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.

 

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.  

 

Forest School Sessions with Nursery Children

Forest School Sessions

Forest School sessions are an innovative educational approach that focuses on the ‘processes of learning’ rather than ‘content transfer’.

Forest School is play based, with child led learning at its centre, taking place regularly in an outdoor setting.

Forest School SessionsForest School sessions provide a place for the child’s spark of creativity to be ignited within a rich, ever changing and limitless learning environment, naturally stimulating the development of motor skills, speech and language, utilising the senses of touch, hearing, sight and smell.

There are no buildings, no desks, no bells signalling break time and no prescribed learning outcomes. Instead they move, explore, discover, wonder and use their own imaginations.

 

It is a place for children to communicate, cooperate, problem solve, takes risks, build and construct; and if educators and supervisors are able to step outside the box of over planning and venture into the exciting territory of the unexpected, unplanned and unlimited, the full potentiality of children will naturally begin to thrive.

Forest School sessions - creating wonder and imagination!Outdoor Learning and Forest School sessions are about connecting with the natural world where children can lead and direct their own learning at their own pace and in their own time.

“The very skilled educator knows when to offer an insight, a question, or materials to support the child’s learning, but more importantly knows when to get out of the way.” – Jon Cree.

A typical day with Nursery children at Forest School..

Coming together in a circle is the usual starting point for the session. Taking a moment to ‘arrive’ in the space and breathe. How are we feeling? What is happening in the natural world around us? What have you noticed on the way here?

Perhaps someone saw something on the way into the woods – an animal track, a flower, a feather, a magical stick!

We follow curiosity straight into enquiry, wonder, stories, play and identification.

“What is it? I’ve never seen that before.” “Where did it come from?”

A game begins!  Wolf and Deer running through the bracken and hiding behind the trees! Who will be caught and who is the catcher? Who is the Prey and who is the Predator?

Playing cooperatively and collaboratively. Leading us naturally into more learning about the animals within the game and how they interact with one another – such as the nature of animals hunting.

“How did it feel to be the wolf? How does a pack of wolves hunt?”

“It was exciting chasing the deer.” “We caught the deer when we worked together”.

“Why is my heart beating so fast?”

Unsupervised and non-directed spaces of free play are usually the time when a child’s natural curiosities for more opportunities to explore, discover new boundaries and take risks are readily available to those who are seeking them.

So it’s off to the river. “Who knows the way? Let’s go!”

“I like the noise when I jump into the river.” “Look at how dirty my hands are.”

A few pieces of equipment available is just enough to inspire a new game, a new skill.

“Let’s build a Dam!” “Where the Mallet? I want to build a House!” Two children precariously slipping down the river bank; shall I help them? “I’ll help you, take this rope and I’ll pull you up.”

(No need, they have it covered.)

“1,2,3,4,5…five buckets of leaves in the river..let’s keep going..6,7,8..”

Time for a quick drink at Forest School!Space for food and drinks are an important time for us to come together.  Often stories around what has happened that morning already will be filled will differing perspectives and experiences.

”There were slugs underneath that log, why are they living there?” “That was fun.”

Playing alone or in natural groupings are observed as indicators to the differing learning styles and preferences within the group.

 

“I liked making my own house.” “We made a camp together, look at what we did!”

Pride and self reflection gaining its own momentum.

Sawing? Who wants to have a go at making a fire?

A more focused activity can happen now as children are ‘ready and receptive’.

Learning about safety, control and focus to try a new skill.

Using a bowsaw at Forest SchoolWorking together to use a Bowsaw or making sparks on cotton wool. “Be careful!”

“Can we toast marshmallows this week?”

Returning to the circle at the end to reflect and share.

Inspirations, discoveries, new skills and stories are all ripe to be picked, eaten and enjoyed by all of us.  “We made a mud cake together, we found lots of different types of soil to make the pie with, how come there are so many?”

Natural curiosities are things to celebrate as much as possible, who knows where they will lead?

“I didn’t know I was good at sawing; I would like to do more sawing to make a car next time.”

What did we see? Who remembers the noise of the Woodpecker?

“Is it finished already?”

“Can we do this again tomorrow?”

Defenders of play, and protector’s of fantasy, wonder and awe. Our job is done for today..until next time.

By Charlie Irving, Circle of Life Rediscovery – Woodland Facilitator.

“The nursery children love Forest School. We trialled a 10 week programme with Circle of Life Rediscovery at their beautiful woodland site in the heart of Sussex and the outcome more than exceeded our expectations. Since then we have been going back every year. The children are always so excited to go back to the forest every week, running down the path!” Anita Hotton, Pumpkin Patch Nursery.


Forest School Sessions at your setting.

If you are interested in Forest School Sessions at your nursery or school then please contact us by email or phone 01273 814226. Sessions can take place at your setting or at our woodland site near Laughton, East Sussex.

Forest School Training Level 3

Forest School Training Level 3 - Endorsed TrainerIf you would like to train your staff, we offer unique training at our woodland site and at Parkwood campsite near Brighton. If you have a group we can also offer bespoke training.

2019/20 Course dates:

 

Part 1: 21 & 22nd November 2019 at Mill Woods and 25th, 26th, 27th November 2019 at Parkwood Campsite.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February 2020 at Parkwood Campsite and 2nd, 3rd March 2020 at Mill Woods.

Approved by the Forest School Association and awarded by the Open College Network West Midlands, this Level 3 Certificate provides the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to prepare learners for employment as a Forest School Leader.

The training will combine key principles of Forest School with best practice from Environment and Nature Education, child development, the world of play (wild, free and therapeutic play) delivered by our professional team who have many years experience.

Circle of Life Training are now providing online learning resources to supplement this in-depth direct training. These documents are laid out in an easy to understand format that link to the Forest School Units. We also supply useful video material, links to best practice, a student upload to share valuable resources and the option to download resources for you to keep.

Please visit our website to find out more or call us on 01273 814226.

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. 

 

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

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day – whether we have a diagnosis or not (which can be helpful or not), we are all individuals and one response or label does not fit all.

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all

 

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all – especially those that are ‘different’ and find it more difficult to communicate with others in ways we expect or understand.

 

The popular term ‘neurotypical’ is stating that there is a ‘typical’ way that we interact
with others or not. In reality all of us find interaction difficult at times, and can be
supported in so many different ways, once we are understood. At the same time,
individuals can find it really helpful to understand how their ‘neuroatypical’ wiring,
affects their ability to interact with others and how they perceive the world around
them.

At one end of the spectrum, autistic people may have significant learning disabilities
and require 24-hour support in order to lead their lives, while at the other end the
person may be very intelligent and successful in their chosen career but require a
little support and understanding from others in some areas of their life.” (Forest
School and Autism: Micheal James)

Autism spectrum disorder is described as, ‘persistent difficulties with social
communication and social interaction’ and ‘restricted and repetitive patterns of
behaviours, activities or interests’, present since early childhood, to the extent that
these ‘limit and impair everyday functioning’.

The Woodland Project - World Autism Awareness DayOur funded Woodland Project which we run in partnership with CAMHS and CAMHS-LD-FISS offers family days out, parents days and a long-term teenage programme who are diagnosed with many labels. In the woods we are all people who are valued. We know it makes a positive difference to everyone involved and allows us all to achieve more than anyone imagined.

The days encourage families to put their worries to one side, mingle and laugh knowing that their child’s behaviour is not the focus of attention.  They support young people to feel safe, move through difficult feelings, find hope and be okay with who they are.

You can support the future of The Woodland Project by donating here. Thank you.

The majority of ‘autistic’ people present a level of difference in sensory processing
which affects them in their day-to-day lives. A recent workshop I went on gave us
various activities to give us a momentary glimpse into what it may be like to have
sensory processing difficulties. We had to undo and fasten buttons using washing up
gloves – not easy!

Next I walked around some cones looking through binoculars –my balance and sense of place was totally affected. Finally, the bit I enjoyed most was getting inside a stretchy sock, all tight around me. I experienced how safety can be increased by this touch and containment. And why so many young people I work with love getting inside hammocks or tight spaces.

We perceive the world and our place in it using our senses: sense of sight, sense of
hearing, sense of smell, sense of touch, sense of taste, sense of balance, sense of
our physical positioning and the strength of effort our body is exerting. These are not
the only senses – how we sense our internal feelings is also vital, as this lets us
know if we are hungry or sad.

Our bodies are always enabling us to ‘sense’ our world, and it is often through our bodies, in nature that we can learn to regulate and rewire ourselves to facilitate meeting our needs and providing an increase in well-being. Our new book co-authored by Marina Robb and Jon Cree will be published in Spring 2020. This will dedicate a chapter to the bottom up and top down strategies that we can apply in a natural environment – along with much, much more. Sign up to our newsletter to find out more.

The National Autistic Society recently produced a short film called Too Much
Information, which can be found on YouTube. The film shows the experience of
walking through a busy shopping mall from the perspective of an autistic child
experiencing an overload of sensory information. I would recommend taking moment
to watch this film if you have never experienced sensory overload personally.

Greta Thunberg - World Autism Awareness Day

Finally, on World Autism Awareness Day, I want to acknowledge the climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is diagnosed with Autism. Her protests have both called attention to climate policy, as she intended, but it also highlights the political potential of neurological difference.

 

An extract from: The New Yorker. See the full article here.
“I see the world a bit different, from another perspective, I have a special interest.
It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”
Thunberg developed her special interest in climate change when she was nine years
old and in the third grade. “They were always talking about how we should turn off
lights, save water, not throw out food,” she told me. “I asked why and they explained
about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really
change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be
talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.” Turnberg has an uncanny
ability to concentrate, which she also attributes to her autism. “I can do the same
thing for hours,” she said. Or, as it turns out, for years.

Here I am, sitting in Lewes, East Sussex. It is because of the many people who
have gone before me who acted, and people today, like Greta, that I am glad to be
part of a growing community to come, who values diversity and our uniqueness.

Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, thousands of young people are out on the streets across the world inspired by a young woman with Autism.

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director

 

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC – Director.

 

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing

Written by Marina Robb (Director Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC)

Spirituality is the innate aspect of being human. We have a natural capacity to be spiritual. The search for meaning and purpose in life is a central pillar of spirituality.

The UK school curriculum aims to “Promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental, physical development of pupils at school and of society.” (Section 351 of the Education Act 1996) Many of us who are practitioners who work with children, young people and adults, approach human development from a holistic perspective, with spiritual development being a key ingredient.

But what do we mean by spirituality?

Giesenberg (2007) defines it: ‘Spirituality is an innate part of a person. It is an awareness or consciousness of the surrounding world, a sense of compassion and love towards this world and anything in it shown through wonder and through activities and relationship with peers and significant adults in the child’s life.’

Spirituality mental health wellbeingFor me, it has always been connected to the bigger questions and unknowns of life, as well as the ‘ah ha’ moments and feelings of awe that you get when you experience something special. It has something to do with a ‘consciousness’ or perhaps ‘a group mind’ (like the morphic resonance that Rupert Sheldrake talks about), that permeates all of life.

There is understandably a hesitancy when we use the word ‘spirituality’ as it historically has been closely linked to religion and religious experiences. In more modern times, it has been re-framed to allow this ‘feeling’ of connectedness or mystery to be named without the dogma of any religion or tradition. To enable a discussion around this aspect of life, and to be ‘inclusive’ we are attempting to clarify a very real difference between religion and spiritual. However, experience is inevitably personal and emotional.

Adam et al (2008) defines ‘spiritual’ as, ‘the very sense of being connected to others (whether to people, creatures of things)’. It is intangible, goes beyond anything that is visible or tactile and is, in essence spiritual. Eastern and western mystical traditions focus on spirituality as a journey towards unity with other, ultimately a feeling of becoming one with other.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing
Sal Gencarelle, who I will be co-leading our workshop on ‘Well-being and Spirituality’ on June 11th, describes spirituality as, ‘the science of connection’. (Join us live on a webinar on May 7th 2019). We will explore Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing during our webinar and workshop.

The word ‘spiritual’ comes from the Latin ‘spirare’ meaning ‘to breathe’. Elementally, it is linked to air, which moves through and within all of life, and brings well-being. I am often reminded by children about the essential animistic quality of life. In the early years, the child’s world has no separation between object and subject and everything is alive. This sense of aliveness and connection is foundational to most indigenous world view that see all of life as ‘subjects’ within life. This promotes a harmony with nature, and puts a ‘spiritual’ value on life, where the spiritual and physical are united.

Knowledge in this paradigm comes directly from experience and learning happens from the non-human and human alike. Our ancestral traditions are often written off as ‘primitive’ or ‘spiritual’ yet these people deeply felt the intrinsic ‘aliveness’ of the plant and animal kingdoms – from the trees to the stones. Long-standing earth-based cultures have this awareness and understanding and are experts in their fields. It is understood that although we ‘look different’ and grow and change at a different speed (e.g rocks or trees), we share the same essential materials and are exchanging atoms, molecules and hormones all the time. Humans and their galaxy have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms elements of life. These are known as the building blocks of life and are the crucial elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur. We are made of stardust!

Mental Health is defined as:

“The emotional and spiritual resilience which allows us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own, and others, dignity and worth”. (Mental health Promotion: A quality Framework, Health Education Authority, (1997) London: HEA)

It is really interesting to me that to have ‘mental health’ we need emotional and spiritual resilience – two aspects that are often ‘unconscious’ responses and experiences in life. In way they also are opposite ends of the rational and logical parts of ourselves. Yet we know understand through neuroscience, that we have a ‘system 1’ (emotional, sense-based system) and a ‘system 2’ system (logical, super-intendent) and that to be well, we need to develop in all these aspects.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeingMy mental health has been challenging several times in my life, sometimes in a big way, and often is small little ways. Defining our ‘wellness’ is often a measure of our ability to move through our pain and discomfort, rather than avoiding it. We can’t avoid pain in our lives, but we can learn to have perspectives and experiences that help us move to wellness.

We know that our experiences impact our lives and our ability to form healthy relationships. Our early experiences have a huge affect on our ability to cope with stress and on the development of our emotional and sensory processing systems. Traumatised children struggle to self-regulate across environments and find it difficult to trust and feel safe with adults. These children tend to experience the world through a ‘fear lens’ (Perry 2005).

I recently saw an image of a piece a paper with many dots on it – there was a red line joining dots to form a line across the paper. This was meant to show the story we tell ourselves about our lives. The story gets fixed on key events and we repeat this story until we believe this is who we are, and all that has happened to us. If we take a moment and look beyond the line, we can see hundreds of more dots, all experiences that tell us more about our lives and experiences. Doing this, helped me remember that the story of who I am and what has happened to me, is greater that the one line.

When we drill down under the surface, many of us don’t feel good enough, we lack confidence in what we know and struggle to speak out. We struggle to tell our story, to share our vulnerability – yet it’s in those places that are the treasure and core, unshakeable strength. Some interesting questions to think about:

– What has happened to you? (How is power operating in your life?)
– How did it affect you? (What kind of threats does this pose?)
– What sense did you make of it? (What is the meaning of these situations and experiences to you?)
– What did you have to do to survive? (What kinds of threat response are you using?)
– What are your strengths? (What access to Power resources do you have?)
– What is your story? (How does all this fit together?)

I have worked with vulnerable and challenged young people for most of my working life and my own lived experience of mental health difficulties in my late teens hugely impacted and transformed my life. Nature and healthy relationships were key to my healing and ability to thrive and make healthy choices. My worldview was influenced by different cultures who opened many doors to my understand of ‘reality’ and how nature plays a huge part in a feeling of belonging, place-attached.

Around the world, we know that economic growth alone is not enough to produce happiness. Happiness and well-being is actually reduced despite people in the UK or USA being richer, according to survey day (Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report 2019).

Nature offers us rest-bite and restoration. It is a place of no-judgement and feeling the different non-human relationship that feels safe, once you get out there – sitting round a fire, allow the gentle movement of the flames. It is often mesmerising, uncomplicated and peaceful. In the cultural we inhabit, we present a particular version of ourselves, and in my experience nature allows us our freedom to be and discover ourselves in a new way.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing Workshop:

We will be exploring these themes during our webinar on May 7th 2019 (see below), and during our workshop on June the 11th in East Sussex (Spirituality and well-being Workshop).

You are invited to join Marina Robb and Sal Gencarelle on a Zoom Webinar meeting.

When: May 7th, 2019 8:00 PM London
Register in advance for this meeting here.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

For more about Spirituality, mental health and wellbeing – buy Sal’s new book ‘Thriving in uncertain times’.


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.

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

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

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

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

Forest School in an Urban Environment?

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

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

Forest School Sessions - find out more here

 

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

 

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

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

Activity ideas for Forest School in urban spaces:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

By Katie Scanlan, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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

Endorsed FSA TrainerForest School Training Level 3 Courses:

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

 

 

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

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

Please visit our website for details.

 

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

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

Neuroscience of Early Years: Attachment and Sensory Enrichment

Neuroscience of Early Years

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

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

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

Dr F.Woolverton 2018 (psychologytoday.com)

PROTECT AND SURVIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

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

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

Circle of Trust

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

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

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

LEARNING TO BE OUR SELF

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Kate Macairt, Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC

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

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

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

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

Nature Pedagogy

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

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

 

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

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

The Big Questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

Nature Pedagogy related CPD’s & Courses:

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

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

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

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

Visit our website for full details.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226