Forest School in Ramadan

Forest School in Ramadan

By Nadine Marroushi – Forest School Training Student

This month is a holy month for Muslims around the world. This week we are celebrating Forest School in Ramadan. The Islamic calendar is based around the lunar cycle and this year it begins on Monday 12th April and will end on 11th May.

It was on a yoga trek on the Nepalese side of the Himalayas a few years ago when I really stopped to take notice of how beautiful our Earth is. The sight of red rhododendrons set against majestic, ice-capped mountains really struck me. At the time, I had been working as a journalist in Egypt where there was a lot of violence. I remember thinking how privileged I was to experience something more peaceful and in harmony with nature. I think those were my first real steps to where I am today.

After journalism I turned to human rights campaigning and then I became a mother – another of life’s turning points. It was through my first child, my daughter, that I learned about forest school and the thought struck me: this is what I want to do. So, I am now training to be a Forest School Leader with Circle of Life Rediscovery and hope that one day I will run my own forest school programme.

“On Earth are signs for those whose faith is certain. And, also, in yourselves. Will you not then see?” The Quran, 51:20-21

Forest School in RamadanAs Forest School Leaders, our role is to help our learners develop a relationship with the natural world, so that they and we can reap many benefits: a more peaceful mental state, an appreciation for the trees, plants, birds, insects, animals, and a natural setting where we can play.


So, what does this month of Ramadan offer for our Forest School practice? Most people know Ramadan as the month in which Muslims around the world fast from Dawn till Dusk. But it is also the month in which the Quran is believed to have been revealed, in which Muslims are encouraged to pray more, read more of the Quran, reflect on its meanings, and be more charitable. It begins when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted, and ends after the full cycle of the moon and a new crescent is sighted again.

When we’re out in nature, one way I think we can connect Ramadan with our Forest School practice is to use the symbolism of the mandala. It is made with natural objects, such as sticks, leaves, fallen petals to form the circle and two sticks in the middle for the compass.


During my Forest School training, my teacher Marina Robb gave us a beautiful talk around the mandala. She talked about how the sun rises from the East and this being a symbol for birth, for the early years in our life, for the Spring season. When we reach towards the South, the sun is at its highest point in the day, we move towards the Summer time, and this can also symbolise our teenage years and our twenties when our energies and emotions are high, when our brains become fully developed.

And then we move towards the Autumn, towards the sun setting, the West. This being the part of our lives when we, like the leaves, develop into new shades. And, finally, the sun sets and we reach South, the latter part of our lives, our Elderhood, a phase that in traditional communities is respected not put away.

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director


“We are hugely impacted by nature,” says Marina Robb. “Everyone is on this natural cyclical journey. When you meet people, ask: where are they on this journey.”


The mandala is relevant too, I think, to the daily life of a Muslim. It could be used to explain the monthly cycle of the moon. It could also be used in relation to the five daily prayers, which is tied to the movement of the sun. Fajr, the Dawn prayer, begins with the red horizon in the sky before the sun rises from the East. At the North point, just after the sun passes its peak, it is time for the Dhuhr prayer, when shadow lengths are also at their shortest in the day. Then Asr, the afternoon prayer, when shadow lengths double. This is followed by Maghrib, the sunset prayer. And Ishaa, the night prayer.

“The sun and the moon travel with precision”. (The Quran, 55:5)

This year instead of paper we are using sticks to make our Ramadan lanterns, or fanous Ramadan in Arabic. All over the Muslim world, and particularly in Egypt where the tradition is said to originate, colourful lanterns decorate homes and shop fronts during this month.

Square lashing technique


To make our lanterns, I used the square lashing technique to make a cuboid structure.

Then, we used natural paint to dye calico. For yellow, we used turmeric and water. For pink, beetroot juice and for purple blueberry juice.


Natural paint to dye calico Collecting flowers and leaves and printed them on calico

We then collected flowers and leaves and printed them on calico. Our yellow patch turned out well, because the flora was freshly picked and immediately printed onto the calico with a wooden mallet we made in my forest school training. My daughter and I decided to paint some of the leaves gold and print them on to the purple calico patch because it is such a dark colour. With the pink side, our printing didn’t go as well, because the flora wasn’t freshly picked and so the natural moisture you need for the printing had dried out. Lesson learned.

Forest School in Ramadan Forest School in Ramadan Our Lanterns

I then tied the calico onto the lantern with the twine I used for square lashing. At night, we use an LED tea light candle to light it up.

Ramadan Kareem in Arabic, or Generous Ramadan.


Forest School Training in East Sussex

Marina Robb - Endorsed TrainerThe next course with Circle of Life Rediscovery takes place in June 2021. Approved by the Forest School Association and Awarded by the Open College Network West Midlands, this Level 3 Certificate provides the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to prepare learners to work as a Forest School Leader.

You can find out all the details and dates of the training on the website.


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.

Going Full Circle – Earth Day

Going Full Circle – Earth Day 2021
By Lisa Gylsen, Director

Thinking about Earth Day has made me reflect on certain times in my life when I just felt alive. I’m sure you know what I mean. One of those times for me was when myself and three others from the UK travelled to Canada for the Rediscovery International Leadership and Outdoor Training in 2003. It was a month long adventure training with a community comprising all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. We learned from indigenous leaders who inspired that wild knowing in all of us to come to the fore. Marina Robb was also one of our UK contingent and we quickly bonded with shared interests and friendship.

The first two weeks of the training took place at Pearson College, one of the United World Colleges. The mission of the UWC movement is to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” Although this was not what the training was specifically about it certainly was a theme and the essence of this seeped from the venue into us.

Earth DayWe had numerous workshops and time to interact with people doing this type of work. It was inspiring. The second part of the training was in the mountains north of
Calgary where we stayed in tepees as well as out in the open, learned indigenous skills, and had a number of sweat lodges, all of which imbedded this learning by actually experiencing it in nature.

The original remit of Rediscovery in Canada was to reconnect disaffected indigenous youth to their culture. This caught on and grew not only across Canada but across the world. Rediscovery International now seeks to empower youth of all ages to discover the world within themselves, the world between cultures and the natural world.

Circle of Life RediscoveryReturning to the UK we all participated in a couple of pilot camps in North Wales. The experience and feedback was great. Marina, upon returning home to Sussex, pondered how she could incorporate this new inspiration into a programme to make a difference in her area.

Her expertise and passion was in environmental education so she set up programmes to fill gaps in the curriculum as well as out days for youth to disconnect them from the world wide web and reconnect them with the whole wide world through nature.

I felt extremely honoured to be invited to be a Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery. I still feel lucky and inspired to maintain that directorship despite my move to Mauritius. I am currently raising my two internationally adopted girls in this multi-cultural country where nature abounds from beaches to mountains in close proximity. I often draw upon my Rediscovery experience as well as games and skills from Marina’s books in our home-schooling lifestyle.

Circle of Life Rediscovery has steadily grown and developed over the past 17 years in both its offerings as well as the myriad and tremendous number of people it has benefited. It has truly gone full circle and as such it’s philosophy is now “Transforming education, health, and family through nature.”

CAMHS, Youth and Family Woodland DaysFrom its original focus on education and youth, it has added people with disabilities and their families, disaffected communities, and now are getting significant benefits with their expertise in running programmes for mental health in nature. With a close relationship with the NHS there is increasing proof for the benefits and the opportunities to make a difference are extremely exciting.

On top of all this Marina has found time to develop The Outdoor Teacher to supplement but not replace training in nature for other practitioners.


The Outdoor Teacher is an excellent tool, accessible wherever you are. Numerous trainings, train the trainer, online training, highly subscribed webinars offered by highly experienced and passionate individuals make the offerings and support this company provide exceptional.

I am even more excited now than in the beginning to be a part of Circle of Life
Rediscovery and to see its impact continue to grow and inspire.

A Poem for Earth Day


A Poem for Earth Day

The Lost Words Blessing


Enter the wild with care my love,
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river
May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter
May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding
Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light
And in the dead of night my darling, find the gleaming eye of starling
Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home.


Forest School Activities Online TrainingCircle 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.

International Day Of Forests

On Spring Equinox weekend, we celebrate International Day of Forests!

International Day Of Forests
Traditionally this is a day to remember the balance of light and dark and the movement out of winter into Spring. After the year we have all experienced, there is hope and the promise of new life in the forest.


On International Day of Forests today, I am walking in the community woodland I co-chair in East Sussex (Laughton Greenwood), I enjoy the signs of spring – primroses, larch tree flowers, tree buds of the wild service trees, goat willow and silver birch on the verge of opening, and the blue bells leaves emerging from under the blanket of the autumn and winter leaves. Glad we made it. I have a friend who once reminded me that I may only see this sight for 30 more times (if I make it to 80 years old).

Away days in East SussexIn this unusual year, I am acutely aware that where I put my attention is extremely valuable. I know that I don’t want to miss the simple yet irreplaceable beauty of the forests, the sunsets, the flowers and the priceless non-human artistry around us.


“Natural treasures, in roots, wood and leaves, for beauty, for use, the air that we breathe. Imagine: a wood begins with one small seed. We’re stronger together – people and trees.” Harriet Fraser, 2017

We need to be able to spend time in places with trees, to experience first hand the direct benefits of ‘being’ in these restorative spaces. It’s necessary to take time away from our screens and our thinking minds, and allow space for a realisation or a new perspective.

Forest Bathing in East Sussex

A popular new idea in this part of the world is Forest Bathing, soaking up the health benefits of the forest, widely researched in Japan and beyond.

As a nature practitioner of over 30 years the ‘therapeutic activities’ we introduce during all our work – be that in Away Days, Forest School Training, our CPD’s all combine this wonderful mix of personal development and experiential nature connection drawing on ‘invitations’ that are creative, sensory, focus our attention, are mindful, playful and feel good.


Trees really are extraordinary! Apart from their gifts of medicines, timber, climbing and homes to insects, birds and mammals – they have this unusual ability to regrow when cut down. Our ancestors learned to work with the trees to both increase the diversity of the forests and woods, applying a woodland management technique of coppicing and pollarding. These regenerative techniques support human and non-human life. Our forests need both celebrating and protecting. The Japanese have an ancient technique of producing wood for 700 years without cutting down trees – the daisugi technique from the 14th century.

Here the technique allows for the caretaking of future generations of both plants and humans. What is exciting for me is that we do have the ability and opportunity to work with nature. We can learn to mimic it’s majesty, intelligence, diversity and create a regenerative path to recovery and well-being for all.

Marina Robb, Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery and The Outdoor Teacher

Forest School Activities Online TrainingCircle 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.

National Tree Week 2020

Circle of Life Rediscovery

For many years I have held the question, ‘What motivates people to care about the natural world and value nature.’ Yet, as we know so well, access to nature is not available to all, and that the bright screens of the 21st Century enclose us ever more to the indoors.

However, by training practitioners from education and health to be competent and confident to embed nature-based practice in their workplace, we can create a sustainable and realistic way forward.

My favourite childhood memory was a tree just in front of my house. I was small enough to sit hidden under its branches and watch the world pass me undiscovered for hours. It was a place of safety and curiosity with its soft boughs skirting all around me. I am pretty sure it was this tree that provided a place for me to learn to self-regulate, to feel what I was feeling, without judgement or cognitive understanding. It was here that I dug to Australia (a common childhood pastime apparently!) and imagined the vastness of the Earth. I suppose the seed of this organisation has grown out of a ‘below the brain’, body-based appreciation of nature, and in particular trees.

This week here in the UK, we celebrate National Tree Week and I have no doubt that our woodland culture roots infuses my own and our wider collective memory.

It is somewhat contradictory then, that I have embarked on creating a series of online video-based resources.

Four years ago, I was invited to deliver Forest School-type Training in various cities in China. During the first few days, I couldn’t see the sky due to pollution and I was a little overwhelmed by the cities’ population – some 30 million, one of the smaller cities.

In contrast to my sensory experiences, my hosts and the people were wonderfully kind, enthusiastic and wanted to provide access to nature to the children in their care in urban and other spaces.

As a former primary school teacher, I could see that, like here in the UK, there is this tension and often a misunderstanding of what we mean by learning outdoors or the Forest School approach and where it can happen. Classic questions like, do you need a forest to teach Forest School, and if not, why are you calling it Forest School? Teachers worry that they may not be doing, ‘real outdoor learning’ or what is ‘real Forest School’.

Outdoor learning is the learning that happens, the skill is how we observe and perhaps choose or not, to link this back to the curriculum or to well-being.

In short, I realised that one keyway to share learning and expertise for practitioners is to use high quality professional visual-based trainings. This is cheaper for the practitioner or school/nursery, builds on the expertise of the practitioner’s direct experience of working with their ‘clients’, and can happen at their own pace in their own time. I am a huge advocate of direct trainings too, yet undoubtedly, a resource that can be returned to again and again is really helpful.

Learning with Nature Book

As an author of a how-to book (Learning with Nature), I know how valuable a well written book with good photos can be for a practitioner or parent.

However, bringing that alive through video and footage of how to do an activity, does show in ‘real time’ the details that a book can struggle to convey.

The ultimate goal here is to facilitate practitioners to increase access, well-being and learning for the groups they work with – including parents/carers and their children.

Forest School Activities Online Training

Enter, ‘The Outdoor Teacher’: it is designed as a comprehensive training portal for outdoor activities and pedagogy (with new resources added over the seasons), based on my 30 years of experience as a nature practitioner, trainer and working with school-age children and specialist groups.

A common myth is that you have to do a Forest School Training to take children out of doors. Those of us who have been teaching outdoors for many years, know that is not the case – though you do need to be competent, have risk assessments in place and have the appropriate insurance.

The Outdoor Teacher

With this platform I wanted to provide educators, carers and mental health professionals with accessible, practical support to deliver their work in nature, and my fellow outdoor practitioners with the tools to develop broader teaching and personal development skills in their practice.

My intention is simple, to bring these skills to a much wider audience. My hope is that schools and the health services – two of our largest systems expand nature-centred training to their staff so that they can bring nature into their practice making it part of an everyday education and health choice. 

“You will find this resource is absolutely packed with ‘activities’ and details that enable yourself and your own learners to explore the natural world in a safe and yet challenging way.” Jon Cree, Director Forest School Association.

The 8 modules cover the following topics:

  • Fire and Pedagogy
  • Ropes and knots
  • Cooking on a fire
  • Shelters and Play
  • Using Tools
  • Natural Crafts and Play
  • Wild Plants and Foraging
  • Nature Awareness Games

In each module, there are many of the ‘practical aspects’ of leading and facilitating experiences and connection to the natural world and each other which are communicated through a number of short films that take you through small achievable steps. There is a clear commentary of why we do what we do. Many of the films show me working with groups of children and young people demonstrating the ‘reality’ of working with the activities.

These are then backed up with downloadable resources such as risk benefit assessments and descriptions of the activities.

The Outdoor Teacher

We are delighted to have Early Childhood Outdoor as an affiliate. This scheme allows like-minded organisations to share profit and support all our endeavours to bring the outdoors to as many people as possible.

Marina Robb, Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery and The Outdoor Teacher

Forest School Activities Online Training
Circle of Life Rediscovery

Literacy Day 2020

For Literacy Day here are 10 reasons to teach literacy outside.

The Covid crisis has shown an increase in 60% of our population’s appreciation of the natural world. Yet still so many of our children have not had access to nature during these months or as part of their educational experience.

Literacy Day 2020

We decided the greatest impact we could have was to train people to practice themselves. Whilst there is a lot of focus on early years and literacy, the value of reading, writing, talking and listening outside for children and young people of all ages is significant.

Please see our Blog below from Juliet Robertson – 10 reasons to teach Literacy outside:

1. It makes the learning and teaching of spelling and grammar fun, relevant and interesting.

2. Children enjoy making miniature worlds which then become the scene for a story. They can sculpt and shape their imaginative thoughts. This helps them understand about creating a setting with words.

3. The world around us provides inspiration for writing poems. The results are consistently of a better quality than poetry written in the classroom.

4. As we move from place to place, our thoughts, feelings and actions change. This helps us understand that this happens to characters in a story too. We can make our character descriptions more authentic.

5. There is nothing like reading a ghost book or horror story in a creepy place. Or making up your own. The setting doubles the atmosphere created.

6. When we play games we can write down instructions about how to play them. Our knowledge of being outside can be used to write advice to others about how to avoid being stung by a wasp or what to do if a nettle stings you. Functional writing has additional purpose and relevance.

7. Real life experiences help us develop our vocabulary and comprehension. For example, some children find vocabulary introduced in a book confusing. He or she may not necessarily understand that a river, lake, stream and pond are all bodies of water. Sometimes concepts that are read about in a book do not make sense until they are seen, felt or experienced for real.

8. We’re not reading at our desks. Hardly anyone reads at a desk unless they are at school or in an office. Reading for pleasure should be at leisure.

9. The art of naming, describing and knowing about the world around us matters. You can learn the umpteen descriptions to describe the stem of a plant. But without observing these, it is much harder to memorise or to truly know and understand.

10. Children engage with their learning outside and this has a knock-on effect back in the classroom too, according to a recent study.

Lighting the Literacy Fire – CPD on 21st October 2020
Literacy Day 2020

Come and spend a busy, happy day with Juliet Robertson, exploring literacy outside.

Together, we: 

  • Explore the practicalities of developing any outdoor space as a literacy-rich environment on a shoestring budget using natural materials and sustainable approaches.
  • Look at approaches to ensuring your children become prolific mark makers outside using a range of creative approaches and through careful attention to their physical development.
  • Consider the joy of facilitating many contexts for listening and talking.
  • Ensure that a range of texts and narratives are an everyday part of your outdoor practice.

This course is suitable for those who work with children in EYFS or are hoping to do so.

The courses are backed up by oodles of resources on a password protected blog post and the many blog posts that are readily accessible on the Creative STAR website. 


Messy Maths – CPD on 20th October 2020

Juliet will also be running Messy Maths CPD on 20th October 2020 – An Outdoor, Playful Approach for Early Years.


Webinars with Juliet Robertson and Circle of Life Rediscovery

Juliet is an educational consultant  specialising in Outdoor Learning and Play.  Join us for  ‘live’, interactive webinars this Autumn.   If you can’t make it, just register and we will send you all the recordings and access to many current and useful resources to view on your own time.

With increased interest in the use of outdoor spaces for teaching and learning, these webinars ‘More Messy Maths’  and ‘Mud, Mess & Magic’ will equip you to develop your confidence and meet curriculum needs whilst teaching outside.


About Juliet Robertson
Check out our webinars with Juliet Robertson

Juliet is an educational consultant who specialises in outdoor learning and play. Previously, she was the head teacher of three schools ranging in size from 6 to 277 pupils. Juliet is based in Scotland and has worked at a national level since 2008 writing case studies, documents and doing behind the scenes work to help shape strategy and support for schools and early years establishments.

This includes heading up the team that wrote the Education Scotland document, Outdoor Learning: A Practical Guide for Scottish Teachers and Practitioners(2011), co-authoring Loose Parts Play – A Toolkit (2016 & 2019) and being part of the Scottish Government strategy group that created A Play Strategy for Scotland (2013). Most recently, Juliet contributed to Out to Play (2018), a Scottish early years document supporting practitioners to develop off-site provision in local greenspace. Find out more.

About Circle of Life Rediscovery
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

Well-being: the Self, Other, our Mental Health and Nature.

Growing up is never easy! Often what we long for as adults, is really an indicator of what we need most in our lives. As practitioners who work with children and young people, we are more effective when we have the ability to know our unmet needs which provides a greater capacity to generate love and care for ourselves. It is from this place that we can care for another child or person.

Mental Health and Nature

When we are young, most of us didn’t get what we needed all the time (the human condition) and even more important, we didn’t know how to get it. How to reach out for help, and continue to do this, when the ‘other’, the adult rejects us in some form or another.

We naturally learn to compensate and it is by reclaiming our vulnerability – a very misunderstood term, that we can find our way to well-being and to support the well-being of others.

At the heart of being human, is the essential need of human relationship – the other. Our psychological development through the stages of life – from birth to elderhood, grows this sense of self. Our lives grow in the wider context of the natural world too. We are nature, and ‘our nature’ is fundamental to health and learning. Much of our nature-based practice is underpinned by what I call, Nature-centric wheels.

The Nature-Centric Wheel below shows the stages of life from 0 – 80, linking these to both times of the day and a compass direction. At its simplest level – the East (Spring) direction is sunrise, the beginning of the day and life (the baby), the north direction is elderhood, the night-time or winter of our lives!

Nature-centric Wheel

The prevalence of ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) echoes the widespread reality of childhood trauma-related experience. Years of nature-based practice has also shown me how the natural world, as ‘other’ silently reflects back to us, offering metaphors and sensory experience that support our growth and development.

In many ways for many of us lucky enough to have played and enjoyed nature as a child or adult, the role of nature as an unconditional friend represents an un-scarred relationship.

Mental Health and Nature

“In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”
(Alice Walker)

There is a link between our ability to understand our own behaviours, those of others, our knowledge and ease with different mental states (feelings, thoughts, beliefs) and the ability to respond to infant’s emotions and feelings.

feelings, thoughts, beliefs

How do we as practitioners develop our ability to respond authentically to children, to maintain a healthy distance from our reactions to be genuinely available to listen, non-verbally as well, to the ‘other’ person in our care? To consider how we empower, despite our positional power? Meeting our needs, awareness of power dynamics, our triggers, what supports our and others self-regulation is part of creating a safe and resilient environment for our children.

Fortunately practice in nature supports self-regulation – all the bottom up (body-based) strategies. Our autonomic nervous system is soothed, our threat system is reduced, and we are all more able to have fulfilling relationships with each other – all increasing our ‘attainment’ potential.

Health and Learning are deeply intertwined. When we enjoy learning, have healthy bodies and lifestyles – which include playing and learning in the outdoors, we become socially confident and connected people, who feel valued for their contributions – power is shared. The intrinsic motivation, autonomy, sovereignty we encourage through child-centred/self-directed approaches, also help us to trust others and learn to meet our needs.

Many of us know how it felt to be in school and not enjoy the experience. When people are asked what most stopped them in a subject from continuing, they often point to a time when they were shamed by an adult.

According to Brene Brown (2017), your real sense of worthiness relates to the core 4 sense qualities below.

Take a moment to consider your own sense of self and if you feel you are worthy of love and belonging?

Can you:

  • Tell the story of who you are, with the courage to be imperfect (sense of courage)
  • Are you kind to yourself first, before others (sense of compassion)
  • Are you authentic, willing to let go of who you think you should be, to be who you are (sense of connection)
  • Are you willing to say things, like I love you, or help, to be imperfect, to be seen (sense of vulnerability)

We learn through the actions of others, often that we are not fundamentally okay.  We are punished (or rewarded) for our expressions and we learn that our range of feelings and behaviours are not acceptable.  We hide who we are.   Children from the poorest 20% of households are four times as likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 as though from the wealthiest 20% (Morrison Gutman et al 2015); Children and young people with a learning disability are three times more likely than average to have a mental health problem (Lavis et al 2019) (see Mental Health inequalities in Numbers, Centre for Mental Health 2020).

In my experience of working with teenagers for over 15 years, referred from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health service (CAMHS) to our long-term nature programme, I almost always discover young people who are incredibly emotionally aware, yet have not found a way yet to belong.

The Nature Gateway Project

How can we best support children and young people now and into the future? At Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC, we are pioneering ‘ The Nature Gateway Project’ – a four day training (supported with webinars and a manual)  that equips practitioners from all backgrounds to take their practice into the outdoors. 

We are currently looking for key practitioners and stakeholders who would like to take part free of charge in funded, ‘Proof of Concept Training’ – for education and health practitioners, starting in Spring/Summer 2021. 

This is an invitation to radically re-imagine our relationship between nature, education and human mental health whilst offering a practical course in how to do this that is accessible, relevant and of its time!

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact, Marina Robb (Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd.

CPD Training courses available

Circle of Life Rediscovery is passionate about training schools, organisations and education departments, in Outdoor Learning, Forest School and Nature-based Practise. We offer a full programme of CPD courses, Forest School Training and in-house training.

Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space – Free webinars and two day training course:

Over the past few months we have recorded a series of webinars; Nature Play and the Therapeutic Space. These webinars are and introduction to and part of a longer ‘live’ two day training in nature (September 24th & 25th 2020), specifically to help and support children who are struggling within a group.

The aim is to develop your facilitation skills and ability to work with children that present difficult behaviours and explore therapeutic nature-play skills (e.g. reflective communication and use of puppets & sand) which will engage the group of children and individuals building their emotional regulation, curiosity, imagination and well-being.

Please view the FREE webinars and course details on our website. This course can also be delivered in-house at your setting. Minimum numbers apply. Contact us for details.

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors:

Run by Jon Cree, 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

This course takes place 9th-11th November and you can find details here. This course can also be delivered in-house at your setting. Minimum numbers apply. Contact us for details.

Marina Robb

Marina Robb (PGCE; MsC, MA)  is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature.  She is a leading author, green practitioner and educator in the outdoor sector, an international trainer in the design and delivery of nature-based experiences and an advocate for the integration of environmental, education and health and well-being services. 

Marina is Author of ‘Learning with Nature’ & Upcoming New Book written with Jon Cree: ‘The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy’ published by Routledge Winter 2020/21.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Forest Kindergarten: Nature Play

Let’s connect – a sense of place and belonging

Forest Kindergarten Training

Everything has a story to tell, whether it’s a person, object or a place. But it’s the connection between people and their memories/stories that make places special, unique and gives us a sense of belonging.

For some, we are instantly taken back to our childhood. Maybe somewhere we loved exploring, a place that makes us feel at home or maybe a place where you feel close and connected to significant people in your lives. When we develop a sense of place, we develop a story of our lives, a narrative.

Over the course of this year I have been continuing to deepen my understanding of developing a “sense of place” and have found myself musing on imagining a world where everyone was emotionally connected to the place where they lived.

I have often wondered what that may look and feel like. In my mind this would be a place which would be cherished, cared for, communities would come together and have a heightened sense of responsibility and stewardship. This is the type of world I long to live in… don’t you?

Why is developing a sense of place so important?

There are many outcomes we could list that occur when we feel emotionally secure in a place. For children, if they feel comfortable in a place then they feel able to explore, play, take risks and become directors of their learning. This takes time to nurture.

Here are a few other reasons for why developing a sense of place is so important:

  • Developing a deeper connection and sense of belonging
  • Feeling grounded, comfortable and familiar
  • Connecting to our past and a growing personal identity
  • Developing an appreciation of natural resources
  • We become inspired to care and protect our local spaces for the future
  • Developing empathy

Out of all the terribly sad and heart-breaking moments that COVID 19 has brought on us in 2020, on reflection there has been one positive reaction, or maybe should I say interaction, because people connected. With time through enforced lockdown, people connected not only with each other but with the land around them.

Daily walks became longed for and valued and people began to notice. They saw seasons change from spring into summer and they noticed the pace of the wildlife around them… people stopped, were still, observed and listened. A pause in time has given nature a chance… people have begun to see its value.

So with this all in mind, what better time to start the seed of change.

Let's Connect - Forest Kindergarten Training

If we want to live in a world where the physical landscape becomes part of a person’s self-identity, people belong and feel connected, then we need to put more emphasis on building a sense of place into our youngest children’s experiences.

For a sense of place and belonging doesn’t happen overnight. It is a perfect blend of many moments that develop a personal history of memories and through shared experiences these will evoke feelings and connect children with their place. A sense of place can’t be pre-packaged or bought. It takes time, reflection and thought.

Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play

The approach “Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play” is an ideal approach which is built around giving children regular experiences in nature, visiting their local greenspace and exploring through playful experiences and stimulating all the senses.

Circle of Life Rediscovery offers a 2-day training course that supports this approach. Throughout the two-day training practitioners can:

  • Reflect on current practice
  • Develop ideas for how routines and rituals in nature can support a growing sense of place
  • Explore ideas of nature play
  • Understand some different approaches to support pedagogy

The course takes place in East Sussex on 22nd October & 4th November 2020, find out more here. Please see below for our short introductory webinar based on the course.

This course can also be delivered at your setting to a minimum of 15 people.

Marina Robb & Louise Hack: An introduction to Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play
Taking the time to build local nature play into your day to day routines!

Taking the time to build local nature play into your day to day routines and exploring a local park, wood or field will undoubtedly allow your learners to feel more connected to nature and to themselves.

Over time, adults and children will develop a growing respect and gratitude for their local place which in turn encourages children to want to protect and become guardians of their special place for the future.

In addition, it has also been noted by practitioners that by increasing positive time in nature with young children generated a “ripple effect.” This “ripple effect” involved their children encouraging the wider family to explore their special places thereby forming greater emotional attachment to the land which was passed across generations.

Let's Connect

This is the dream isn’t it? To live in a world where people connect, value and appreciate our planet and each other and nurture well-being so that we grow together as a community.

So maybe, just maybe now is the time to act and focus on really belonging to our world. Not just watching our world from a window, app or television screen but by being outside, by being present in the moment, breathing in the air, feeling the sun on our face and plunging our fingers into the soil.

Let’s connect.

By Louise Hack.

The Forest School Activities Online Training Course

Our Director Marina Robb has created a new online training. Marina wanted to offer a quality training resource that is accessible to a wider audience, who can’t get to our woods in person!
It includes over 100 training videos and resources with step by step instructions designed to inspire new ideas for both experienced and novice practitioners.

Click on the image below to find out more:

Forest School Activities Online Training

Forest School

Did you know that offering Forest School as part of your education is one of the best learning and health opportunity for children? Why not make it part of every child’s experience this Autumn?

The Covid crisis has shown an increase in 60% of our population’s appreciation of the natural world. Yet still so many of our children have not had access to nature during these months or as part of their educational experience.

Circle of Life Rediscovery was founded in 2007 to enable those members of our society to have access to nature – 50% of what we offer is free to more vulnerable groups. We decided the greatest impact we could have was to train people to practice themselves.

Learning with Nature

We are leading trainers in Forest School, with our Director, Marina Robb authoring two books, Learning with Nature and this year’s new publication due to come out end of 2020, ‘The essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy’ (Co-authored with Jon Cree, Director of the Forest School Association).

We work closely with experts in the field and across the world to bring the best practice possible to children, young people and adults who work with young people within their service. My previous blog, exposed the link between the deforestation and the wildlife trade, linking to the prevalence of ‘zoonotic’ diseases like COVID 19.

The thing is, we are all connected. By offering learning and health opportunities in nature we can put our well-being and caring for nature at the forefront of all our sectors. We need to mimic natures joined up ways, by joining up our thinking to provide an education that reflects all our human aspects.

Why is this so important? Support the Nature Premium

We are getting behind the new campaign launched by the Forest School Association last week, ‘The Nature Premium’. Their website says it all and the currents statistics are pretty alarming. Our children spend less time in nature than prison inmates. We rely on our Natural Health Service. It is a vital medium to our mental health. It is however not equally accessible for all, leaving many families, young people and adults without many of the benefits.

Support the Nature Premium

“Time in nature is crucial for children’s mental and physical well-being: the benefits are far-reaching and well-documented. Nature provides a way to feel refreshed, revitalised, calm and relaxed.

People who visit nature have greater life satisfaction, more self-worth, more happiness and less anxiety. Other benefits include better resilience, improvements in social functioning and social inclusion. Its benefits for physical well-being are critical too: in the UK obesity affects around 1 in every 5 children aged 10 to 11 and in 2014-15 the NHS spent an estimated £6.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill health. Research published in 2018 showed that children used more energy on a school day with Forest School (playing in woods), than on a school day with P.E. Wildlife Trust research also found that natural environments can play a key role in increasing physical activity levels. Not all children enjoy organised games and team competition: playing in a nature rich environment is more inclusive.” (The Nature Premium Website).

So why not get in touch to see if we can support you to get your children into the outdoors:

  1. We can offer you Forest School and outdoor learning days on site or a nearby park, or at our Community woodland near Laughton, East Sussex.

    “Thank you so much for another fantastic day of fun and learning at a beautiful site hosted by highly professional facilitators The students really had a brilliant time and had a day to remember. I wish there was time in the curriculum to spend more days like today.”
    Steve Green, Ringmer Academy.

  2. Learn to be a Forest School practitioner – our next training starts in November 2020 – we are endorsed by the FSA and will offer the most extensive learning experience that will set you up to offer the best Forest School practice!
Forest School Training

“The Forest School Training was by far the best training I have ever experienced – a great balance of theory and practical skills. Just truly an amazing experience, I feel confident to now deliver sessions.”

“I loved how all the participants were bought together through activities, games and music and how I have noticed nature at a different level. There was an excellent combination of outdoor and classroom lessons.”

“I loved everything about this training, from the skills learned, enthusiasm of the trainers and have learnt so much about nature. Thank you for an AMAZING time with a lovely team.”

The Forest School Activities Online Training Course

Our Director Marina Robb has created a new online training. Marina wanted to offer a quality training resource that is accessible to a wider audience, who can’t get to our woods in person!
It includes over 100 training videos and resources with step by step instructions designed to inspire new ideas for both experienced and novice practitioners.
There is a £60 discount available if you enrol on our Forest School Training Level 3 Course. The course contains 8 modules which cost £30 each if bought separately, so with this discount the bundle price of 8 modules will cost £135.
Click on the image below to find out more:

Transforming 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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

01273 814226

Common Ground Interviews

We are embarking with a series of interviews to share our common humanity that lies beneath our many differences. I am interested in increasing all our chances of being heard and understood, including the non-human world.

After the first interview, I found myself pulling out an old book from my shelf called, “Neither Wolf nor Dog”. Within minutes of reading I found the following summary of words:

“We can like each other, hate each other, feel pity for each other, love each other. But always, somewhere beneath the surface of our personal encounters, this cultural memory is rumbling. Tragedies have taken place on our land, and even though it may not have taken place on our watch, we are its inheritors, and the earth remembers.” (Kent Nerburn 2002).

These series of interviews search for common meaning, common understanding and common redemption. It doesn’t matter if we are on opposite sides. We aim to reach across our differences and hold each other in common embrace.

“We stand, strong and adamant, within the confines of our own values and self-understandings, but we reach out and care for each other”. (ibid)

Let’s not distort the reality of people we really care about and turn them into a reflection of our own needs. Let’s be unashamedly who we are and trust that those who see us will honour what they see, and treat it with gentleness and respect. Let’s realise that the world we enter is not ours to reduce to the size and shape of our understanding.

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director.

Common Ground with Matt Belhumeur

Matt Belhumeur is a Cree Man from The Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement in Alberta, Canada. He is a single father to a beautiful daughter who is currently six years old. Matt is currently in his 4th year of college chasing a degree in Indigenous social work.

On our 4th Common Ground interview below, Marina Robb and Matt Belhumeur discuss:

  • What does it mean to reclaim your own education?
  • How do we move towards healing? 
  • What do we need to hear as the ‘colonialists’? 

“I feel very honoured to be apart of what I feel is the beginning of my people reclaiming their education. I believe that we are amid an especially important shift within our country as there are more and more of our people becoming educated. Together this will enable us to hold people accountable and create conversations around how to best dissemble those systems that are founded on colonisation and systemic racism.”

Please view the interview below:

Matt is the indigenous liaison worker in an organisation that specialises in working together with children and youth. The goal there is to give the people the tools they need to help regulate their behaviours and work through the traumas that they may have faced in their lives. His programme specifically takes a relationship-based approach in helping the people heal. He includes those indigenous practices and utilises talking circles, fire teachings, land-based teachings, sweat lodge and other ceremony just to name a few. 

“This has been an exciting journey so far and I look forward to completing my education and beginning the next chapter in my life, wherever that might be I guess only creator knows.”

To view all of our Common Ground interviews, please see our website.

Transforming 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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

01273 814226

World Environment Day

Viruses, Deforestation and Wildlife Trade, what do these have in common?

By Marina Robb, Founding Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery

Among the barrage of news around Covid 19, I finally succumbed to listening once again to the BBC News. An almost unnoticed comment has left me shocked – again.

World Environment Day

A scientist briefly commented that there is a direct link to the Wild Life Trade, Deforestation and the increase in the spread and likelihood of viruses into the human population. Covid 19 is just one example.

We are in this situation because of our treatment of animals and our ancient forests.

I had to let this fleeting interview land in me. I had to repeat it to all my children and husband. I feel a little stupid too. My anger and exasperation covering my grief. Why isn’t this one of the big conversations – how we treat the non-human world.

In 1989 I was joint-coordinator for Friends of the Earth Rainforest Group in Manchester – a lively 19 year old who began to fight for the Rainforests. At that point ‘the fight’ was all we understood and whist it made a difference, we hadn’t yet really begun own personal work – our own anger projected onto the world.

To this day we continue to relentlessly fell these ancient systems – and this is happening all around the Earth. The 1992 Earth Summit was a hopeful moment for us. Agenda 21 and local initiatives. I know as a 51 year old now, that real change takes time. There have been changes – care for nature is no longer alternative, yet we are still operating together like parasites.

World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day and whilst I will celebrate the incredible beauty and generosity of the Earth I am deeply saddened and shocked that our human systems do not yet work alongside the Natural systems.

Our own life is indebted to this Natural world. It is so incredibly basic, that children totally understand this necessary cooperation between humans and the non-humans and the consequences of breaking this sacred alliance.

Yet I still found myself shocked at the BBC comment in the news last week.

What is this link to this current COVID reality?

What is this link to this current COVID reality? Between 1990 and 2016 – that’s 26 years (half my life time) we have lost Forest’s the size of South Africa – that’s 5 Uk’s in 26 years – from all over the world – Nigeria, Indonesia, Amazon.

You may hear about the effects of deforestation – soil erosion & nutrients, water cycle – the heating of water, loss of biodiversity, climate change. This can all feel very far away in a country like England. With Covid, many more people are dying, with a huge increase in people starving – the thread to our lives here has got our attention. But do we understand why viruses are on the increase?

Deforestation is leading to more infectious diseases in humans: As land is burned to make way for agriculture – our meat and veg – the trees for example, stop producing fruit and bats have to fly elsewhere – they have no option but to leave their home nibbling fruit near human populations, where domesticated animals also feed. In 1999 the Nipah virus in Malaysia caused severe brain inflammation and people died – this Virus didn’t spread too much.

The science shows that deforestation triggers a complex set of deadly conditions – Lassa Viruses, parasites that cause Malaria and Lyme disease, Corona viruses – that spread to humans.

“It’s pretty well established that deforestation can be a strong driver of infectious disease transmission,” says Andy MacDonald, a disease ecologist at the Earth Research Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s a numbers game: The more we degrade and clear forest habitats, the more likely it is that we’re going to find ourselves in these situations where epidemics of infectious diseases occur.”

As the forests are destroyed, so there is an increase in deadly viruses and parasites (10% per year). 60% of the new infectious diseases that emerge in people – HIV, Ebola, Nipah and now Corona all originated in forest-swelling animals and are transmitted by other wildlife. Humans can unknowingly host the diseases as we know with Covid 19.

What if we invested in and protected our Forests – we would save millions in freely gaining from greater health, and less need for vaccines etc (let alone all the other benefits).

The World is Closed! World Environment Day

Bats are thought to also host Corona Virus – and it seems that the virus was transmitted to humans. Remember please that bats play a major role in pollinating fruit trees – so please don’t think to ‘kill the enemy’. Bats are hunted for food in low income populations and used in traditional medicine.

The Guardian reported the human impact on wildlife to blame for the spread of viruses. See the article here.

The Guardian reported the human impact on wildlife to blame for the spread of viruses.

Separately, more than 200 of the world’s wildlife groups have written to the World Health Organization (WHO) calling on it to recommend to countries a highly precautionary approach to the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade, and a permanent ban on all live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.

You can read the letter here.

Human health is linked to animal health and land health – you don’t need to be a scientist to know this.

The organisations argue that zoonotic diseases are responsible for over 2 billion cases of human illness and over 2 million human deaths each year, including from Ebola, Mers, HIV, bovine tuberculosis, rabies, and leptospirosis.

The commercial trade in wildlife is horrific. Look up some pictures and footage. It’s horrific. We are all implicated – it’s not just happening over there. The risks are increased by the conditions in which the animals are farmed or collected from the wild and transported, sold etc. The use in traditional medicine too – strange for me as in my experience most traditional medicine is from plants and I can only assume using wildlife is a dysfunctional damaged modern development.

And what of the illegal trade of wildlife. The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit has a tiny budget to deal with a criminal industry worth billions of pounds that damages local communities and regeneration opportunities particularly in Africa. You can add your name to the ‘Care2IFAWpetition’, ‘Step up Against Wildlife Cybercrime’.

For us here at Circle of Life Rediscovery, a community interest company – we want to help transform education and health through nature. To rediscover this love and appreciation of the complexity of nature and humans evolution together – a cooperative journey of co-participation.

We have every possibility to change and bring our economic, social, education and health systems in line with natural law. We can redirect our funds and thinking towards this child-like world understanding that we are part of this wonderful living earth and rediscover our ecological identity.

Common Ground Interview with Professor Jan White

To this end, I will be interviewing Jan White as part of our Common Ground series – please come and join us for Free!

What is ecological identity and attachment? Jan White and Marina Robb discuss:

  • What do we mean by ecological identity?
  • What kind of play drives can be met by nature to deepen the relationship?
  • How attachment theory can be applied, physiological processes that operate as nature meets the play drive that expresses a deep psychological need.

Date: 10th June 2020
Time: 3pm – 4pm
How to join: Via Zoom, please click here to join. Meeting ID: 865 3049 2997. Please click here to find your local number.

Common Ground with Jan White

Professor Jan White works as an independent consultant across the UK and internationally, Jan is a leading thinker and writer on outdoor play and advocate for high quality outdoor provision for services for children from birth to seven. She is honorary Professor of Practice with the University of Wales Trinity St David and co-founder/ strategic director of Early Childhood Outdoors, the National Centre for Play, Learning and Wellbeing Outdoors.

With thirty-five years’ experience in education, Jan has developed a deep commitment to the consistently powerful effect of the outdoors on young children. READ MORE.

Transforming 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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

01273 814226