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.

 

Deepening Nature Connection beyond Nature Contact – Earthwalks and Nature Connection

Earthwalks and Nature Connection

By Jon Cree

“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher”
William Wordsworth (The Major Works)

“Surely any outdoor learning is a good thing and is creating nature connection, at least we’re getting them out there, nature teaches all the time”.

This is a mantra I often hear from outdoor and indeed environmental educators.

Having been involved in the EE (environmental education) /OE (outdoor education) movement for 40 years, I know this is not necessarily the case. In fact done badly, and without a congruent value system that dictates an educators practice, it can create disconnection from the natural world and the very ecological systems on which we all depend for sustenance and beauty.

Is the recent upsurge of the nature “connection” movement a good thing regarding the long term relationship with our planet? When we read and experience the breaking of ecological systems, as evidenced by the latest IPCC reports on climate change, the latest statistics coming from the amazon, where soya production is increasing the rate rain forest destruction due to our meat eating habits – I fear we have failed in our attempts to build connection and relationship to the planet in the contemporary EE/OE movement.

In this short article I would like to explore what we mean by nature connection, and raise questions about practises, such as Earthwalks, that embody this that could lead to regenerative systems.

Earthwalks and nature connectionSo what do we mean by nature connection? For me it is about a continuous relationship with the natural world and it’s ecological systems, i.e, the planet itself. It is about the improvised duet between our animal body and the fluid breathing land which we inhabit – a participatory relationship. There is an active dialogue with all life – between the human and the non human, between the inner mind and the outer world.

EarthwalksSteve van Matre, author of ‘Earthwalks – an alternative nature experience’, recently wrote; “…this (environmental education) is not a matter of planting seeds. That’s what most everyone in our field claims they are doing, but without careful cultivation, most of the intended growth withers and dies. It is choked out by other desires and demands on learners lives………most seeds did not and don’t make it”

Relationship takes time, effort and cultivation – it is not a one off field trip or a momentary wow atop a mountain or deep in a bluebell blooming wood.

What nature connection is really about, is rich first hand contact with the natural world that engenders reverence, respect, kinship, joy AND, importantly, love and understanding. A key to cultivating these emotions is a deep ‘knowing’ of the ways the ecological processes of the planet operate and how we as humans are part and parcel of it all.

Nature connection is reciprocal…indeed all relationships depend on reciprocity and that can only happen when we humans recognise how we are fed physically as well as emotionally by the natural world.

Steve van Matre goes on to say; “…in a loving relationship there are three entities; two people plus the relationship itself…”

I take from this that for both people to gain from this they have to sacrifice in the
relationship. In our relationship with the natural world we have taken the relationship for granted and not sacrificed enough and now the natural world is kicking back in the many environmental ways it only knows how to kick back (rising temperatures, surging methane, species loss etc).

Earthwalks and Nature Connection with Jon CreeDeveloping this relationship and knowing what to sacrifice takes intentional time. When we are open to it and know the workings we can see ourselves as part of this vast interconnected web and really connect rather than have that all too brief in-comprehensive contact that is often equated to connection. What, as Van Matre states, we need to do is to “sharpen our senses and open our minds…letting nature flow into us and to really deepen our understandings in order to ‘give back’ rather than take”.

 

Sustainable development has often been construed as something that can help human growth, and make meaning for ourselves. However after thirty years of sustainable development speak we are in a worse situation and the term has meant, in the end, more growth – we need new language and dialogue.

As Herbert Girardet has said we now need ‘regeneration’ not ‘development’.

Just having nature contact does not necessarily enable learners formulate a deep integral meaning of what our true ecology is which can then enable a regeneration of our planetary systems and ourselves. It does not necessarily help us understand the basic energy flows and material cycles – how sunlight flows into our veins to enable our ancient friend carbon to move and connect all living beings on the planet.

How do we then enable the deeper connection that is required to restore and regenerate the ecological systems that are currently at tipping points? I fear that much EE misses the reciprocity, the giving back to the cycles of life (AIR, WATER and SOIL), the giving of gratitude to the natural world, when taking children and learners into the woods.

If we are to have true connection we need to get off the paths and develop rich close contact with the natural world – it is more than a view from a mountain top or momentarily ‘seeing’ the bluebell wood. Earthwalks are defined as “a light, refreshing touch of nature that focuses on reawakening individual senses and sharpening perceptions fostering joy, kinship, reverence and love for the earth and it’s life”.

This multi-sensory walk that has a ‘flow’ to it encourages new perspectives; viewing a log from the perspective of a small creature, tracing our own ‘veins’ and seeing how they are reflected in the patterning in a tree or leaf veins, taking off shoes and socks in reverence to nature and, without the use of sight, revelling in the reverence for natures grandeur and ‘ordinary’; finishing with genuine gratitude.

In the new Earthwalk book there are many experiences that can be woven to take people to a deeper place of ‘contact’ with nature that encourages ‘connection’. When you combine the joy, kinship, reverence and love, that are fostered in an Earthwalk with a deeper understanding of the ecological system we are ‘experiencing’ then we can encourage a deeper ‘gut and body’ felt connection. A multi-sensory approach to nature connection is essential and Earthwalks are one way of starting to reinvigorate.

I leave you with four questions about nature connection to intentionally and mindfully consider when looking at this deeper connection question;

  • What does constitute deeper nature connection practise where we can rewire and really understand the workings of the planet?
  • What routines do we have to embody to realise a regenerative relationship and not see nature as a separate entity – as an IT, but as a whole where there is a unity that can regenerate?
  • How do we gain new perspectives through daily routines?
  • What sacrifices do we have to make for the natural world in order to reinvigorate dynamic restorative ecological systems that can include the young whippersnapper – ‘human’?

Earthwalks event with Jon CreeIn the end it is not just going out into nature, making contact and knowing what it can do for us in terms of learning and development, we need to feel this two way relationship between ourselves and animate natural world. Nature connection, as opposed to nature contact, is about letting nature into our everyday lives and making US and IT a WE, fulfilled and integral.


Earthwalks with Jon Cree

If you want to know more about Earthwalks, in particular how to facilitate these dynamic experiences do consider attending the leading Earthwalks workshop with myself and Circle of Life Rediscovery on 23rd November 2019:

What you will gain:

  • An introduction to earth education and where Earthwalks ‘fit’ in our programmes
  • A chance to plan and review your own Earthwalk
  • Experience two different Earthwalks
  • In-depth analysis on leadership, mechanics, and flow of an Earthwalk
  • Tools and confidence to lead Earthwalks
  • An update on earth education developments

Please visit the website for more details.

Date: 23rd November 2019.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree.
Cost: £95.00.
Location: Parkwood Campsite, Poynings, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryWe provide 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.

Listen to the Earth Speak

A year long course for women: our wisdom, connection, nourishment and belonging visualised and celebrated.

Led by Marina Robb and Eleanor Darley

Women in Nature: Listen to the Earth Speak

Listen to the Earth speak. Meeting by the fire, in the woods, listening and tending to our well-being, deep in connection, ceremony, plant knowledge, ceremonial practices, laughter and reflection.

This offering is a year course to energise, nourish and celebrate you as a woman; acknowledging your physical and natural connection to the Earth, nature’s rhythms, your wider community, kinships and culture. It will offer the support to build confidence, belonging and vitality of being.

 

There are many ways of understanding how connected we are to nature and our relationship as women to natural cycles. It is very easy in the modern, externally focused world to forget that our well-being comes from knowing our internal landscapes, and how the external and internal influence each other.

Linking the small and large perspective with the larger forces were and are often explained through show a map in the form of a wheel or circle. All the while, we know that we can only see a small part of ‘reality’. The most common maps place the earth & humans on the earth in the centre, where from our perspective the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The influence of the sun on life is fundamental, without which life as we know it could have never evolved or exist.

Listen to the Earth Speak - a nourishing year course for women

Our menstrual cycles really affect how we as women feel and following our cycles can hugely help us to harness the different qualities through the month.

As an introduction, the following moon wheel enables us to see how our internal cycle links to the qualities of the seasons and phases of the moon. We can use this to apply how we may feel during a day, month or season. Whilst the sun and moon appear to move from East to West from our human perspective, in actual fact the earth, moon and even the sun (albeit at different speeds) are moving anti-clockwise from West to East!

MOON WHEEL DIAGRAM – Your Inner Seasons

Moon Wheel Diagram

Your menstrual cycle awareness, ‘the act of knowing and valuing your unique cyclical pattern of energy and mood throughout the menstrual month, paying attention to where you are in your cycle at any one time, respecting your feelings and energy levels, working with and within the changing energies, leveraging this as a life management and facilitation tool’ (see A Pope & S. Wurlitzer, Red School) is a key part of knowing ourselves. When used well this awareness and knowledge lead us to an increase in health and well-being.

I am now peri-menopausal and moving towards my menopause. I know that understanding my internal seasons and moving into this new phase is also part of a natural continuum and stepping into another experience. I am certainly not alone, and have many wise women’s support ahead of me.

Marina Robb

“Women are the archetypal anchors for the power of the feminine, and when we reclaim our feminine power – by restoring our ways and practices – we integrate the power of the feminine into our lives and back onto the planet” (ibid).

Tell your story so the story doesn’t tell you.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

 


Listen to the Earth Speak – Course detail:

Please download our flyer to share with others.

More information: Please visit our website to find out more.
Location of course:
 Mill Woods, off Park Lane in Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP.
Fee: £995 for the year course.
Who should attend: open to all women over the age of 21 years.
How to book: please complete our online booking form.

While this is not therapy, we will be working therapeutically in some of the work we facilitate. On deciding whether this gathering of women is right for you we would love to hear from you by email, or phone call (01273 814226) so we can have a conversation, and welcome you with whatever you bring.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

 

Family Wild Days Out

I used to find the school holidays quite a stressful time.

Looking for interesting things to do and places to go, budgeting for the costs of parking and cafe stops and endless snacks, organising play dates and holiday clubs.

Family Wild Days Out East Sussex

 

Searching for a place where children could be free to play; without the demand of spending more money and without the overwhelming stress of noise, and the sensory intensity akin to that of going to a town centre, Monkey Bizness or squeezing into public play parks.

 

 

I’m sure I’ve found it now. Its called the Family Wild Days Out.

Family Wild Days Out with Circle of Life Rediscovery

“Somewhere close by in a deep green wood..families played together and all was good.”

A mere stone’s throw out of the city is a place where parents/carers and their children can spend a whole day hanging out together in a local community woodland.

And yet the Family Wild Day Out is no ordinary ‘hanging out’. This is a hands-on family day.

Join our Family Wild Days Out this summer!It provides the places to run and play freely, the opportunity to learn a myriad of outdoor skills, such as making fires, cooking, foraging, using woodland tools and making shelters, all blended together with seasonal crafts and games.

Within this space something quite magical also happens; families forget about the ‘pull’ from the outside world and momentarily drop deeply into the ways of playing and exploring together, where time loses its meaning and the hours seem to have passed by so easily and effortlessly.

Learn how to make fires and cook over the fire!The days offer a place to reconnect, to share in the joys of the fires first spark and the pride of creating something together that will hold the memories of the day when you finally leave.

So if you are ‘outdoorsy’ types and want to try something different together, then this could be a day for you. Yes its experiential, yes you will need to come prepared for all weathers, and yes there are toilets..(in case you are wondering about that).

“All was quiet in the deep green wood, fun was had by all, and all was good.”

 – Charlie Irving


If you would like to join us on one of our Family Wild Days Out the dates are:

Switch off your phones, connect to nature, learn new skills and discover a wild world!

 

31st July, 22nd August and 2nd September 2019.

 

 

 

Time: 10am – 2pm.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. You can read about our beautiful woodland site here.
Cost: £8 per person – for both adults and children. Babies in arms FREE. Our site is buggy friendly, there are toilets and sheltered areas.
How to book: Please book online for the day you wish to attend.

If you have any questions please send an email or call 01273 814226.

 


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.

 

 

Why is nature so valuable for us therapeutically and what can it teach us?

An Interview with Ian Siddons Heginworth

Ian Siddons HeginworthIan Siddons Heginworth has a wealth of experience as a Drama and Art Therapist. He is a leading Ecopsychology practitioner and Environmental Arts therapist working in the West country for Devon Health Authority. Ian will be in East Sussex in September this year running the workshop – Exploring the Natural World and The Feeling Self. Please see below for details.

1. Why is nature so valuable for us therapeutically?

Nature is our natural habitat so when we go into nature we immediately encounter our natural selves. Even the idea of going into nature is an illusion because we are nature, so when we walk into the woods we simply become part of the woods. Our natural self is entwined within a complex web of living and sentient connections and is immensely larger than our egoic self. Therapy is about developing a profound and ever deepening relationship with self so to do this in nature is to do it in context, both in time (through reconnection to the turning year) and space (through reconnection to the other-than-human and to natural locations and materials).

2.  What can nature teach us about ourselves?

Nature offers us a rich and complex palate of metaphors, sensual forms rich in colour, shape, texture, meaning, life and death, that transcend spoken language and give shape and substance to our feeling reality. Nature also has an agenda of her own, guiding us constantly into synchronistic encounter with otherwise hidden aspects of ourselves, reflected back to us in her mysteries. She is the wisest of teachers and once we have opened our hearts to her and learned her language, she never ceases to guide us.

3. How does your practice as an environmental art therapist support others in their healing process?

Environmental arts therapy works in relationship to nature to help people move closer to feeling. By finding or making aspects of the feeling self in nature we take that which was hidden within and manifest it outwardly so at last we can interact with it, have a a dialogue with it, transform it, fight and destroy it, or honour and cherish it. That which was profaned can be made sacred, that which was neglected can be loved. Shame can be turned into anger, confusion into direction, impotence into power. All that was stuck is shaken free and begins to flow, and everything begins to change.

4. You wrote a wonderful book, linking the trees to our own psychological journey – what underpins the link between the trees and our own psychology?

The trees in the Celtic Ogham tree calendar offer metaphors that describe the turning of the year, both outwardly and inwardly. As we feel into these, recognising the deep and enduring resonance between all that is unfolding in the natural world around us and all that is unfolding at the same time within, we remember who and what we are. Suddenly all that appeared disfunctional and askew in our lives is seen as part of an unfolding natural process that is so much bigger than ourselves, with an agenda that we can only guess at. Our wounding becomes the path to our enrichment and our empowerment.

5.  What will we experience on your upcoming workshop in September? Why is the Ivy known as the Suffocating Ivy?

Ivy can choke, suffocate and overwhelm whatever tree it grows upon and in this way mirrors all that blocks our path and seeks to overwhelm us as we return from the Summerlands in September. As we spiral back into ourselves we meet the shadow that awaits us there and this can manifest both inwardly and outwardly as we become stuck and held fast, like flies in a web. In the workshop we will explore these metaphors and seek ways in which to break free from the ivy block and bring the shadow into consciousness.

6.  How does nature mirror us emotionally? How does Art and Creativity facilitate this – why does it work so well?

Nature mirrors us emotionally because we are nature. Nature speaks in metaphor, the language of feeling and so whenever we return to our natural place in nature we meet our feeling selves reflected back to us. Our physical separation from nature simply mirrors our apparent separation from self. Art and creativity also speaks in the language of metaphor and so acts as a translator for our intellectual minds until they remember how to do it for themselves, by listening to the feeling heart. As people steep themselves deeper into this process over time they usually find themselves making less and less art and just recognising themselves in whatever they find.

7.  How does this work link to improving the wider community’s relationship to nature and safeguarding if for the future?

This work builds a deep and enduring relationship between soul and soil. Such an intimacy with the natural world is both reciprocal and inherently protective. We will not harm what we love, especially when we feel how much it loves us. The current paradigm places us outside of nature so we see ourselves as its destroyer, a cancer in its body, a parasite bringing the natural world to its knees. But once we see ourselves as nature herself then we can become the self regulating mechanism that the Earth most needs at his time. Human consciousness can prove itself to be the cutting edge of ecological recovery and healing.


Ian Siddons Heginwoth is widely recognised for the Wild Things programme he created and facilitates with young people who are struggling to cope. His understanding of the power of Mother Nature to heal, calm and inspire was born from his own childhood experience.

Ian will be in East Sussex in September, running the following 2 day workshop:

Exploring the Natural World & The Feeling Self – 21st & 22nd September 2019.

‘Suffocating Ivy’ – This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles.

EXPLORING THE NATURAL WORLD & THE FEELING SELF WITH IAN SIDDONS HEGINWORTH (TWO DAY TRAINING)As the solar push of summer comes to an end and the season turns, we recoil back into ourselves with the onset of Autumn. As we spiral inwards we meet the shadows that await us there. In Celtic tradition the ivy was the most powerful of trees for it could pull down a castle wall, block a path or choke the mighty oak. When we meet an ancient ivy we do not just meet the plant but something lost and suffocated within. In this workshop we explore our own ivy blocks, to reveal and resurrect the repressed and neglected aspects of the self.

Date: 21st & 22nd September 2019
Lead Facilitator: Ian Siddons Heginworth
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Time: 09.30 – 17.00
Cost: £175.00
Booking: Please CLICK HERE to complete our online booking form where you will also find payment details or visit the website for more details.


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.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Outdoor Classroom Day – The Power of the Outdoors

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog by Jon Cree

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of the Outdoors - Outdoor Classroom Day Blog

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This course will delve into:

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

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


Transforming education, health and family through nature

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

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

Mental Health Awareness Week

Young Nature Leaders Initiative – Mental Health Awareness Week

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

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

 

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

Meeting new friends

 

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

 

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

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

Mental Health Awareness Week

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


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

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

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

 

 

International School Grounds Month

What is International School Grounds Month?

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

Why is it important?

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

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

 

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

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

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

How can you get involved?

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

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

Share with us during International Schools Grounds Month

What are you doing for International School Grounds Month?

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

 

 

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

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

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

What can we offer?

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

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

Becky Evans, Inclusion Leader, Park Mead School.

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

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

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

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

Katie Scanlan – Operations Manager, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

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

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

Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Landplay Therapy – Two Day Training Course with Kate Macairt.

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

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

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

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


Recommended related reads

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

Copyright

Neuroscience: Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the Outdoors –  System 1 and System 2

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

I am inside a box sitting by a window and the window is slightly open. Outside my window perched on a telephone line are 2 swallows; whatever it is they are communicating to one another, it is clearly something of great interest to them. Their chattering is a non-stop percussive melody, a complex composition with background hum of some power tool and a van pulling up below the window; I smell diesel. A gentle summer breeze licks my face and I watch how the verdant leaves tremble. My mind relaxes. My hand is holding a pen and might start doodling. I have escaped the box.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the Outdoors

If this description resonates then no doubt you too were accused of daydreaming in class. I taught teenagers Expressive Arts for many years and that sense of absorption in the moment; a relaxed pleasure in simple things was a gift I felt was an important aspect of Arts education.

 

I have continued to explore and discover more about the human trait of Creativity and the relationship between creative release and emotional literacy. Ten years ago, I became a Play Therapist.

Day dreaming is important, and it seems easy to daydream outdoors in a place with a tree or flowers, grass, water, sand, mud.

“When we need to plan for an uncertain future, mental meandering can be the perfect tool. Daydreaming has also been shown to be crucial in boosting creativity and problem solving, by allowing the brain to forge connections between pieces of information we don’t link up when we are too focused”, Caroline Williams New Scientist 20/5/17.

System 1 and 2

I am no Neuroscientist but I am a Creative Therapist and the dual process concept resonates as a workable idea which has helped me understand my own thinking and feeling. Recent neuroscience has explored the concept of dual processing (see Kahneman, Kauffman,) – System 1 and System 2.

This theory helps us to understand where feelings come from and why feelings can sometimes manifest for what seems no logical reason – a sudden mood change. I have found that drawing a diagram (psycho-ed) to show how feelings connect to sensory memories has helped young people understand why they are struggling with the world and their sense of place within it.

My version of the science is a simplified, focusing on those aspects of the research which I think are relevant to feeling. System 1: the larger automatic intuitive super- fast automatic brain absorbs all information from the sensory experience of an event. What we hear, see, taste, smell, touch is transmitted into our system 1 at micro second speed and it can feel rather chaotic, especially if we find ourselves in a noisy, busy, hot/cold, place and are hungry (fast brain processing). We may suffer sensory overload. Observe a young infant in a large supermarket and you will probably see the effect of sensory overload it is certainly a location where the toddler tantrum seems to occur frequently.

I think of the System 2 mind as a Superintendent. It is this small frontal cortex area of the brain which tries to filter and make sense of all the sensory input – it needs to make logical rational sense of the experiences so that we feel safe. Superintendent has been identified as lazy and prefers to deal with subjects it has experienced before. System 2 does not like change and so when the flood of sensory information is being fired the Superintendent naturally connects with information it has already stored as memory or tries to find the best fit. System 2 superintendent gives things names – it helps with storing and retrieval of information. So sensory feelings become emotions.

The first time I heard strange chattering out of my window I could not name it. I did not know a swallow. Now I quickly recognise that sound. I am not sure what the power tool is exactly, but I am reassured by stored information from past encounters with power tool noise. Superintendent focused thinking helps me feel in control and safe.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the OutdoorsNow consider the infant of 4 months. The baby needs to reduce fear and feel safe but everything is new and the memory bank is practically empty. The infant needs an adult to ensure safety and meet basic animal needs such as feeding, shelter. The infant needs to feel safe with Other and safe in her environment.

 

The baby’s system 1 needs to work hard in the first year of life. The ears, eyes, nose, mouth, skin need to learn what to do. It is through sensory experience that the infant begins to build a sense of them Selves in relation to Other and the environment.

System 2 needs experiences to be repeated, “again again” is Superintendent’s baby voice. Our brain needs repetition to help make sense of our Senses. The infant needs to build a firm foundation brain, a firm sensory network. Imagine two infants. Both are left alone for a few minutes. The first infant is in a bouncy chair in a living room. The room has electric lighting, a t.v is on and flashes colours in sporadic bursts into the room. The voices on the t.v are high and shrill full of excitement and energy, the baby wriggles in her chair and stretches out for the bright red toy in front of her. The air is heavy with the smell of cooking.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the OutdoorsBaby 2 has been put down on a rug on a piece of grass. The sky is blue and little clouds scud by. The sun is warm and the leaves on the tree twinkle, a butterfly lands on the rug next to the child. The air is full of sounds of the distant town, dogs barking, the wind in the bushes, and the sweet smell of freshly cut grass. The infant’s arms wave in the air.

Can you imagine both scenarios? I am not asking for judgement here as both scenarios are perfectly relevant. But it is the difference in sensory input that is worth focusing on. An infant brain requires enriched input, the infant brain knows what it needs. Carl Jung gave the world the concept of the Archetypes. In some ways the idea of these energy potentials held deep within the psyche seem to relate to the neuroscience concept of synapses waiting to be activated.

The Great Mother archetype is an internal drive which when activated will help the infant feel connected and safe. Secure attachment to the Mother or primary caregiver is boosted by secure attachment to The Great Mother: the earth. Only outdoors can the infant-child truly explore the world and what it is made of. Outdoor space provides room to stretch and try out body strength, to breathe air- although sadly it’s true that in our polluted cities aircon perhaps provides safer air. Man- made is good and we certainly wouldn’t want to get rid of our useful gadgets and inventions but again just consider the physical differences between a swimming pool and a lakeside or seaside beach? How does it feel to be beside the lake or sitting in the spectator stand?

If the infant is exposed to enriched natural sensory input she will unconsciously be creating a firm memory store which will become the foundation of all her future thinking. The early years are like compost making years which create a rich bed of experiences which feed and enrich all other experiences in the future. When we speak of Resilience I feel we are recognising this firm foundation in the child/adult’s mind. An ability to
bounce back is deep set. We need to keep feeding the compost throughout our life by ensuring diverse sensory experiences.

Landplay Training Course

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

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

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

 

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

Author Kate Macairt
Copyright