Forest Kindergarten

Breathing Life into Literacy

By Louise Hack

Education and lives have changed hugely over the last 50 years. We now live in a fast world- fast food, fast internet access, firing off a quick email to numerous people and flicking between many screens. Our brains have developed into high speed trains which somehow are able to cope with constant quick episodes of conversation, information and interactions without moving from the comfort of our seats.

Education seems to mirror this more and more and there is an ever- increasing rush to put pen to paper, be still, write at length, test and assess with less and less time to connect, explore and wonder. However, when you strip it right back learning is a process and a messy one at that! We need to consider the core elements of learning and surely the rights of the child and we need to put them at the heart of our teaching.

They must therefore include the following:

  • Making connections (people, nature)
  • Active play and learning (time, space, following own interests and fascinations)
  • Exploration
  • Developing self-emotions, confidence, resilience, problem solving and independence

And what better place to enhance and develop these areas? Yes you’ve got it – the
outdoors!

I believe that moving literacy into the outdoor environment inspires children,
stimulates their imagination, makes sense of the world around them that they will
ultimately be reading and writing about. In this article, we are going to explore how to integrate literacy into nature by using the big outdoor classroom.

So…. get ready, lift yourselves up from your desks, pull on your waterproofs and be
prepared to get your hands dirty as you open the doors to literacy learning beyond
the classroom walls. Go forth… explore, discover and wonder and I guarantee you
will notice significant changes with engagement, energy, ownership and emotional
involvement- both yours and the children you teach..

Rituals and personal stories – on a recent Forest Kindergarten training event with
Juliet Robertson we discussed the importance of rituals in play and behaviour.
Rituals can create order and help us to create sense to our world. All animals seek
rituals and even my gorgeous but slightly anxious Ozzy dog seeks familiar and
ordered events on his walks and wanderings. I have learnt to follow his lead – who
am I to try and avoid one of the sniffed but much loved bunny holes!

As a child rituals were an important part of my world and I still remember them fondly from the chants we used to say as we crossed bridges to school to the gentle shake of a low lying branch to wish the old tree a good day. Rituals are repetitive, help children to feel secure, tune them into their environment and aid transitions. Rituals help to form personal histories and stories which in turn aids storytelling. So when out and about with little ones – look around you and consider how you can create stories with the places you visit regularly. Tune in with your world – really look and explore. Children will never forget all the little things.

Forest Kindergarten - creating charactersCreating characters – creating characters or woodland creatures is a lovely activity for young children to do quite early on using the natural materials that they find.

It can help them to feel safe to have a little creature that lives in the woods who they come to find each week and someone that they can have adventures with. It can also help to develop empathy, friendship and relationships.

 

By creating a character hands on, they can start to develop the descriptive language whilst in the moment of making for example “it has a bumpy, pointy head and soft, smooth skin.” It is much easier to describe when you are creating something hands on rather than looking at a 2D picture of a character from a book. In addition to this you can now create the characters story.

Storytelling – Storytelling connects. It connects us to our past, to each other, our families and our world. Here are two examples of ways to unravel stories with young children:

Story Worlds - Forest KindergartenStory small worlds – try creating a natural story world

*You could create a place for your creature to live in. Does it live in a dark cave? Does it like to live up high or underground? Is your character shy or does it like to have lots of people to live nearby?

 

*Or retell a story using a story map that you have made- track a story adventure by creating the journey from start to finish.

Story sticks – This is a great activity and one of my favourites for creating a story journey.  When out for a long walk, collect a stick about the length of your lower arm and take some elastic bands or string with you.   Wrap the elastic bands/ string around the stick and as you enjoy your walk, your children can collect treasures and attach them with the elastic bands.  This is a great activity for encouraging children to become inquisitive about the world around them, it helps them to tune in and explore and REALLY look at what’s beneath their feet.  At the end they could make up a story using their collected treasures to remember the steps they have taken on their journey. Alternatively, this stick can become… hmmm… a chance to inspire their imagination!

Describing our world – we can have high expectations that all children will be able
to describe the world around them. But how can anyone truly describe a scene
unless they have experienced it first hand? Multi-sensory experiences aid the brain
to connect and engage which as a result associates a meaning and an emotional
connection. Therefore, if you want someone to use descriptive language in a story,
poem or passage to describe, for example, the thundering rain or windy weather,
then they need to experience it first-hand not just through a picture. They need to
feel the wind on their skin, feel a sense of cold, have their hair whip around their
face, feel the air almost knocked out of them and even struggle to walk into the wind.

Learning by doing is exciting, it allows us to create meaning. When you next have a
snowy or windy day then yes, by all means think about safety but also open your
eyes to the fact that this may be a child’s first experience of such an event. A year or so ago when we had our last ‘big’ snow shower, I took a class of Reception aged
children outside to experience snow. They had never experienced this other than
through watching TV, Frozen the movie in reality. After a little while of exploring, they were telling me how cold they were, how the snow had turned hard and that it wasn’t soft anymore. Children need to discover, see things change before their eyes to encourage vocabulary and the depth to write about subjects in the future.

Tuning in and listening – early phonics

Tuning in and listening – early phonicsIn a previous job role as a consultant, I worked in a variety of different Early Years settings focusing on the very early years of literacy. One of the most significant outcomes of some research that I was involved in, was around the decline of ability to filter sounds due to increased environmental noise e.g. babies finding it hard to tune into their mothers voice or a toddler hearing a set of keys fall to the floor.

 

 

It is hugely important that we build in time to ‘really’ listen to what sounds are around us. Noise is a part of our lives and so much so that during a recent remote holiday to Devon it almost hurt my ears when there was a lack of sound!

International Literacy Day 2019In the outdoors there is a cacophony of different sounds – some natural and some man made. The difference to tuning into them outdoors rather than indoors is that the sounds are not so strong and overpowering because there is more open space for sound to travel around. Nature has a rich orchestra and is a great way of allowing children the time to sit quietly and record either by pictures or marks on a page the different natural sounds/ conversations they hear. You will be surprised that when you really ‘tune in’ how many different sounds you can hear.

 

In addition to this, allowing children to have the time to understand that everything can make a different sound – one stone dropping into a cool pool will not sound the same as another. Everything is different and unique – so catch your breath and relish this time.

Books to support literacy learning outdoors (some of my favourites):

Stanley’s Stick – Neal Layton
The listening walk – Paul Showers
Leaf Man –
We’re going on a leaf hunt – Steve Metzger
Mud – Mary Lyn Ray
Snail Trail – Ruth Brown
Yucky Worms – Vivian French
Wild – Emily Hughes
Bog Baby – Jennie Willis
Into the Forest – Anthony Browne
Tree: seasons come and seasons go – Patricia Hegarty (Bee and Moon books also
by the same author)
Leaf – Sandra Dieckmann

So finally…

Breathe the outdoors into our literacy learning!Outdoor experiences allow us to breathe… the pace slows and we start to respond to the natural rhythms around us. The outdoors allows us to connect and deepen our sensory experiences which help to make meaning to the world in which we live. We develop our talk, negotiation/ problem solving skills and tune into the natural environment.

We can develop an abundance of language and we can also develop our personal histories/ stories in a playful way. The outdoors allows us to develop the link and connection between ourselves, our adventures and stories.

So lets breathe the outdoors into our literacy learning and inspire and engage our children with many different skills whilst they play and explore.

Louise Hack, Whoosh Learning Director, Educational Consultant & Circle of Life Rediscovery Trainer.

Find out more about our upcoming Forest Kindergarten Training:

FOREST KINDERGARTEN ‘OPENING UP THE OUTDOORS’ TRAINING

A two day introductory course based on the Scottish Forest Kindergarten Model.

Key Overview:
Forest Kindergarten TrainingForest Kindergarten is modelled on a Forest School approach and is based around child-centred learning through play in the Early Years. Forest Kindergartens offer young children frequent visits and regular play opportunities in a local, natural setting all year round – this could be a woodland, park or even a beach!

The aim of this two-day training is to develop Early Years practitioners’ skills to enable and empower them to make regular visits to a local green space/woodland.

Date: 18th October & 4th November 2019.
Facilitators: Marina Robb, Nikki McKnight, Louise Hack, Vicky Tideswell & Lucy Collins.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 16.30.
Cost: £100.
Booking: Please book online.

Key Content:

  • How to prepare both yourselves as practitioners and your young children to go to a green space.
  • Setting up a suitable site and setting boundaries with children.
  • Preparing for risks (risk benefit model).
  • Research on the benefits of playing and learning outdoors.
  • Games and songs to support children with the routines of regular visits to a green space.

Please visit the 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.

 

Therapeutic Play: Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

Therapeutic Play & Nature Connection

Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

Therapeutic Play - Circle of Life RediscoveryFor over 20 years I have witnessed the power of nature, therapeutic play and safe space to heal young people with challenging behaviour.  These have included ‘targeted’ groups of young people, some at risk of early pregnancy, others with violent behaviour from pupil referral units, children and young people with mental health difficulties.

All these programmes, days and camps have taken place in a natural setting and were held by experienced practitioners.   The combination of a natural setting with competent adults is a perfect combination for connection and well-being.

Challenging Behaviour & Therapeutic Play

All schools will have young people that display challenging behaviour, and part of our work is to understand what this behaviour is communicating and how to meet them in the most empathetic, authentic and boundaried way.

The difficulties that result in challenging behaviours are sometimes referred to as ACE:  Adverse childhood experiences and they are more common than you think.  The original adult-based study found almost two thirds of participants experienced 1 or more ACE and more than 1 in 5 experienced 3 or more ACES.   This has raised the profile and urgency of addressing the needs of children, as the impact on later life shows the potential devastating outcomes from ACE’s, and the cost to society.

Therapeutic Play courses in East SussexAll of us can benefit from therapeutic play and training that helps us understand how best to support young people.  The greater the trauma, the greater the need for professional support.  However parents can be supported to improve relationships with their own children and at the same time, their sense of well-being.

You can download the questionnaire and have a go yourself here.

Green Intervention

If you work with vulnerable groups you are likely to have been drawn to this kind of service because of your own history, which is a blessing and can be triggering when you are not conscious of your own adverse experiences.

The great news is that what we now know is that the relationship that we have with a trusted adult in our early childhood and beyond can mitigate the impacts of ACE’s on mental and physical well-being.  Furthermore, spending more than 20 minutes in the outdoors can reduce stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Research shows that a little stress is necessary for us as it creates a tension that can be good for learning, but too much stress increases our tension, confusion and anger. It can become toxic.

Green exercise optimises your mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, logging new information and spurs development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus – all good news for healing and restoration. That’s why experienced Forest School practitioners, green intervention facilitators using long term programmes can really make a positive difference to the current lives and future potential of children and young people.

All of us are likely to have difficulties at some point in our lives.  Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems.  ‘Connection’ enables satisfaction in relationships and starts with those primary (parents/carer) relationships.

As practitioners in education and health working with children and young people, we have a responsibility to provide a safe space to learn skills and strategies so that we can offer a connection-friendly environment.   This includes using effective communication, providing therapeutic spaces and managing our own behaviour.

Nature Connection

Nature connection is a way of opening up your senses which over time results in a satisfying kinship with nature, another nurturing relationship.  Forests and natural environments are considered therapeutic landscapes and have demonstrated many positive psychological effects.

Nature connection and Therapeutic PlayExposure to forests and trees lead to increased liveliness, and decreased levels of stress, hostility and depression. Playing also releases natural endorphins and offers us a way of learning and expressing ourselves on our terms and not through adult lens.  Being in nature can have a profound positive impact on a person’s sympathetic (i.e., fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous systems. Essentially, people feel less stressed and more rested.

We are advocating the need for a new hybrid approach.  This model combines what we know within neuroscience, how we respond to stress, the impact of negative experiences, with how nature provides the ideal restorative environment for all ages.

Therapeutic Play

If you would like to learn more, join us at our 2 day course:

Therapeutic Play, Mill Woods, East SussexNature Play & The Therapeutic Space – 1st & 2nd April 2019.

An Experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces’ and will include:

 

  • Therapeutic nature play.
  • The Forest School Continuum.
  • Exploring effective strategies for working with children displaying vulnerable and challenging needs.
  • Establishing Trust: understanding the fundamental importance of safe space/s and how to utilise it.
  • Psych-ed: Understanding difficult behaviours and the connection between sensory input, emotional response and behaviour (with the impact of ACE).
  • Explore your own triggers and inner landscape.
  • Play ideas: child-led and adult-directed e.g ropes and clay.
  • Key communication strategies: creative, reflective and empathetic skills.
  • Increase the tool kit to include more sensory-based games.
  • Develop understanding of Attachment Theory and how it relates to emotional insecurity.
  • Play skills include sand, puppet and music.

Click here to see full details about this two day course or visit our website for 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.

If you are keen to hear more about events and training please join our newsletter here.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com 

01273 814226

 

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

If you are ever in doubt about the importance of and the benefits of nature to our lives, download the latest ‘Living Planet Report 2018’.

The Children’s Fire

The Children's Fire

We need a system change that is underpinned by valuing nature. A simple thinking about leadership is called ‘The Children’s Fire’ by Mac Macartney, find out more here. It asks how we make decisions in the short and long term. In older societies, a fire was lit in the middle of a ‘council’ where decisions are being made – this fire is known as the ‘Children’s Fire’ and was there to remind the leaders of a principal law:

‘No law, no decision, no action, nothing of any kind will be permitted to go out of this ‘council of chiefs’ that will harm the children’.

The ‘children’ refers to the children of human and non-human alike. You couldn’t be a leader without signing up to this. We are living in times where we have forgotten the wisdom of our elders. We are pursuing ‘wealth and success’ wrongly believing this leads to happiness and satisfaction while damaging our ecosystem.

Time spent in nature can restore us and keep us well. There are so many benefits of nature.

The Benefits of Nature

A new year, indeed a new day, gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we care about and what we really value, even though we need help to change things.

What we need is to collaborate,  share our feelings and thoughts to keep well.   It is very helpful to understand that our lives are connected to other lives, that we are not really alone, and that who we are is reflected in the non-human world.

We can be the best we can be, when we feel worthy and respected.

“It is an invitation to a lifetime journey of deepening alignment with life.  It sets us a challenge. It invites us to walk in beauty, participate generously, appreciate the inner journey as much as the outer, and it defines value in terms of what we give, not what we pretend to own.” (Mac Macartney)

Download the full ‘Living Planet Report’ here.

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

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. 

The Importance of Nature

Get Real. Get Messy. Get Maths. Get Outdoors.

Outdoors Maths with Juliet Robertson.

There are many reasons why maths is a core part of the curriculum worldwide. It provides us with skills and knowledge that can be used in our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, we are constantly estimating, problem-solving and making quick judgements about quantities and amounts. For example, you may need to check you have the exact change for a bus or wonder if you can still fit into your trousers after several days of a festive celebration.

Join our Messy Maths CPD on 21st September with Juliet Robertson

 

To help you think and plan maths experiences outdoors here are some practical suggestions:

Getting ready to go outside provides many mathematical moments:

  • Time the class to get ready. This can be using a non-standard unit of measurement, such as a song for little children. With older children, this will be using a stopwatch or other timer.
  • Use lining up to reinforce key data handling skills. For example, request children make two lines, e.g. those who are wearing green, those who are not wearing green. This creates a human line graph and can be used for counting and discussing differences between the length of each line. Change the attributes each time you go out. Your children will have plenty of suggestions here.
  • Problem-solve with your class about ways of getting ready quickly and without fuss. Link these to the strategies used to solve problems, so children can see how a skill learned has real life applications.

Maths on the move. Make the most of the distance between your class and your outdoor space:

  • Estimate the number of steps it takes to get outside. Discuss afterwards why everyone has a different answer. Is it possible to standardise this distance and how would we do this?
  • Count aloud and chant in multiples, e.g. multiples of three on each step: 3, 6, 9, etc.
  • What happens to your counting when you take five steps forward and one step back. Consider how to create links between numbers and the pattern of walking forwards and backwards.

Creating a gathering circle in mathematical ways

Explore the size of the circle made when children hold hands, stretch out and touch each other’s fingertips or huddle together shoulder-to-shoulder. Discuss and explore how the size could be measured. This may include:

  • Pacing around the outside of the circle as a non-standard approach.
  • Using a trundle wheel for noting metres or yards.
  • Using a long piece or rope or string. If you put a mark at every metre or yard on the rope then it becomes a giant measuring tape.

Estimating everything

Messy Maths CPD

Children need lots of practice at estimating so they are able to make reasonable guesses based upon experience and knowledge. It is a basic strategy for problem solving and enquiry work as well as a useful life skill. Being outside provides a real context for estimating. It is hard to tell the number of birds in a flock, bricks in a wall or exactly how long it will take to walk to the shops. There is a constant need for everyone to be making estimates of amounts and activities based upon our experiences. Teachers can encourage the children estimate and then to check:

  • Number: having a guess before counting the flock of birds flying overhead – we count ten birds and then use this to count the rest in chunks of ten.
  • Money: evaluating whether we have enough money to buy something we need.
  • Distance: estimating how far away the end of the playing field is.
  • Volume: thinking about the volume of water in one bucket or watering can compared to another.
  • Weight and mass: wondering how much food the birds will eat at a bird table.
  • Time: considering how long it will take to complete a task.

It can help to make group estimates where there is a consensus. With older children, the skill of rounding up or down is a natural progression within estimation.

Playing maths games

All around the world there are strategy games, which were developed using locally found materials on a board that can be drawn onto an outdoor surface. Games involve looking for patterns and knowing the cause and effect of moves undertaken in particular sequences. This usually involves playing the game lots of times and experimenting with different moves. Some basic points include:

  • Children need time to learn each game by just enjoying the experience of playing it. Older children can assist younger ones. Hold a games session so that parents and carers can learn different games too.
  • If a game isn’t going well, ask the children for their ideas about making it better. What rules could be adapted or changed? How can they make the game more exciting?
  • Games can be adapted to help the children acquire specific skills in many areas of maths. When you do this, it can be helpful to seek the children’s thoughts and suggestions. This gives them ownership of their learning and facilitates a personal interest.
  • Children enjoy inventing their own games. Whether you have a pile of stones or a few leaves lying under a tree, challenge them to create a game to help them learn a specific maths concept or skill.

By Juliet Robertson, foMessy Maths under of Creative STAR Learning, UK.

Many of these ideas are expanded upon in her book: Messy Maths: An Outdoor and Playful Approach for Early Years.

 

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

Forest School – A Day in the Life

A day in the life of pumpkin patch nursery forest school

Forest School Sessions in East Sussex

 

The children arrive for forest school all bundled up in waterproofs and wellies, eager to get out and splash in the puddles! We start our day rolling out our logs to sit on and collecting sticks to make a fire. As gather our sticks we sing our fire songs and set our boundaries whilst thinking about the day ahead.

 

Today at forest school we are making miniature gardens at the base of trees and in special secret places. We find sticks for trees and moss for paths and chestnut cases for hibernating hedgehogs and we look at each other’s gardens, they are all so lovely.

On the fire the popcorn has been getting hotter and we return to hear it popping in the pan, its snack time!

Fancy a free taster session for your nursery?After a snack and a story, we set off to follow some tracks we have spotted on the ground.
We follow the tracks all the way to the stream, trying to guess who they might belong to and find a toy otter hiding in a hollow tree on the bank.

We play in and around the stream, clearing debris and making bridges and splashing around until we feel hungry and a little chilly, it’s time to warm up by the fire and eat our lunch.

After lunch it’s time to celebrate the spring equinox, we dress one of the children up in Lady Spring’s green cloak and follow her, singing her spring song, to discover a special place with bunting and a nest with little eggs inside. We circle round to listen all about the days and nights being equal and sing some spring songs. Then we each take an egg and follow lady spring back to the fire circle.

After playing a game or two it’s time to put out the fire, and remember all the things we did that day and lastly roll back our logs and give our thanks.

We make our way back through the puddles to the bus and our journey home.

Find out about forest school sessions for your school or nursery

 

FREE one hour forest school taster session available as part of Outdoor Classroom Day – 17th May 2018. Get in touch to find out more – 4 spaces available!!

 

 

If you are keen to hear more about forest school sessions for your school or nursery please contact us by email or call 01273 814226.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

You can also see our website for details and information.

 

Outdoor Learning – A Case Study by Juliet Robertson

Outdoor Learning at St Geradine Primary School

One year ago Juliet Robertson spent two mornings working with a small group of teachers at St Geradine’s Primary School in Lossiemouth. The Depute Head, Fiona Stevenson, who was leading the outdoor learning improvements, wrote the report below, with one of the class teachers, Laura McGurke, for their local authority newsletter.
How do you develop a Whole School Approach to Outdoor Learning?
St Geradine School in Lossiemouth was delighted to receive £3000 from the Innovation Fund to support their work in developing outdoor learning.
Their aims were:
  1. To develop outdoor learning within and across their school in order that it is embedded within the curriculum and sustainable for the future, with a view to being able to share/roll out developments to other interested primary schools.
  2. To provide learners with a wide range of fun, meaningful and challenging experiences:
  • Pupils will have opportunities for challenge and enjoyment through outdoor learning experiences.
  • Pupils’ learning and development will be supported and enhanced through meaningful play opportunities.
  • Pupils will develop their skills (e.g. problem solving, team working etc.) and personal attributes (e.g. resilience).
A working group comprising one of their DHTs, P2 teacher and P6/7 teacher consulted with Juliet Robertson from Creative STAR Learning to plan and lead the development.
Through a series of staff meetings they achieved their aims by:
Creating outdoor learning folders:
  • These included risk benefit assessments personalised for Lossiemouth and their school grounds, helpful guides on planning trips to the forest, beach and quarry, ideas for activities in Numeracy, Literacy and Inter-disciplinary Learning (IDL), the Countryside Code, the Highway Code and local maps.
  • Ordering resources to support the stewardship roles, literacy and numeracy.
  • Creating class backpacks with essential equipment for off-site visits in the local area.
  • Beginning to plan for developing the school grounds to enhance learning experiences.
  • Staff involvement in a series of twilight sessions looking at the local area and the opportunities within it for outdoor learning, learning experiences in numeracy and literacy and how to use the beach as a learning context.
The impact on learners:
  1. Improved health & wellbeing (fitness, fresh air, emotional & mental health etc.)
  • Children state they feel better working outside as there is more space available and lots of fresh air.
  • P7 parents have commented on the increase of outdoor play at home as a result of ‘Wolf Brother’ sessions outdoors.
  • Nursery parents strongly believe our outdoor provision is very good.
  • Classes walk from the school to the forest, quarry and beach areas.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy outdoors because it’s very peaceful’ Claudia P7 Pupil
  • ‘It’s a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors which is extremely enjoyable.’ P7 pupil
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because of the outdoor atmosphere, especially when it’s slightly breezy and the birds are tweeting. It all feels very peaceful and relaxing.’ Aimee P7
  • ‘I like the coolness and I also like the hotness and I like the games we play.’ Lewis P2
  • ‘I think I learn more when I’m outside.’ Evie P2
  • ‘I like running outside because it’s good for my bones.’ Ava P2
  • ‘It was cold. We run outside to keep warm.’ Niall Nursery
 
  1. Connections being made in their learning from curricular areas to the real world and within real contexts; seeing the relevance of their learning; making sense of their learning; interdisciplinary learning experiences.
  • All classes had planned outdoor sessions for the next term. P1 are used the local community and school grounds to support literacy and maths (line and shape, information handling, shape, measurement and number in context). They gathered information to write reports and identified landmarks within Lossiemouth; P2 visited the forest weekly to support all areas of the curriculum; P2-3 classes have used learning walks around Lossiemouth within an IDL on ‘Footprints from the past’; P4-5 classes used the school grounds to support literacy and numeracy and have visited the beach to work on science and poetry writing; P5-7 are using ‘Wolf Brother’ novel as a stimulus to work outside using the forest, quarry and school grounds.
  • SFL staff are using the outdoors to support work in literacy and numeracy.
  • Nursery classes are outdoors every day for focussed and free play.
  • All classes have undertaken a stewardship role with their classes which should promote feeling of responsibility for our school grounds for all e.g. litter, birds, wildlife, willow, garden, composting.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy all of outdoor learning because I enjoy going outside and going to the woods and quarry’ Olivia P7
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because you can engage with nature.’ Mollie P7
  • ‘We planted golden flowers. We sprinkled the seeds in the soil.’ Grace Nursery
  • ‘I put the soil on the seeds. I watered them with water and a watering can. We were raking to put the air in.’ Archie Nursery
  1. Opportunities for creative and critical thinking, challenge and enquiry
  • P2 used small world toys and a fairy tree stimulus to create stories in the local woods.
  • P5-7 used natural dyes to create artwork.
  • Learners at all stages using natural materials to create artwork and to support literacy and numeracy.
  • Learners frequently talking and reflecting about their learning outside.
Quotes from learners:
  • My favourite part of outdoor learning was doing the arty stuff.’ Sally P7
  • I enjoy doing all the different jobs because some are hard.’ Georgina P7
  • I like outdoor learning because we get to hear sounds.’ Aaliyah P2
  • I was putting sticks in a pile. I was pretending it was a fire.’ Aiden Nursery
  • I collected shells and wood and ice and pine cones and old leaves off trees. We sorted it all out into piles.’ Aiden Nursery
  1. Stimulating and varied learning experiences, a different learning environment, more relaxed learning environment
  • Use of school grounds, beaches, forest and quarry.
  • Homework tasks which are outdoor based have been more successfully completed by more learners.
  • Parents are aware and are enthusiastic about the increased variety of experiences outdoors.
  • Learners are more openly talking about these experiences with their families.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because it gives me a chance to learn about nature.’ Claire P7
  • ‘I like working outside because it’s easier to learn and I like the activities we do.’ Bella P7
  • ‘I liked how you can learn things and do them at home.’ Bethan P7
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because I like going out to different places and to see different things’ Fern P7
  • ‘I enjoy doing maths outside.’ Oliver P2
  1. Opportunities for personal achievement
  1. Motivation through experiential learning
  • Staff have reported learners being more engaged and enthused with learning outdoors.
  • Parents have reported increased use of outdoors at home.
  1. Opportunities for risk benefit management; decision making skills.
  • Learners are actively involved in considering possible risks when working outdoors.
  • All classes have established rules and responsibilities and are developing confidence in their routines.
Impact on staff:
  • Every class within the school has engaged with outdoor learning and staff now feel more confident and equipped to take their classes outdoors.
  • Staff have embraced the challenge of working outdoors and are creating challenging and enjoyable experiences for our pupils.
  • Staff feel supported with the Risk Benefit Assessments, class backpacks and bank of resources and have enjoyed reading Dirty Teaching.
  • The teachers who have been leading the development have enjoyed the opportunity to develop something they have a keen interest in and are delighted with the clear impact it has had on staff and learners. They now have a better understanding of the process of development work and how to integrate outdoor learning into all curricular areas.
Developments for the future:
  • To further embed the use of the outdoors in their practice.
  • To continue to develop routines for going outside so that learners are more confident and independent.
  • Develop the school grounds in partnership with the school and local community.
  • Continue to build on the award schemes they have begun.
  • Continue to build a bank of resources and accommodation for these.
Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
If this guest blog post gives you a flavour of what can be kick started with a little support from Juliet, please come along to the Circle of Life Rediscovery CPD on 18th May:
Dirty Teaching – Developing a Whole School Approach to Learning Outdoors. Click here to find out more and book your place!
In this practical course, we look at realistic ways of embedding outdoor practice into the life and ethos of your school.
Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery is a not for profit CIC company in East Sussex. They provide outdoor learning and nature based experiences including bespoke Camps for schools, Forest School sessions, Enrichment Days plus Forest School Training Level 3 and CPD’s for adults as well as funded programmes. Find out more here.

Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
“I believe strongly in the capacity of schools and teachers to develop their own outdoor practice. I save time re-inventing the wheel or getting stuck on irrelevant matters – keeping the focus on the learning experiences and outcomes for children. I also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience which can help staff think more strategically about embedding outdoor learning into the life of the school.”
Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning. Find out more here.

Forest School and Therapeutic Play

A creative approach to managing difficult behaviour – Forest School and Therapeutic Play

Play and the Outdoors - an Experiential & Theoretical Journey into Forest School, Creative and Therapeutic PlayEmotional insecurity can prevent children from positive participation in activities and relationships. Children often use unacceptable behaviour as the way of coping with negative feelings. Forest Play recognises that these children require a more therapeutic approach to enable them to calm anxiety and fully engage in forest school.

Develop understanding of Attachment Theory and how it relates to emotional insecurity.Join our two day CPD course on 20th & 21st March 2018 to learn new creative strategies to help manage difficult behaviour and help young people enjoy all the benefits of forest school.

This course is suitable for forest school leaders and facilitators, outdoor educators, teachers, youth workers and anyone who works with children.

Play and the Outdoors – an Experiential & Theoretical Journey into Forest School, Creative and Therapeutic Play

Day one

  • Theory: Including – Child development and attachment; How to grow a brain; Importance of nature in childhood; Sensory Play and Stress; Group Dynamic: Importance of connection to others; Spectrum’s of emotions.
  • Activities: Role-play – The brain, baby to adult; group work to develop your skills and confidence. Group games and sensory experiences – forest school, fire and the creative use of clay, setting up your space – tarps and shelters, sand play in nature.

Day two

  • Builds on the outdoor skills of participants – fire-lighting, knots, mask making and story making.
  • Importance of risk and challenge. Focus on the need for individual therapeutic play when working with groups and developing skills.
  • Theory: Principles of child-led play – wild play/free-play/therapeutic play; Communication skills – instruction/reflection; Safe boundaries & Health and Safety in the outdoors; Risk Assessment; Directive/non-directive.

Takes place at our woodland site near Laughton, East Sussex
The course is led by Forest School Trainer, Marina Robb (Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery) and creative play and sand therapist Kate Macairt (Creative Spark). Both have many years experience in their field (and forest!) and have co-facilitated successful creative outdoor training programmes for many years.

Location: Mill Woods, East Sussex at our woodland site.

Cost: £165 per person for both days.

 Circle of Life Rediscovery

To find out more please visit the Circle of Life Rediscovery website, or book your place online. For any questions please send an email or call 01273 814226.

Why Teach Literacy Outside?

Here are ten reasons to get outside and teach literacy!

By Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning.

Come and find out more about Outdoor Literacy on 23rd February!

Recently I was asked to think about why I teach literacy outside. 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.

Here’s 10 off-the-cuff reasons I said…

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.

Outdoor Literacy CPD, East Sussex – 23rd February

Join our Outdoor Literacy CPD on 23rd February, East Sussex
On Friday 23rd February Juliet will be in East Sussex offering an outdoor literacy training session. We’ll be exploring how to make literacy simple, doable and enjoyable, outside – whatever your environment, be this a concrete or natural jungle. For details please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website or you can book your place here.

 

 

About Juliet Robertson

Juliet Robertson
Juliet Robertson is a former head teacher of three schools ranging in size from 6 to 277 pupils. In 2007 she established Creative STAR Learning to provide Support, Training, Advice and Resources for outdoor learning and play.

Juliet has worked behind the scenes at a national level in Scotland as a consultant, ghost-writer and adviser to many organisations including Education Scotland, Inspiring Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). Find out more.

 

About Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery is a Community Interest Company and has been working since 2004 to reconnect people from all backgrounds and ages to the natural world.

We provide nature based programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing!

These include Forest School Sessions, Woodland Days, School Visits, Camps for Schools as well as Forest School Training, CPD’s and Family Days.

 

 

 

The 12 days of (an alternative) Christmas

Christmas doesn’t need to cost the Earth

Are you looking for inspiration to do Christmas a little differently this year? Here is our ‘alternative’ guide to ethical and environmentally-minded Christmas presents!

How about looking at gifts that will last, choose quality over quantity. Are there products that will benefit people worse off than ourselves? Choose companies that treat employees in the supply chain well and look after our oceans, trees and wildlife. Choose wisely, Christmas doesn’t need to cost the Earth.

On the First day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

1. Learning with Nature, the perfect gift for ChristmasAn amazingly useful book ‘Learning with Nature’ . Plenty of simple, and accessible ideas, activities and games to get you and your family outside and connecting with nature!

2. Oxfam Unwrapped – give a goat, feed a family, educate a child. You can choose which of Oxfam’s amazing project your donation goes to.

3. A Bamboo toothbrush – reduce your use of disposable plastic, use a cheap, sustainable alternative. Save the planet and your teeth!

4. A Twinned toilet! Flush away the world’s toilet trouble! You donate to twin your loo with an impoverished family’s household latrine, in a country of your choosing.

Wild Time

5. A Wild Day Out - how about a family voucher for Christmas?A Wild Day Out – bring your family to the woods for a fun-filled, adventurous day out. Play games, light fires, cook, build dens, learn new skills…fun for all the family! Contact us to buy your gift voucher. Our next Family Wild Day Out is 14th February 2018.

6. Eco-friendly drinking straws – we all know the damage that disposable plastic straws are causing to the world’s oceans. #ditchtheplastic and invest in metal, bamboo or wheat straws instead.

 

7. From babies with love – a social enterprise selling beautiful, ethically sourced baby gifts and clothes. Every penny from their sales goes to support orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

8. Wild Time – Swap screen time for Wild Time and get outside! Pledge your time on the Wild Network’s website and find loads of ideas to do outdoors – learn how to tell the time without a watch, host a nature cocktail party, make a journey stick.

9. Adopt a tiger – or elephant/rhino/wolf pack. Perfect for your wildlife minded friends, family or children. Adopt a tiger with WWF and receive a book unique to you!

10. Plant a tree – Gifting a tree comes with a the added bonus of an invitation to a tree planting experience in The National Forest.

11. Buy a season pass to an outdoor location – and give the gift of the outdoors. The National Trust, RHS, Drusillas…the choices are endless.

12. Give the gift of time this Christmas.The gift of time – pledging time for your loved one is the ultimate gift and it’s free! You could create a bespoke voucher to open on Christmas day – pledge to spent a whole day outdoors with your child, pledge an evening in with your loved one, a shopping trip with your friend…the choice is yours.

Whatever you choose do to this year, have a very Happy Christmas.

By Katie Scanlan

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery run Forest School sessions, Forest School training, woodland days, enrichment activity days, outdoor learning days, Camps, CPD’s for teachers and family activity days in our beautiful Sussex woodland. Please visit our website for more details.

 

The John Muir Award: A Case Study

What is the John Muir Award?

The John Muir Award is a national environmental award that encourages people of all
backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places through a structured yet
adaptable scheme. The Award isn’t competitive but should challenge each participant. It
encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun,
adventure and exploration. The Award is open to all, and is the educational initiative of the John Muir Trust. To find out more, please click here.

What does the Award involve?

The John Muir Award has 4 challenges for students, which are designed to promote a holistic approach to learning, and reflect John Muir’s own wilderness experience.
The Challenges are:

  • Discover a wild place – this could be your school grounds, woodlands, the mountains
  • Explore it – increase your understanding
  • Conserve – take personal responsibility
  • Share your experiences

What are the benefits to schools?

There are several ways you could use the John Muir Award to benefit your pupils, and
encourage learning:

Learn about the John Muir Award and benefits to schools

  • Encourage an experiential approach to teaching curriculum subjects
  • Help close gaps in attainment and opportunity, improve behaviour and attendance and increase engagement with learning
  • Promote physical and emotional wellbeing
  • Utilise school grounds, local or more distant wild places, and make connections between them

To find out more about John Muir Award and the curriculum, read the accompanying
brochure here.

Circle of Life Rediscovery and the John Muir Award

Contact us to find out how to become involved.

CLR have been offering the John Muir Award at Discovery and Explorer Level since 2006 – the first organisation in Sussex to offer this prestigious national environmental award.

 

Since then hundreds of young people have achieved the Award which at its heart recognises young people’s connection with, enjoyment of and care for wild places.

Case Study

Why are residentials so important for young people?Tiffins Boys School,  London – We begin the Award with a Woodland Day in May to start the journey, and to teach students the skills they will need for camp (Discover). They will learn fire lighting, shelter building, cooking…some of which they have never tried before. The woodland day is also an opportunity for students to join in with planning the camp activities – what else would they like to learn?

Camp takes place in June for 2 night and 3 days (Explore) and includes activities such as tool use, team building games, night stalks, cooking and plenty of adventure.
Students also take part in a conservation activity (Conserve) during camp, which could
include tree planting or clearing an area within the woodland to open up the canopy to new growth, therefore increasing the overall biodiversity of the woodland.

Tiffins School and the John Muir AwardAt the end of camp students go back to school and (Share) their experiences and learning with the rest of the school. They come away from their John Muir Award experience with more confidence, closer as a team, with a better understanding of the natural environment and having achieved a nationally-recognised award at Discovery level.


"My son is completely different since camp, he has more thinking space inside his head, he is calmer, he has changed." Parent, March 2017.
“I didn’t think that I liked camping but I have underestimated myself. The camp was amazing, I have not only learnt new skills but I have learnt to be grateful about everything around me. I have a new sense of confidence and believe in myself.”

Camp Participant, June 2017.

More information

Please contact us if you are interested in exploring the John Muir Award with Circle of Life Rediscovery. Each Award is bespoke and unique to your requirements.

Please note – we can also offer the John Muir Award as a series of day visits either on your school site, or our woodland site, or a mixture of both. The programme can be designed around your curriculum needs so do contact us to discuss this as an option, find out more.

By Katie Scanlan

We look forward to hearing from you.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery also run Forest School sessions, Forest School training, woodland days, enrichment activity days, outdoor learning days, CPD for teachers and family activity days in our beautiful Sussex woodland. Please visit our website for more details or call 01273 814226.