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

 

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

Therapeutic Play & Nature Connection

Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

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

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

Challenging Behaviour & Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

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

Green Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Connection

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

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

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

Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

 

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

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

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com 

01273 814226

 

First by the heart before understood by the mind – Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

Ecopsychology, Environmental and Art Therapy in practice.

We are really looking forward to Ian Siddons Heginworth coming to run a 2 day workshop for us in March ‘Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash’, an ecopsychology and practical therapeutic training.  Ian is a highly experienced and creative practitioner who is both insightful and accessible.

Please sign up to our newsletter here to receive future updates about our courses and trainings.

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.I have owned his book ‘Environmental Arts therapy and the Tree of Life’ for many years, and am forever impressed by the depth and breadth of how his writing links our psychology with nature, and in particular the Celtic wisdom of the trees.

For those of us who work with nature as a source of healing, learning,  creativity and inspiration, these days will lead us to understanding how our true selves are intimately entwined and connected to Nature and her cycles.  Ecopsychology, art and environmental experiences are therapeutic. From the physical experience, the absorption of plant hormones that lower our cortisol,  to emotional and psychological experiences that are supported and unravelled through nature’s language of metaphor.

About the Workshops

The training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles and promises practical ecopsychology where we can explore our difficulties and let nature transform them.   At Circle of Life we offer transformational programmes and approaches that draw on old and new wisdom and all of us are willing to learn more about how nature’s gifts can help us to ‘be’ in life, and live in a connected and fulfilling way. We also know that exploring our ‘shadow’ (See our course in April – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space) and feelings are necessary to be mentally well and enable us to transform and change.  Our work with all ages and background in nature repeatedly shows us the power of nature for long lasting well-being.

Ian’s fine work explores our masculine (the active and outward parts of ourselves) and the feminine (the feeling, inward part of ourselves that receives form the world).  It offers us a way to reconsider our daily life as the year turns around through the months and seasons.  It shows us how we can reconnect to the disowned parts of ourselves that are the compost of our health.

As a Forest School trainer and group facilitator, I hope to integrate the practical knowledge of working and offering activities through the year, with the psychological benefits that nature and these methods affords us.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

This intimate relationship with the living world was not unusual for our ancestors.  Trees have always been of paramount importance.  There is enormous cultural and medicinal value of the trees.  For us in the West, our Celtic ancestors lived in a forested land and a secret form of written language was called the Ogham.  The earliest known form of Ogham was the Tree Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet.  Each letter was associated with a name of a tree. The Celtic year had thirteen months with each month associated with a tree.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

 

 

“Each month has offered us the Tree of Life in a different guise” Ian Siddons Heginworth.

 

 

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash

This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The first of two workshops will be held over the Spring Equinox and focus on the Ash – Alchemical Ash. In ancient Britain the Ash was associated with rebirth and new life.  The beginning of March is the time of year when we feel the promise of Spring and we long for it’s arrival, but winter is still here. By the end of March, it will have arrived!

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Suffocating Ivy

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

The second in Autumn, ‘Suffocating Ivy’ – associated with death as well as life, as the female body gives life, so woman brings death. “September comes and the night creeps in…  Even before the leaves start yellowing we know autumn is here….Life is beginning to pull inwards.”  For the Celts, the ivy  is considered the strongest of trees because it can choke and kill anything it grows on, even the great Oak.  The Ivy can help us to meet that which blocks our path to freedom.

 

If you would like to find out more about our ecopsychology and practical therapeutic trainings with Ian please visit our website.

We look forward to meeting you under the trees at Mill Wood finding our freedom, love, innocence and renewal but perhaps not before we meet our loss and feelings felt too by our heart.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery

ANON: Poem found in the Plough Inn, Myddfai, Dyfed, 1998

“Beechwood fires are bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year. Chestnut’s only good they say, If for long laid away. Make a fire of Elder tree, Death within your house shall be.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn to fast, Blaze up bright and do not last. It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, E’en the flames are cold.  But ash green or ash brown, Is fit for a queen with a golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke, Applewood will scent your room, With an incense-like perfume. Oaken logs if dry and old, Keep away the winter’s cold.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold”.

Ian Siddons Heginworth - Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

 

Ian is a leading practitioner, innovator and teacher of environmental arts therapy, a practical ecopsychologist, Author of ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’.

Please see his website for more information.

 

 

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

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

 

Forest School Training Level 3 – why train to be a leader?

Forest School Training Level 3

A recent Facebook post asked if you can run a Forest School programme without completing the Forest School Training Level 3.

Forest School Training Level 3

The short answer is, you don’t need qualifications to take people outdoors, nor to necessarily offer great learning and development practice. If you are a parent, you like all of us have a ‘duty of care’ to young people and when you work with other people’s children, you need to abide by Health and Safety law and insurance requirements.

Why does anyone study?

Hopefully to improve themselves, and learn how to be better at what they do. The more we know, the more we understand how many skills and attributes are actually needed to work with groups.  How do we safely (yet wanting risk) support the whole development of children? How to we facilitate them towards a ‘good enough’ sense of self, and co-lead them on a journey to health and fulfilment?

“Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.”
(From www.forestschoolassociation.org)

Forest School Training Level 3 – a learning community

Endorsed Trainer - Forest School TrainingThe Forest School training (I am an endorsed trainer from the UK Forest School Association – a charity) is very comprehensive. It provides a learning community in the outdoors, with embodied learning experiences – leading to a recognised and valued qualification.

Forest School is an approach not a copyrighted name. So there are people and organisations who are offering Forest School without training. The problem with this, as in all fields, is that you don’t have any way of knowing the quality or standards of practice.

This is not to say the quality of non-trained staff may not be great, just it’s more likely trained people will really provide the ethos, values, multiple skills, observations, have self-reflection, empathy, practical skills and instil a real love of the natural world.  Not many people or other qualifications give this range of pedagogy and skills.

Insurance

Most insurers will insure what you say you do. If you use knives and fire (the physical, psychological, emotional developmental benefits are huge), then they would expect you to have some training in this, for relevant ages. Not all great Forest School sessions use fire or knives because the point is to develop a child’s self-worth, and whole development, not to be a great crafts person, though they may choose to develop those skills.

Quality Training

Forest School Training in East Sussex with Circle of Life RediscoveryThe best quality Forest School provision, is to get trained by people who take you into nature and model practice with all the benefits that direct contact with nature provides.

There are lots of great trainings around the world that teach people to effectively work with young people in the outdoors. I am not attached to one model, but appreciate how much thought has gone into the model, and there is not much missed out.

 

Like any training, it’s often the dynamic relationship with the trainers/the people/the place & season, the resources that make the ingredients of great experiences.

Values of Forest School

Forest School, like many long term nature connection education programmes under other names, have spawned in various countries in recent times, which share common values.

At the heart of Forest school is valuing every learner and the contribution they make to the learning community.  This means working with learner’s needs, interests, motivations and preferred ways of learning, and alongside this recognising the intrinsic value of the non-human world.

Respect and humility are core values that all Forest School practitioners work with, which means giving ‘power’ over to our own learners for their own learning – through providing choice, tempered with compassion for the non-human.  In a nutshell this is a holistic form of education creating a vibrant nature-based learning community.

We also offer Forest School Training in Ireland!What we are hoping to arise from these values is the building of resilience, creativity, self-worth, emotional literacy, connection to and caring for the non-human world, so our planet and society thrives.  The important aspects that make Forest School special are the playful ‘equal’ ‘relationships’, and the deeply empathic connections that develop. But that is not all!

When children and young people feel that they are ‘enough’ are supported to have ‘agency’ and their experiments and mistakes valued, they turn out be creative, critical thinkers. Being able to play and master skills, lays the brain networks of learning and development that are life-long attributes and prevent mental ill health.

Principles of Forest School

There are a number of principles that have been explicitly expressed, see UK Forest School Association website, that are underpinned by the above values.  These principles (in our words) are;

  • Developing a relationship between learners and the natural world that features mutuality and compassion.
  • Facilitating a long term programme of regular contact with the natural world that make deeper, caring nature connections.
  • Working in a learner-centred way whereby an ‘equal’ learning community is developed where there is a combination of autonomous and communal learning, featuring joint decision making regarding the learning. Forest School follows a constructivist approach whereby the learning, in and of, the real natural world and themselves emerges.
  • Risk taking in a safe context is encouraged, enabling learners to move into their learning zones where they can manage their own risks be they emotional, physical, cognitive or social risks.
  • Developing the whole person, supporting cognitive processes and fostering creative, resilient, physically healthy independent learners.
  • Practitioners who are qualified and continually reflect on, and develop, their own learning and Forest School facilitation.

Forest School is seen as a relatively new phenomena – the term being devised in 1993 by a group of nursery nurses at Bridgewater College who established their own ‘Forest School’ after visiting some early years settings in Denmark.  Forest school is based on many years of tradition of outdoor learning and pedagogy.

Whilst a practitioner plans, considers last week’s evaluation, risk assesses all sessions in advance, the day brings it’s ever changing surprises!  As practitioners we are responding to ourselves, others, nature and the resources available all the time to enable a holistic, healthy and ‘in the moment’ experience.

Many years of research have left us without any doubt as to why and how nature fosters healthy child development.  The combination of allowing children to play, in the outdoors, enables the ideal context for young people to grow, learn and be happy.

“A child’s neurological systems naturally seek out the sensory input they need on their  own – they determine how much, how fast, how high works for them at any given time.  If they are spinning in circles it is because they need to; if they are jumping off a rock over and over, it is because they are craving that sensory input.  They are trying to organise their senses through practice and repetition.”
Sue Waite (Natural Connections).

Forest School Training Level 3 with Circle of Life Rediscovery

Our Forest School Training Level 3, trains us following our natural operating biological, evolutionary and sensory system. This approach to learning and developments forms an essential part of a healthy life, that we hope will form part of every child’s school experience.

Our Level 3 Forest School Training provides the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to prepare learners for employment as a Forest School Leader.Our next course takes place in November 2019 in East Sussex and the dates are:

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.

Find out more about our Forest School Training Level 3, please visit our website.

2019 Feedback:

“The trainers were all passionate, engaging, knowledgeable and encouraging. I found the child development/neuro-science part fascinating!”

“I really enjoyed learning about woodland management and how to plan this in my own setting.”

“I have learnt that all people can benefit from being in nature, especially children with SEND, I am excited to take what I have learnt to my school.”

“I loved the games, songs, craft activities, learning theories, it was magical. It has made me feel calm and reflective.”

“You have inspired me so much through your creativity, I felt like I was in a very nourishing environment, you were always there for the group and very supportive.”

“It has made me more aware of the environment and really opened my mind to new possibilities in getting children involved with nature. Plus I have found my own calm!”

“The training has been an incredible journey. The leaders were so knowledgeable but not at all intimidating.”

Look out this year for a new book on Forest School co-authored by Marina Robb and Jon Cree! To hear about this plus our other events, news and trainings, please sign up to our newsletter here.

Marina.

Marina Robb (Msc; MA; PGCE)
Director:  Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC/Circle of Life Training
07966 514469 / 01273 814226
Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

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.

 

 

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

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

The Children’s Fire

The Children's Fire

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Nature

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

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

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

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

Download the full ‘Living Planet Report’ here.

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

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

The Importance of Nature

The Adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery – Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

Outdoor Classroom Day – 1st November 2018

To celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day 2018 we wanted to share the adventures of a local nursery group, who come each week to do Forest School at our beautiful woodland site in East Sussex.

“Once upon a time there was a very brave and adventurous group of children who wanted to go and have fun in the forest.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2018They travelled on a bus for a very long time before arriving at the gate to the woods. They found their way in to the woods by following brightly coloured flags, sometimes they ran from flag to flag, excited to get to the forest and start to play. Other times when they walked carefully along the track they found animal footprints in the mud and sometimes they just followed their ears.

Once they were in the woods they had many many adventures…

They learnt all about the season of Autumn and what that really meant. They learnt about how the leaves change colour from green to yellow, to orange, to red, to brown and how the leaves fall off the trees on to the ground.

Picking blackberries for paint! Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

One week they collected blackberries and made brightly coloured paint, they painted pictures of the trees and made smelly potions in a big bucket and they collected autumn colours to create a rainbow on their colour cards.

 

 

Another week they searched for mini-beasts and found them hiding under logs, and amongst the leaves. They found spiders, beetles, ants and millipedes…that was a very exciting week in the forest!

The adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery

Over the coming weeks the adventurous children made dens and homes for the animals of the forest, they climbed trees and played hide and seek games, they collected wood and helped to build a fire using sparks, and they made popcorn on the fire and ate it, just like the animals in one of the stories they read.

 

Finally the children’s adventure had to come to an end…but not before they made mud cakes for the fairies of the forest to say thank you for sharing the woods with them and cooked toffee apples on the fire.

Popcorn over the fire!

 

Then it was time to sing goodbye to the woods, roll their logs back and get back on the bus and travel all the way back to Pumpkin Patch nursery.”

By Katie Scanlan

 

 

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery

If you feel inspired by the children’s story and want to get outside with your nursery children, or find out more about Forest School, then please get in touch by sending an email or call 01273 814226.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Marina Robb for Inspiring Advocate!

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director, nominated for National Education Award!

Vote for Marina Robb!Marina Robb, Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery, has been nominated for a prestigious National Education Award in recognition for her commitment and passion for learning outside the classroom. Marina now faces a public vote to find out if she will take home the title of Inspiring Advocate at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom Awards in November 2018.

Marina has worked for over 30 years co-developing and offering highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults and families in Sussex. Her programmes draw on the woodland as a resource for health and well-being.

The Woodland ProjectMarina has been the recipient of funding from Natural England, Mind and The National Lottery, amongst other grant makers for her outdoor work. She has worked tirelessly to secure hundreds of thousands of pounds which has enabled  woodland days for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18-year olds who are accessing mental health services. Most recently she was the winner of ITV’s The People’s Projects, winning £50,000 to secure the future of The Woodland Project.

Marina has also helped to bring forest school training to the Republic of Ireland for the first time, and now delivers training in Ireland as well as East Sussex.

As well as co-authoring the book ‘Learning with Nature’, Marina has been Director of Life Skills Education – working in Primary and Secondary schools delivering self-esteem, anti-bullying and assertiveness programmes and designed Eco-packs for Sustainable Schools.

Marina is currently a founding committee member for Vert Woods Community woodland which hopes to bring people of all back grounds to the woods for generations to come.

Please vote for Marina Robb!Overall, her work and programmes that support young people, disabled children and able children, families and adults have allowed thousands of people, to find new and old ways of connecting with nature and reap the benefits of facilitated outdoor experiences.

Voting closes on 26th October 2018. Please vote here and go to question 3: VOTE NOW!

Kim Somerville, head of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the charity behind the awards, explains, “The Outstanding Contribution to Learning Outside the Classroom Awards recognise and celebrates the people and teams who are transforming the lives of children and young people by providing or championing exciting and inspiring learning outside the classroom experiences. We want as many people as possible to vote for their local hero so they can get the credit they deserve.”

Many thanks for your on-going support.

Working with Nature to Support our Mental Health

World Mental Health Day 2018

It is perhaps normal to think of our physical health. If you hurt your arm, you will happily share that information.  However if your mental health is suffering, it is harder to be comfortable to share that you are feeling stressed, anxious, and even harder to get to a point where you may need to seek more help.

As a culture, we are particularly bad at talking about our feelings, what educationalists would call our emotional literacy.   Many schools across the UK do have programmes to help young people communicate what they are feeling, yet the teachers are rarely honest and open themselves!

Part of the difficulty is that we as adults, educators, health practitioners and parents are not used to sharing feelings and don’t have the communication skills to articulate what is going on for us.  We resist being open, as this feels exposing and dangerous.  What is it about our society that feels so unsafe to share feelings?

We offer tailor-made nature-based therapeutic experiences for children, young people and adults from all walks of life. We can work with young people and families who are experiencing challenges or emotional distress at school or home and are struggling to cope with day to day life.The importance of feeling safe cannot be underestimated.  This both comes from the individual and the container/society.  If the school, home, parent doesn’t feel safe, then it is unlikely to be an environment for people to share openly.  As adults working with young people, we need to be more careful, to provide the quality of listening and helpful words to support the journey of growing up.  At the same time though, I believe it is equally necessary for the adults to do their own work on feelings and to learn how to share what is going on for them and to take the risk of doing that.  I am not saying that we share all our baggage and personal stories, but I am saying that we feel able to choose appropriately what personal information we may say to support a meaningful connection, and to be an active listener.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health:

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

In our organisation, we believe in the power of nature to transform our well- being.  Over many years, through our projects,  I have witnessed an increase in physical and mental health, reduced stress and an increase in an aptitude for learning across the ages.  In effect through nature-based experiences we are able to transform education, health and family life.   Our model brings together practitioners who are comfortable with their emotions, skills at listening and care about others well-being.  All our projects support personal development, which means at times going to uncomfortable places and having difficult conversations.

Supporting young people with mental health issuesOur flagship project is known as ‘The Woodland Project’.  This is a partnership project with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and CAMHS learning disability and Family Intensive Support Service (CAMHS-LD- FISS).  One of our programmes offers young people who have diagnosed mental health issues a monthly day in the woods as a group.   The young people may live with a variety of mental health issues, from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, Personality disorder and are some of the most articulate and vibrant young people I have ever met.  They do struggle to work positively with what they experience and are incredibly supportive of each other.

What can be challenging is how our culture stigmatises the young people and families who are living with a range of difficulties. Some behaviour is very cruel.  People share that they feel so isolated, as it is too challenging to access many community spaces.

We are currently running a programme for teenagers who are suffering from mental health issues

Natural spaces are often great levellers, where we can begin to feel relaxed (natural spaces reduce cortisol levels), and free ourselves to have different experiences in a group setting that re-build our self esteem, and give us a new and different perspectives on ourselves and the world around us.  Nature is a very forgiving environment, alongside all the multitude of benefits being outside in a supportive group provides.

Today is a day of celebrating our mental health and supporting ourselves and others to feel safe enough to feel, and be listened to.  My advice is to take a risk and share something that you wouldn’t normally –  the benefit is worth the risk and hopefully you will feel a little bit of joy!

Below are various personal videos about our Mental Health Project with Teenagers.

“The woods is a safe space to re-connect, it is healing and welcoming, I feel like I am not judged and I have learnt about the kind of person I want to be, without pressure and stress.”

CPD’s & Training Programmes

Courses and trainings

 

At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run CPD’s and Training programmes for health and education practitioners:

 

21st & 22nd March – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash’.

1st & 2nd April 2019 – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space with Marina Robb and Kate Macairt.

23rd & 24th September – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Suffocating Ivy.’ 

In 2019 we are developing a 4 day Nature & Mental Health training programme for practitioners, exploring best practise from nature and well-being. Learn how to deliver ‘Green Care’ interventions. To express your interest, please click here.

Group Nature-based Therapeutic Interventions

We offer bespoke Nature- based therapeutic interventions for groups of people experiencing similar needs. These ‘green-care’ group packages are tailor made for particular client groups. Find out more.

Team Building & Away Days

We work closely with clients to deliver bespoke team building and away days for organisations, ensuring an effective and creative learning experience. We aim to draw out your skills, improve communication and confidence, give you a fresh perspective and to inspire! Contact us to hear more or call 01273 814226.

“It was the best away day I have ever been to and I would like to do it all again! The facilitators are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it was a beautiful and peaceful setting and there was a good mix of sociable and quieter activities. I loved this away day and will have fond memories of the time we spent in your wood. The activities arranged for our team were simple yet meaningful. They were also thoughtfully put together, with activities that: required us to work together on a goal; pushed us (comfortably) to do new things; connected with our sense of fun and silliness; and some were quiet, solitary and mindful. Doing tasks we would never normally do together and never do in our workplace – making fires, using knives to craft things – helped us be and work together in a way that enhanced our team relationships. It rained, but we had a great time! Thank you.”
Dr Simon Tobitt, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Assessment & Treatment Service and Recovery & Wellbeing Service: High Weald, Lewes and Havens.

Donate

If you would like to make a donation to support the future of our Woodland Days to support young people and families, please contact us.

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

Ideas for Outdoor Maths, by Juliet Robertson

6 ideas for using syringes in a mathematical way outside – explore outdoor maths.

Blog By Juliet Robertson, Creative Star Learning Ltd.

I’ve always used syringes for water play, mark making, as air pumps in technology projects and for having fun in the snow. I’ve always chosen the biggest syringes I could find – 100ml ones.

Find out more about Outdoor Maths on 21st September!

 

But this set, a present from a friend, fuelled the mathematical fire within me. Have a close look at the sizes and see what you notice – this is just the sort of thing to ask older primary aged children.

Can you see:

  • The sizes of the syringes, as well as increasing in capacity, are mathematically linked.
  • The numbers in the squares allow you to quickly measure a smaller quantity than the total volume of liquid possible. The three biggest syringes (10, 20 & 50ml) are all multiples of the smallest two (2 & 5ml).
  • The capacity of the syringes are all multiples of 3 – 3, 6, 12, 24 and 60ml. Again this allows for lots of quick mental calculations.

The syringes provide further learning opportunities:

1. Can you accurately measure the capacity of each syringe?

Show children how to fill the syringes to precisely the correct quantity and how to remove the air bubble.

2. Is there a relationship between the capacity of the syringe and the distance you can squirt water?

How could you set up a fair test to measure this?

3. Does the capacity of a syringe affect the splat it makes on the ground?

Or is this dependent upon ground surface and inclination and height or angle at which the water is squirted onto the ground?

4. What is the longest continuous line you can make with a syringe?

This challenge is surprisingly tricky. Your class will needed to develop skill of using a syringe accurately to create a continuous line. Then there is the task of measuring the length of the line. This is also a good opportunity to practice conversions between metres and centimetres. Be aware that the lines can be surprisingly long, even from a syringe with a small capacity.

5. What is the best syringe strategy for a water fight?

For example, if you could choose between having 1 x 60ml syringe owned by one person or having 20 people on your team, all with 3ml syringes, which side is most likely to win? You will have to agree a set of rules for winning the fight and also what behaviours are acceptable or not. Is there a particular combination of syringes for the best chance of wining?

6. Finally, it is also worth considering a conversation about the medical uses and purposes of a syringe. A discussion may also be needed about what to do if you find a syringe that has been left as litter on the ground.

To find out more and explore further ideas for learning maths outside, come along to our CPD day on 21st September, run by Circle of Life Rediscovery and Juliet Robertson.

Outdoor Maths, Place Value, Nature Counts.

Outdoor Maths, 21st September with Juliet Robertson

Date: Friday 21st September 2018
Lead Facilitator: Juliet Robertson
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Cost: £120.00
Time: 09.30 – 15.30, please arrive by 09.15
Booking: Please CLICK HERE to complete our online booking form where you will also find payment details.

 

Whether you love or loathe the subject, this course will open your ideas to the potential of any outdoor space as a context for learning maths. We will have a lot of fun as we explore ways of:

  • Ensuring fan-ta-stick interactive approaches to mental maths
  • Developing simple lesson structures that are open-ended and begin with what the children know and can do.
  • Taking a playful approach to maths that develops children’s confidence in this subject
  • Using children’s natural curiosity about the world around them to develop data handling and analysis skills
  • Creating a maths-rich outdoor space or school grounds

This course is particularly suitable for those who work with children in KS1 and KS2 including Forest School practitioners, primary teachers, SEND specialists and outdoor educators. Early Years educators may also find the day of value. The course is backed up by oodles of resources on a password protected blog post and the many blog posts that are readily accessible on the Creative STAR website. BOOK NOW.

Explore Outdoor Maths and more with Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com