Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

Happy Outdoor Classroom Day 2019!

young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroomOn Outdoor Classroom Day we bring you ideas of how to get children outdoors in line with the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework guidelines.

Below are extracts from Reports, Papers and the Education Inspection Framework.

In 2014 the growing weight of evidence was finally recognised by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education at the time, who stated that England was to become a “global leader” in teaching character, resilience and grit to pupils.

‘There is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional skills – their ability to respond to setbacks, work well with others, build relationships, manage emotions and cope with difficult situations – are associated with success at school, as well as positive outcomes in adulthood.’ (Education Endowment Foundation 2017 Report).

There are many different definitions however, probably one of the most compact and accessible definition of the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘character’ has been developed by ADEPIS (ADEPIS Report (March 2015) ‘Building Resilience and Character in young people’ as outlined below:

‘Resilience is the capacity of an individual to ‘bounce back’ from adverse experiences, and to manage positive resources and skills, such as ‘character’ and ‘grit’, that can allow minimising negative outcomes of adverse circumstances.’

‘Character is a set of capabilities (including application, self-direction, self -regulation, and empathy) and soft skills that allow people to achieve their potential.’

The ability to manage setbacks and build on them, seeing them in a positive light that young people can learn from is essential. As Einstein noted ‘Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have not succeeded yet’.

Get outside on outdoor classroom dayThere is compelling evidence built up over many years that children and young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroom.

In September 2019 OFSTED introduced the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) which is built around the ‘connectedness’ of the curriculum. Assessors will focus on quality of education with the curriculum extending beyond the academic to include broader development such as: personal development, behaviour and attitudes, character and cultural capital. This presents an opportunity to extend into the outdoors!

Below are some key notes taken directly from the OFSTED EIF:

Q: How can development of character/personal development be supported in schools?

Personal development:
28. Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which:

  • The curriculum extends beyond the academic, technical or vocational. It provides for learners’ broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents.
  • The curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

Everything we do is based in nature

Children can be supported in building resilience, confidence, independence and in knowing how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

The foundation of our work here at Circle of Life Rediscovery is built on the above qualities. Everything we do is based in nature.

Inspectors will make a judgement on behaviour and attitudes, including the extent to which:



‘Learners’ attitudes to their education or training are positive. They are committed to their learning, know how to study effectively and do so, are resilient to setbacks and take pride in their achievements’.

Q: What is Cultural Capital?
Early Years Inspection handbook p16:

Cultural capital
140. Inspectors will evaluate how well leaders ensure that the curriculum they use or create enhances the experiences and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged. Some children arrive at an early years settings with poorer experiences than others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to ensure that children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning.

We know that outdoor learning experiences can improve a young person’s feeling of well-being. A meta-analysis of 96 studies (see Report) shows that there are significant improvements in independence, confidence, self-efficacy, self-understanding, assertiveness, internal focus of control and decision making as a result of outdoor adventure programmes.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

 

What we see every day: Learning in a natural environment has a high positive impact on a child’s behaviour. This is linked to the quality of facilitation.

Key approaches in the outdoors enable:

  • Child led learning – allows children to discover interests in their own time and at their own pace. Intrinsic motivation and sense of agency is also developed.
  • Learning in nature – hands on learning with a range of natural materials to encompass all learning types including kinaesthetic learners, e.g. clay, sticks, stones. Nature as metaphor and deep investigation.
  • Physical health – wider range of movement in the outdoors such as, climbing, running, crawling, jumping and proprioception. Woodlands naturally provide logs, trees, hills, ditches, stumps which promote movement.
  • Mental health – research has shown being in the outdoors reduces stress. The community of learners provides a safe, emotionally literate, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Building resilience, confidence and independence – regular experiences in the outdoors provide opportunities for children to take supported risks at their own pace and to build on their abilities thus increasing confidence and self esteem.

Download the full document here: ‘Character and Resilience and the Outdoors

Forest School Shelters

 

Would you like us to build you an outdoor classroom? Visit our website for details!

 

 

Enjoy your Outdoor Classroom Day – we hope you manage to get outside today!


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.

Follow us to stay in touch and find out about our events, training, CPD’s and family days:

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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.

 

Family Wild Days Out

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

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

Family Wild Days Out East Sussex

 

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

 

 

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

Family Wild Days Out with Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 – Charlie Irving


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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

 

 

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. 

 

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

Challenging Behaviour – A balanced brain means a pro social mind

Challenging Behaviour – how does the outdoors promote a balanced brain? This was a question put to me on a play structures course last weekend. I had been talking about challenging behaviour and the way ‘movement and making’ can help people of all ages regulate behaviour. So to the question. First what do I mean by balanced brain?

Join Jon Cree for Challenging Behaviour this June or NovemberI was working with a youngster this autumn, Jordan, who, providing he was succeeding with a task, was engaged and controlled…he had a penchant for sawing and took great pleasure in making clean cuts. However as soon as it got hard or he made a hash of sawing he would throw the saw down, stomp and withdraw shouting all his way to the gate of our forest school site.

This became a common occurrence. He would become, very quickly, dysregulated and have difficulty controlling his emotions and behaviours. He also developed the vocabulary and a basic understanding of psychology to try and wind up both his peers and teachers with some choice words!

He displayed a lack of balance. This type of behaviour could be indicative of a sensory processing disorder, ADHD, history of trauma or something else, he was seen as a ‘handful’ in school, where he was always in reactive state, whereas at forest school was more often ‘on task’.

What was happening in his brain at these outbursts was an imbalance of both brain chemicals and lower and higher order thinking. The more reflective brain was being dominated by the reactive brain. Neurologist Jak Panksepp would say the mid-brain pathways are not working in harmony, in this case a lack of control over his frustration saw him reacting with the ‘fast’ or ‘no I can’t do this’ brain….I was sure it wasn’t necessarily indicative of other conditions.

What was needed was time and practise at getting into the pre frontal cortex to recognise the emotions that threw Jordan out of balance and to think about self regulation. Jordan was 12 and at this age the pre frontal cortex…the higher order brain that thinks about feelings and helps regulate behaviour by bringing the brain into balance, is going through a developmental phase.

It is fine to feel frustration, in fact its good and healthy. It is how we respond to the emotion that’s important, not letting it call all the shots. In the moment what helps is ‘calming’ and an approach from us, the adult practitioners, who have a developed pre frontal cortex, that is non threatening, clear, calm, empathetic and soothing to help Jordan re-balance. What happens when his frustration kicks in is either Jordan’s hyper-arousal and he stomps in rage, or some people enter hypo-arousal where the freeze response kicks in and a rigid non-flexible adaptive behaviour is displayed.

What is happening when these two states are witnessed is the autonomic nervous system activating to release certain chemicals such as cortisol or adrenaline and neurotransmitters like noreprophine, opioids etc, that can lead to brain imbalance.

Find our more about Jon Cree and his Challenging Behaviour 3 day course

How does Forest School help bring the brain into balance? Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson in their book ‘The Yes Brain Child’ propose through 7 daily ‘activities’ optimal brain matter is developed to create a healthy mind.

These include; sleep, physical time, focus time, down time, reflective time, connective time, play time.

While all these exist simultaneously at forest school (excepting sleep, unless you drop off in a hammock!) what the outdoors offers in abundance is physical and play time. One of the key mid brain systems Panksepp calls the PLAY system.

It has been shown that regular integrated play helps to stimulate both lower order thinking and higher order brain development, enabling a more integrated brain to develop. When in extended play mode, it could be through a hunting game or ‘playing with’ saws to see what happens when different techniques and materials are experimented with, then all kinds of higher order thinking and behaviours can develop.

These can include handling disappointment, sustaining attention, making sense of the world, overcoming fears of disappointment, tolerating frustration or coping with feelings of helplessness. Chemicals released through play can include serotonin, oxytocin, noreprophine all of which can counteract too many of the hyper and hypo-arousal chemicals.

Explore Challenging Behaviour in the outdoors with Jon Cree

 

The moving and physical activity at forest school beit running, dragging, swinging, climbing or sawing and chipping also helps both dissipate the reactive chemicals and stimulate resilient balanced brains.

 

When this is a regular programme eventually the combination of an empathic approach, plenty of integrated play, physical activity, daydreaming, a soothing green place and reflective time can see more balance and more pro social behaviour.

In the end Jordan will keep hold of the saw, regulate his behaviour and brain, discovering, through trying out how to make the most of technique and materials, the pleasure from ‘making’.

By Jon Cree

Jon Cree
Jon will be in East Sussex in June and November this year with Circle of Life Rediscovery delivering the 3 day course:  Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors.

 

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

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

This course will delve into:

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

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

 

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

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

Forest School – A Day in the Life

A day in the life of pumpkin patch nursery forest school

Forest School Sessions in East Sussex

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out about forest school sessions for your school or nursery

 

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

 

 

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

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

You can also see our website for details and information.