my options.

Mental Health Awareness Week

If anyone reading this feels they are struggling, I would encourage you to share your problems and talk, take a walk in the woods, lie on the grass and feel the sun on your face. There are people out there who care and who can offer support. Never feel alone.


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.

We want to thank the Ernest Cook Trust for providing a key grant to enable our Young Nature Leaders training to happen. If you would like to make a donation to our funded work or find out about our funded programmes please contact us.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

 

 

International School Grounds Month

What is International School Grounds Month?

Each year, in May, the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) calls on schools around the world to take their pupils outside to celebrate International School Grounds Month. They believe that school grounds are hugely important to children and youth, and shape their experience of the world around them.

Why is it important?

International School Grounds Month - Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.In some cases, school or nursery grounds are the first place children have the opportunity to become acquainted with the natural world. Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.

In 2016, a study funded by Persil, as part of their ‘dirt is good’ campaign, found that 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

 

This is less time than the UN guidelines for prisoners, which requires “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily”.

Further to this, the World Health Organisation has just released new guidelines to say that ‘children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy’ WHO, 24th April 2019. Visit their website for details.

So more time outdoors is imperative for our young people, and school grounds provide the perfect opportunity.

How can you get involved?

The ISGA is encouraging all schools to use this opportunity to engage their students in learning, play and other activities outside – for an hour, a day, or a week during International School Grounds in May.

For activity ideas, download their Activity Guide which includes a collection of 104 exciting ideas that support learning across the curriculum, promote healthy lifestyles, and encourage play and exploration during free time, before, during, and after school.

Share with us during International Schools Grounds Month

What are you doing for International School Grounds Month?

We would love to know what your school is doing for International Schools Grounds Month, please share your activities with us on social media on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram page.

 

 

What is Circle of Life Rediscovery doing for International School Grounds Month?

Circle of Life Rediscovery is delighted to launch a new range of bespoke products and services, to develop your school grounds and support outdoor learning and Forest School.

We will be working in collaboration with Vert Woods Community Woodland (VWCW), a locally and sustainably managed community woodland, to supply sustainable wood for the products, with ‘Grown in Britain’ status.

What can we offer?

Forest School Shelters – our shelters are all bespoke, designed for each space, with your choice of tarp material and colour.

Forest School Shelters“Thank you so much for the fantastic shelter. It has completely exceeded our expectations and will provide years of enjoyment for both children and adults! Mark and Tom were helpful and efficient throughout the whole process and I would not hesitate to recommend them to other Forest Schools.”

Becky Evans, Inclusion Leader, Park Mead School.

“We are delighted with our wonderful new Forest School shelter built by Circle of Life Rediscovery. Prior to construction they came to the site to discuss our needs and offer helpful suggestions. They gave us a choice of tarpaulins to suit our requirements and explained the construction process.

Forest School SheltersThey built the shelter in the holidays to avoid any term time disruption. The job was completed on the days stated, despite the appalling weather! Lots of the shelters I researched on line were more like garden buildings or outdoor classrooms. We wanted something more in keeping with our natural setting and as you can see from the photo it looks great within the woodland. It is very solidly constructed. Mark and Tom are obviously talented craftsmen and were also generous with their advice for our site. This was money very well spent. This shelter will serve our forest school well, enabling us to work with the children in all weathers. The wind on site had been a real problem with our temporary tarps. The children absolutely love it!”
Ocklynge Primary School, September 2018.

NEW products for 2019…
  • Wood stores
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire circle/basecamp log seating
  • Wooden planters
  • Wildlife boxes for birds, bats or hedgehogs
  • Tippy taps
Outdoor Learning Services

Please contact us for more details on any of our products and services or call 01273 814226. We look forward to hearing from you.

Katie Scanlan – Operations Manager, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

Mental Health, Wellbeing, Nature: Children need to go Outdoors

Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

Children of all ages need to go outdoors to support their mental health and wellbeing. Children need the enriched sensory inputs which outdoors can provide. This does not have to be a beautiful wild landscape or forest, there are wild spaces in every city worth discovering.

In her TED talk (30/9/16) Emma Marris stresses there is no division between humans and Nature. We are part of nature, we are part of the living system of this planet. She encourages us to take a short walk through the urban jungle and find how, no matter how much concrete we pour, time will open cracks and shoot new life. For a disenfranchised young person, the bravery of the little weed forcing its way through such obstacle provides a metaphor which system 1 thinking notices. (See my previous Blog on System 1 and 2).

Mental Health, Wellbeing, NatureConquering Nature has been a significant driving force in the evolution of humans.  The modern human brain still contains elements of our ancestor Neanderthal brain. What was absolute survival behaviour for early humans is still the brain’s default mode and when we are stressed by events in our life we will still adopt the same response as our ancestors: fight freeze flight.

The development of the human for rational logical thinking has set us apart, humans have always explored and questioned their place within the natural scheme of things and in more recent times struggled for domination over other animals, plants, rivers, rocks oceans. The success of the domination has been over whelming and in Earth time super- fast. As a species we have fast tracked the development of our cognitive thinking skills. We are amazing and can create anything we imagine, almost. But it is very clear that now we pay the price for thinking we are above or exempt from the natural system.  It is our young humans who will face the clean up after hundreds of years of irresponsible partying by so called grown- ups.

Perhaps it would be easier now to carry on trashing and abusing the hand which feeds us. Perhaps we do need more gadgets and systems which will help distance us from our nature. Implant chips so we can be read like a robot. Surrender our ability to find our way, turn on our lights, remember appointments and so on.  We should be treading with more caution. History clearly shows that it is not possible to change natural phenomena without there being a knock-on effect and these knock-on effects often create a less safe world for humans.

I am a child of the 1960’s and have grown up with awareness that this is no new argument but what has changed significantly I feel is the effect of the modern human world on children.  In 1989 Morris Berneman wrote ‘Coming to Our Senses’. An acknowledgement of how the evolutionary process has divorced us from our embodied experience of the world. He warns of the de-humanising effect of believing we are above or outside the natural world and the existential void that disembodiment creates.

Remember the two infants, our indoor and outdoor babies? (Again, see my previous Blog).  Let’s assume baby 1 continues to have predominantly indoor experiences, what sensory memories is she forming? Modern urban city life encourages us to stay indoors. From birth until she is three years old Infant 1 has been kept safe inside the aircon apartment, she gets to play with playdough while in her high chair and she likes bubbles in her bath. She has an Ipad on which she watches age appropriate cartoons, she loves Peppa Pig (consider how many products aimed at young children utilise animals with human characteristics, flowers and trees that can talk, and rural locations). There is a beautiful jungle mural on the nursery wall. Baby 1 has been kept safe from germs and is carried from building to car to building in safety seats. All the time her little brain is growing. A baby’s brain grows 64% in the first year of life.  Baby 1 is making the foundation ‘compost’ which will unconsciously impact on her future behaviour as she matures and faces new experiences

Mental Health, wellbeing, nature Baby 2 has also been inputting sensory data. Her arms have been stretching trying to reach the grass as her arm flops over she rolls and now she is lying on her tummy. She grabs at the green spikes which are waggling in front of her she pulls at the strands a chubby fistful of grass… and now to taste! As Baby 2 gets bigger she enjoys mixing mud pies, she will lift the stone and look for the woodlice that live there and she has found her own special place under a bush where some of her toys live. Both babies are safe and have working models of secure attachment. Both babies are having their basic needs met and both will grow up and no doubt do ok at school.  (If you wish to train to work in the outdoors, see our Forest School Training courses).

What Baby 1 lacks is the opportunity to explore her world in its true entirety.  The outdoors and all that it offers is an important part of our story, our personal story and our ancestral narrative. If we are to feel confident in our capacity to be resilient then we need to develop a positive relationship with our world.

A little boy of 3 years is on the beach, I am observing him and his mother from a distance. It is a beautiful sunny day he is following his mum, they are walking up from the sea shore across rocks. He scrambles over the boulders like a bear cub, all fours finding his balance, his little bare feet scrunch as he walks, a little gingerly at first, over the pebbles but in no time he is striding ahead. He is completely Master of his body moves and his quiet humming communicates his sense of satisfaction with life.  Some time passes, the same little boy is again returning from the sea following his mother. This time he slips and falls and for a moment he disappears behind a boulder,  then there is a wail!  Mum is quick to respond, has scooped him up and is hugging him. She picks him up, dusts him off and he is ready to start all over again.  Mum walks on and the boy continues his scrambling and balancing.

See our website for courses based around mental health, wellbeing, natureSo much sensory information has automatically been experienced and the boys developing Superintendent will have noted ‘I fell over, it hurt, but not for long’. He has felt confirmation that the world provides fun and satisfaction and he is completely justified in receiving it. When it goes wrong it hurts but mum’s hug has reassured him to continue. I know, not rocket science is it? But what you may not have considered before is how important it is for that activity to have been outdoors. The power of the event would not have been the same had the boy been in the JungleTumble play world climbing foam blocks and plastic balls.

The dislocation of mind and body may be an effect of Western culture’s preoccupation with individualism and materialism. Eastern cultures have traditionally maintained more awareness of the harmony of mind and body, this can clearly been seen in the difference between Western and Eastern medicine. As the global modern technological world continues to expand our understanding of what reality is in being tested. For several years I have visited and worked in South East Asian countries training child counsellors and psychotherapists to become Play Therapists. The same mental health issues are manifesting in the young of China, Indonesia, Singapore as in London, USA, France. It is our young who have to deal with the ‘knock-on’ effect of the new technology. The seductive allure of computer worlds have been masterfully attuned to our addictive natures.

I loose count of how many young people I have worked with and who supervisees are working with, for whom playing on-line games has replaced most other social events. It is very usual now for young people to spend more time online engaging with each other as an avatar than taking ‘the risk’ of actually going out and engaging with a more unpredictable reality. The problems with this retreat into an internal world of virtual reality is the limited sensory input, the lack of somatic experience to such an extent that the Self is negated and projected onto a computer generated character who becomes ‘Me’.  Circle of Life Rediscovery are running a new course in the Autumn – Mental Health, Resiliency Training in Nature. Please register your interest here.

A child who lacks resilience will be drawn to the computer game and virtual worlds like a moth to the flame. The bedroom becomes the sanctuary the outside world dangerous. I guess it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how that young person who lacks resilience and fears the outdoors world and what is in it, who is addicted to playing violent games in which success equates to body count, how the boundaries between realities may begin to merge until one day you can step out of the bedroom as your avatar and use a real gun or knife and kill real people.

The intense sense of loneliness and isolation from the physical world and others is at the root of most mental ill health.  It does not require amazing gardens or wild plains to find our connection. If you happen to be reading this and are in a busy street with traffic, or on a park bench look down at the ground. Envisage a 10cm square drawn onto the ground. Now look closer at what is inside your square, a magnifying glass is very useful. This is an enjoyable game to play with all ages and if you were to have a 10cm square piece of paper and colouring pens you could try and capture on paper what you see. For the young child this sort of focus activity is very beneficial for connecting System 1 and System 2. The important thing is to be allowed to draw what you want to draw: do your own looking, seeing, interpreting.

Another effective simple outdoor focus game is to prepare a collection of objects, for example petals, leaves, sticks, stones, sweet wrappers. Create one big pile of confusion with them all jumbled together. The game is to see how quickly the chaotic mess can be sorted into piles of same or similar. Again, there is no right or wrong way here. Sorting things how you perceive they should be sorted is satisfying and simple.  It is a child-led (or person-led) activity and is educational because of the intensity of the sensory inputs: the freedom within the activity to make choices ( or to negotiate if in teams) gentle connection between sensory System 1 and pattern seeking System 2.

Learning with NatureI recommend Marina Robb’s book ‘Learning with Nature’ for more ideas on outdoor games and activities.  Whether in a Park, fields, or a scrubby patch in the back yard I encourage you and your children to get out more. Smell, look, taste, listen, touch find out what is safe and what isn’t. Have fun, breathe more deeply stretch your arms in the air, feel your feet grounded on earth. It is never too late to add more enrichment to your sensory network; the ‘compost’ of your foundation brain.

“The whole of science and one is tempted to think the whole of the life of any thinking man, is trying to come to terms with the relationship between yourself and the natural world. Why are you here and how do you fit in and what’s it all about?”
Sir David Attenborough


Landplay Therapy – Two Day Training Course with Kate Macairt.

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

Kate will be running her two day Landplay training in Essex on 25th & 26th May 2019. Please visit the Circle of Life Rediscovery website for further information and view full course information here.

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.


Recommended related reads

Berne Morris: 1989; Coming to our Senses
Brazier C: 2018; Ecotherapy in Practice
Jennings Sue: 2001; Embodiment-Projection-Roleplay
Kahneman D ;2011; Thinking Fast and Slow
Knight S: 2013; Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
Louv Richard : Last child in the Woods
Oaklander V : 2007; Windows to  our children,
Robb M et al : 2015; Learning with Nature
Young Jon: 2001: Exploring Natural Mystery: Kamana one

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