Valentine’s Day in the Woods

A Parent’s View – We loved it!

A friend had recommended the Circle of Life Rediscovery Family Wild Day Out to me but I didn’t think it would be ‘our thing’.

Whilst wondering what I was going to do over a rainy half term week and how to keep two energetic girls entertained, I thought – why not?

Can't wait to go back at Easter for another Family Wild Day Out!

 

We set off on a grey morning with our water proofs and packed lunch. We met a few other families at the gate and the children soon started to make friends.

 

Jennie, running the Family Wild Day Out, from Circle of Life Rediscovery was there to greet us and gave the children an activity to do whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.

And Relax…..

One thing I noticed when we got to the woodland site, was the smiles on everyone’s faces.  It was like we had left our stresses behind. I also felt the same, I cannot remember when I had a whole day without looking at my phone every 10 minutes or worrying about what jobs needed to be done. We just focused on each other in the here and now.

Making dens and shelters on our family wild day out!
Sticks and Stones….

After our introductions and safety notes (mainly about the fire and our borders) we set off to make dens! I didn’t think the girls would be that keen, but they couldn’t wait!

Off they ran to collect sticks and leaves, they teamed up with some other children and actually made a fantastic den that we could hide in!

 

LOVE-ly Activities

We made our own bird feeders!Shortly after that we sat together and made heart shaped bird feeders which the girls loved.

I noticed that the older children helped the younger children without being prompted – being together in the woods made everyone join together as one big family.

We were able to take them home and have since enjoyed watching the birds whilst eating our breakfast.

 

Slack lining and rope bridges! Fun at our family wild day out!
Testing our Skills!

After lunch we build rope bridges and tried out our slack lining skills – adults too!

We played games in the woods and Jenny pointed out small bluebell buds starting to grow (must come back to see the woods covered in bluebells in the spring!).

 

 

Relight your Fire!

Making our own fires and experiencing woodland cooking!

It was then time to build our own fire, we split into groups, collected sticks and made our fire which was really satisfying!

The children took it in turns to cook pancakes over the fire which were delicious – it was great for them to try out new skills and they were really pleased with themselves.

 

 

Yummy pancakes on the fire!The leader Jenny and her volunteer Peter, were so patient and good with the kids. They spent time with them explaining what we were doing and why – about the importance of nature and the earth.

I was able to take a step back and breathe in the woodland. I don’t think I have ever stood still in a woodland before, just listening to the bird song, it was actually quite magical. As a busy working mum I have never really taken the time to appreciate it.

 

Such a fun family day!Saying Goodbye

We finished the day by sitting in a circle around the fire and had marshmallows and hot chocolate to warm up.

We said our good byes and headed back to the car, I noticed the girls were covered in mud and had scruffy hair, but they were still smiling.

Having mentioned earlier that I didn’t think the Family Wild Day Out would be up our street – I was so wrong, we can’t wait to go back again for some more family time in the woods.

Family Wild Day Out  – Future Dates

Can't wait to go back again at Easter for another family wild day out!

The next dates for the Circle of Life Rediscovery Family Day Wild Day Out are as follows:

3rd April 2018
31st May 2018
8th August 2018
30th August 2018

Please book online in advance! Details can be found on the website or you can book online here.

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery
Circle of Life Rediscovery offers CPD’s and forest school training for adults, residential camps, forest school, woodland days and enrichment days for schools, plus family days in the woods! For more details please see the website.

 

Fired Up February! Teenage Woodland Programme Update

February’s session of the Teenage Woodland Programme saw an eclectic mix of handy craft, skills and pizza fired straight from the hand built oven itself.

Making fires at the Teenage Woodland Programme encourages team building and confidence

 

During the day there was the usual building of fires which time after time provides a great sense of teamwork amongst the group and in turn strengthens the relationships between the participants on the teenage woodland programme.

Warmth is such a basic human need and so by working with each other to create that, it becomes even more meaningful.

Pizza oven! - find out more about our woodland site!

 

Of course then made all the more tastier when creating ones own pizza with an impressive variety of toppings for the outdoors, I’m sure I saw some chorizo!

 

Find out more about our woodland site!

 

The pizzas certainly went down a storm and I’m sure they’ll will be back on the woodland menu again (even if I have to champion it myself).

 

 

The Teenage Programme - showing off our skills!

 

There was an abundance of craft and skills happening throughout the day. At one end of the base camp a participant was using aerial silks and showing off her learnt moves – very impressive and a joy to watch.

 

The Teenage Programme - making bird and bat boxesOn the other side of the camp participants were continuing to build their bird and bat boxes which helps to enable the crucial conservation of the wood itself.

A couple of participants also took to creating little leather pouches, just big enough to hold something significant like a grounding stone. I for one still carry my stone and leather pouch, with its drawing of a bear paw with me wherever I go. I made it in 2012 when I was once a CAMHS participant on the woodland days. Sometimes the smallest and simplest of things carry with them such power and almighty strength.

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery - visit our website to find out more about us

 

S’mores, music and discussion sealed the day and what a packed day it was. Yet throughout there was an air of calm and thoughtfulness amongst the group which was interesting.

Not too far off we’ll start to see the beginning changes of nature heading towards Spring. That’s one of the brilliant things about this month by month project is that we began in Autumn and we’ll finish in Summer, so all the changing seasons will be witnessed in our woodland.

 

By Emma Thorne

CAMHS Peer Trainer

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery has been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where you can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement.

The course is free and has been designed and delivered with young people who have experienced mental health challenges. The programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July! We will co-create a fun, safe and healing time together, have discussions and stories around the fire and rediscover our gifts and how nature can support our well-being.

Forest School and Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

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

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

Day one

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

Day two

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

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

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

Cost: £165 per person for both days.

 Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

Why Teach Literacy Outside?

Here are ten reasons to get outside and teach literacy!

By Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning.

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

Recently I was asked to think about why I teach literacy outside. Whilst there is a lot of focus on early years and literacy, the value of reading, writing, talking and listening outside for children and young people of all ages is significant.

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

1. It makes the learning and teaching of spelling and grammar fun, relevant and interesting.

2. Children enjoy making miniature worlds which then become the scene for a story. They can sculpt and shape their imaginative thoughts. This helps them understand about creating a setting with words.

3. The world around us provides inspiration for writing poems. The results are consistently of a better quality than poetry written in the classroom.

4. As we move from place to place, our thoughts, feelings and actions change. This helps us understand that this happens to characters in a story too. We can make our character descriptions more authentic.

5. There is nothing like reading a ghost book or horror story in a creepy place. Or making up your own. The setting doubles the atmosphere created.

6. When we play games we can write down instructions about how to play them. Our knowledge of being outside can be used to write advice to others about how to avoid being stung by a wasp or what to do if a nettle stings you. Functional writing has additional purpose and relevance.

7. Real life experiences help us develop our vocabulary and comprehension. For example, some children find vocabulary introduced in a book confusing. He or she may not necessarily understand that a river, lake, stream and pond are all bodies of water. Sometimes concepts that are read about in a book do not make sense until they are seen, felt or experienced for real.

8. We’re not reading at our desks. Hardly anyone reads at a desk unless they are at school or in an office. Reading for pleasure should be at leisure.

9. The art of naming, describing and knowing about the world around us matters. You can learn the umpteen descriptions to describe the stem of a plant. But without observing these, it is much harder to memorise or to truly know and understand.

10. Children engage with their learning outside and this has a knock-on effect back in the classroom too, according to a recent study.

Outdoor Literacy CPD, East Sussex – 23rd February

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

 

 

About Juliet Robertson

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

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

 

About Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

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

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

 

 

 

Why overnight camps and residentials are so important!

The Importance of Residential Camps.

More and more research is coming to light to support what we in the environmental world have always asserted – being outdoors is good for you and so are residential camps!

This means not only are children able to be more active by being outside, they are also able to learn more freely, engage more readily and be inspired, encouraged, challenged and therefore improve their confidence and self-esteem.

These positive effects are amplified even more when it comes to a residential camp.

Why are residential camps so important?


“I slept alone in a shelter that I had made, I never thought I would be able to do that. I feel more confident and have overcome my fears.”
Camp Participant, June 2017

 

Learning Away

Learning Away is an initiative, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, to research the benefits of residential experiences in schools. In 2015 they published a report, following 3 years of action research with over 60 schools and colleges, identifying the overall impacts of residentials for young people.

The evidence collected throughout the 3-year project showed that residentials:

  • Foster deeper relationships
  • Improve students’ resilience, self-confidence and wellbeing
  • Boost cohesion and a sense of belonging
  • Improve students’ engagement with learning
  • Improve students’ knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Support students’ achievement
  • Smooth students’ transition experiences
  • Provide opportunities for student leadership, co-design and facilitation

“Learning Away has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. The impact is greater when residential’s are fully integrated with a school’s curriculum and ethos”   York Consulting (2015)

Read the full report here.

Work on the Wild Side

In addition to the Learning Away research, a new report (May 2017), has been released that demonstrates leading schools (highest Progress 8 scores) place high value on residential experiences.

The ‘Work on the Wild Side’ report produced in partnership with Learning Away Consortium members, CLOtCIOL and AHOEC analyses the UK primary and secondary schools with the highest Progress 8 scores and winners of the Pupil Premium Awards.

The report found that “outdoor learning is valued amongst teachers, pupils, parents and inspectors and that the skills learnt outdoors are transferable to the classroom and across the academic spectrum.” Work on the Wild Side, May 2017

Given the clear benefits of outdoor learning and residential camps, more needs to be done to ensure that children and young people are provided with the opportunity to leave the classroom.

Read report in full here.

Circle of Life Rediscovery Camps

Unique residential camps with Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery runs unique, nature-based residential camps for young people in a beautiful woodland environment in Sussex.

Camps have a strong environmental basis and could include activities such as fire-making, tool use, cooking and foraging, team-building activities, art, story-telling, music and night walks. We also offer the John Muir Award, a National Conservation Award, at Discovery level.

“I didn’t think that I liked camping but I have underestimated myself. The camp was amazing, I have not only learnt new skills but I have learnt to be grateful about everything around me. I have a new sense of confidence and believe in myself”
Camp Participant, June 2017.

Residential camps in East Sussex

To find out more about our residential camps, watch one of our films from a Secondary School camp or Primary School camp where participants explain what they enjoyed about the camp.

Please contact us on 01273 814226 or send an email for more information if you are interested in organising a camp for your school. Each camp is bespoke and unique to your requirements.

 

There are free resources on the Learning Away website, include planning tools, models for lower cost trips and curriculum integration.

By Katie Scanlan

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

The Woodland Project needs your help!

Please VOTE for The Woodland Project.

Dear Friends,

We have been waiting for a few months, keeping quiet about something really important to me, our organisation and the families and young people we work with.

voteWe have the incredible opportunity over the next two weeks to secure funding for a year with your help!  We have been shortlisted as one of 5 finalists for the ITV People’s Project  –  this is up to you, the public, to VOTE.   There are so many worthy projects but I want to tell you why we think want you to make a little effort and VOTE FOR THE WOODLAND PROJECT.

About 3 years ago, Tracey Johnson from the Family Intensive Support Service Disability Team visited us in the woods working with families and young people who have mental health issues.  She took a risk and thought that perhaps the families that accessed her service could come out too – with the right support.  And she was right!

Marina

I have spent the last few years being part of a project that blows me away every time.  I can laugh like crazy, feel very moved, appreciate the calm haven that nature offers us all during one family day!  As a parent myself, I am continually heartened by the relationships, love and resilience I witness between the parents and siblings towards their brother or sister – despite the often continual stress and difficulty that this special relationship fosters.  In every day life, the parents are taken to their utmost edge – and mostly find a way back to be the best they can be for their family.   They are ordinary people living with extraordinary situations – where they rarely sleep, are met with fear and judgement in everyday lives, some children are violent and verbally difficult, others make distressing noises.   They cling on their parents for security when they are awake, and the truth is that there children are unlikely to ever be independent or reach many milestones.  I know I would struggle.

woodlandp (2)Yet what they tell us is that this project is fantastic – they can come together as a family and everyone gets something good out of it.  They can lie in a hammock together, they can meet another parent or sibling who gets it – they can have hope that people do manage as their child becomes a teenager.  They can rest a while in nature.  We all create a space that is welcoming and accepting.  And we push the boundaries and try all sorts of things that would be unthinkable inside – sawing, getting messy, making fire, exploring the space in a non-breakable place. Parents talk about the many firsts – that their child has never created an item at school!

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We all have many lives and different experiences.  I want to us all to be a more compassionate society, count our blessings and enjoy the company of people from all walks of life!  This project needs YOUR VOTE to help it continue.  Please take a moment to share the link with your friends and family and watch the VIDEO – and share it!

Voting is now open and closes at noon on Monday 3 April. You can vote once per region and will need an email address to vote online. To support The Woodland Project, please visit the website here and then follow the instructions. You will receive an email to confirm your email address and your vote. If you do not confirm this, your vote will not count! Please check your junk email if you don’t receive it straight away.

Here’s why you need to vote for The Woodland Project!

Thank you all for the support #TheWoodlandProject

Offering support to children with learning disabilities, their families and young people!

The Web of Life

I remember many years ago reading ‘Trees are actually alive”. For me it led to a shift in awareness. I knew that trees are biologically alive, but this felt different. I still feel wonder and awe knowing that some trees suck up hundreds of gallons of water per day, transforming sunlight into sugars, and that they can regrow limbs! I couldn’t imagine a world without trees.

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It is incredible that trees are hooked up by their roots to other trees through a network of mycelium! This cooperative web of plants and trees support the fungi with food and in exchange, the fungi provide nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. The trees, soil and sun are all interacting with each other.

 

The older, ‘hub’ trees, the elders of our land connect to hundreds of other trees. Working together the whole system is resilient.

Trees are alive

I don’t understand why we often dismiss how much the non-human world is alive. Our ancestral traditions are often written off as ‘primitive’ or ‘spiritual’ yet these people deeply felt the intrinsic ‘aliveness’ of the plant and animal kingdoms – from the trees to the stones.

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Long-standing earth-based cultures have this awareness and understanding and are experts in their fields. They are the great botanists, ecologists, zoologists, woodland/land managers.  It is only a matter of time before we have the scientific language that effectively describes this aliveness. Like us, the trees need air, water, earth and sun; they have particular characters, communication and intelligence and provide medicines. Birch trees for example have a bark that peels. It has particular medicine for psoriasis.

 

It is important to me that the experience of life and the natural world is not only understood in instrumental and mechanical ways. There are as many ways of knowing as there are trees! I love the smell of the forest, the colours of all the leaves, the shapes and textures, the peace, the creative thoughts that occur, the many sounds that are home to so many other creatures.

Access barriers

The big barrier is and always has been access to land. The new Tree Charter which is borne out of the Charter of the Forest from the 13th Century is a stark reminder of the importance of access to land.  Whoever owns land has immense power and determines the stewardship of their land.  We are all subject to the authority of whoever owns the land and much of the land continues to be held by big estates and top income earners. They manage their situation for a particular end and this always includes biological diversity. Though it must be said, they too have been guardians of our heritage and increasingly landowners are interesting in supporting ‘rewilding’. Thankfully we do have our public right of way. I support community woodlands, and am part of one in Sussex. It is a modern way of communities accessing land, (see Plunkett Foundation).

The present day situation

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We are more acutely aware than ever, that the things that benefit the people are inextricably linked to the things that benefit the non-human world. We are currently living in a vastly diminished natural environment compared even to a few hundred years ago – but we don’t feel this because we live relatively in the present, concerning ourselves with our present needs, favouring our own children, and not the future generations. Our brains scan and remember what we experience, so as our access to nature is reduced, so too is our awareness that nature exists – it is a form of cultural blindness.

To avoid this ‘blindness’ we have to expose ourselves to the trees and lap up the well-being that comes from this.

I would love to see more children playing outdoors, meeting the non-human world every day, creating brain patterns – the invisible mycelium of reciprocal relationships. I am very grateful for the tree under which I could hide and retreat in my childhood and am now very grateful to the woodlands in which I spend so much time!

Blog by Marina Robb (PGCE; Msc; MA), as part of the #TreeCharter. Marina is the Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery & Author of Learning with Nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides nature based experiences and programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing! These include funded projects with our partners that directly support health and well-being for vulnerable members of our society, days for schools or family days in the woodlands and bespoke residential camps and Forest Schools. You can gain a qualification in leading your own Forest School programme or improve your knowledge and skills with our adult training CPD days.

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Have you got a memory of being out and about in the trees and woods as a child? What do you feel are the threats that trees and woods in the UK face? Add your voice to the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

 

 

https://www.circleofliferediscovery.com/

Tel: 01273 814226

The Great Outdoors

One great book and five great reasons to teach core curriculum subjects Outside the Classroom.

Learning with Nature is aimed at inspiring and supporting adults to get outdoors with young people aged 3 to 16 years old.

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Chris Packham


“This book offers a chance to the youth of today and the nature of tomorrow. It has a wealth of structured, tried and tested projects, ideas and games all designed to allow children to breathe fresh air and engage personally with a real world where their minds and bodies can develop and bloom, burst into life and inspire them to love life.”
  Chris Packham, March 2014.

 

“For the first time I am meeting teachers who have themselves never played or enjoyed the outdoors during their childhood. They don’t know what to ‘do’, and place a low value on the outdoors as a learning environment. We know young people today are spending hours on video games, and that their roaming radius has reduced by about 70% since the 1950s with the consequent rise in levels of obesity, mental health issues and isolation.” Marina Robb, Author and Founder Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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Learning with Nature


Why is this book important?

This book makes it possible for parents and teachers to get outdoors. It aims to capture the imagination of families and contribute to reversing the current ‘indoor’ trend. It provides a valuable resource for educators to deepen and expand what they already offer.

SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE NOW – £12.00 + POSTAGE. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

1. THE ‘WOW’ MOMENT

Natural environments can transform individual and school performance. Nature can provide a fantastic Wow! moment for your lesson, to bookend your key learning outcomes, and to support them. Children have an innate fascination about nature. It may be soaking in an atmospheric place in your local park or nature reserve as a stimulus for creative writing, or estimating measurements or volumes of areas, spaces, trees or ponds as a basis for maths. The outdoors facilitates strong emotional memories and aids learning. Play outdoors can be physical, explorative, constructive, imaginative and creative.

SAM_1515There are many adventurous activities to be had in the outdoors that do not necessarily conform to normal activities such as climbing trees and playing outdoor games. Evidence shows that learning in natural environments can transform individual and school performance by increasing the standards of teaching and learning, allowing innovation, creativity and excellence in curriculum delivery, as well as increasing motivation and attainment.

For example, The Natural Connections Demonstration Project was set up as one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK. The Project approach and design is informed by the latest insight research of teachers needs, evidence of barriers and benefits of learning in natural environments and best practice models for engaging volunteers.

Wherever your outdoor classroom is, find resources to help bring the lesson to life: https://www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk/

  • Case Study: Developing children’s learning through work in the natural environment from Preesall Fleetwood’s Charity Church of England Primary School.

“The initiative started as a way of engaging a small group of boys who were underachieving and were not keen to be at school. These boys showed an interest in the natural environment and we capitalised on this by providing practical learning sessions working outdoors in the school grounds and woods. The results were fabulous. They continued to work in the school grounds during their lunch periods and they had a reason to come to school. Their attitudes improved, which carried over into their school work and their achievement at level 4 was better than expected. The ‘forest school’ and wider environmental work are now integral parts of this school’s work.” 
John Belshire, Headteacher.

  • The good practice in detail.

Inspectors identified the ‘forest school’ as an outstanding feature of environmental education at the school. All the children are involved in activities in the outdoors and in the woodland, but it is the youngest and oldest children who spend most time there. Children are allowed to climb trees and build fires. They listen to the heartbeat of trees (sap rising), and identify bird songs. They make and use tools ranging from potato peelers to knives, axes and mallets. They make environmental art, maintain the grounds and plant trees. There is a thriving ‘bug hotel’ and older children are involved in more complex tasks such as hedge-laying and pond maintenance.

While it’s clear that pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the environment improves, Julia Crompton, the school’s ‘forest school’ teacher, identifies the real benefits of this outdoor learning as:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved social skills
  • The development of language and communication skills
  • Improved physical motor skills
  • Improved motivation and concentration.

trackingim1“We focused on the natural environment provided by the school grounds as a learning opportunity and a way to enrich children’s experiences. The grounds were originally established about 15 years ago but had not been actively used by the children. They were used for science lessons and the greenhouse was used for growing some plants but we found opportunities to do much more. It has been made easy by the enthusiasm and the expertise of staff and is now a regular part of this school’s work.”
John Belshire, Headteacher.

Children enjoy taking risks, but the school recognises that safety is paramount. Skills are learnt carefully and safety equipment is always used. By its nature, practical work is not a mass participation activity. Children work in groups of around six at a time to ensure that they have a quality learning activity which is safe. Once the children have been taught to use tools, they will expand the quality of their ideas and plans because the range of what they perceive to be possible has expanded.

Case Study: The Chicken Project – Beechwood Primary School

“The chickens have slowed us down, they make us stop and stare’. Staff report that the children are quieter and calmer around the chickens and the whole school benefits because the aviary is right in the centre of the school.

Learning Objectives
We were looking for ideas to motivate the children to write, through cross curricular contexts and to inspire the teachers to revisit the planning and incorporate child-centred, compelling learning experiences. We were also hoping to engage the parents through homework and in school activities.

Pupil Learning Outcomes
Increased empathy and awareness of other living creatures. Awe and wonder of nature as the chickens hatch from eggs. Imagine the children writing from the perspective of the chick hatching form the egg…incredible! Confidence building, you can email a company to ask for fundraising money or telephone the manager of the local Coop to fund our coop! And many, many more!

What lessons have teachers / the school learned from the project / activity?
Ofsted like Learning in the natural environment! Our recent Ofsted report for which we received a ‘good’ included this statement: ‘Pupils are keen to undertake responsibilities such as looking after the school chickens.’ Staff discovered that children engage better with their learning when they are immersed in and have a personal connection with the theme. Money is no object, fund raising large sums of money is possible. With enough enthusiasm you can achieve anything!

2. ADDRESS DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES

We are programmed to interact with our environment in useful ways. Being outside provides opportunities to address different learning styles, in particularly kinesthetic learners can excel as they use their bodies differently to learn. Getting all children off their seats is a great way to stretch their capacities to learn in different ways. All the senses are stimulated, the colours, textures, shapes, smells, sounds awaken our awareness and develop our skills to navigate their surroundings.

Physical Development has become one of three key areas in the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance and this is a golden opportunity for introducing Outdoor Learning. The things children do in their bodies and the way they are physically in their everyday life massively affect the way they develop, the things they can learn and how they feel about themselves.

The developing human animal is biologically programmed to get what it needs. We are programmed to interact with our environment in useful ways. Thus a low brick wall invites us to walk along it; a tree (or a chair, or an adult’s body) suggests we climb or hang off it; a large open space tells us to run. These aren’t decisions, they’re instincts, imperatives – because we must run and climb and spin and roll to grow the body systems we need for all that life asks of us in future. These instincts come before any complex intellectual or social skills. They underpin them – and our bodies know it. In the rough and tumble, run, spin, tip and roll of movement play we grow the foundations for our health, our wellbeing and our capacity to learn things.

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Children’s bodies matter to their learning

Proprioception (sense of body) provides feedback of where one part of our body is in relation to the others and how we feel in our bodies.

We are compelled to get this sense in place before we can concentrate on anything else. (Think of the day you break a tooth, and how your tongue is compelled to feel it out over and over until you have a new sense of your body, without that bit of tooth.) Developing our vestibular system (the thing that monitors our relationship with gravity and the ground beneath us), must come before any more complicated physical or mental skills we might acquire in PE lesson or in the classroom. It provides a sense of, and security in, our relationship with the world around – being in balance or equilibrium. Spinning is an excellent vestibular workout. As it happens, it also helps prepare the eyes for reading.

“We humans are, first and foremost, physical creatures. Our body is our first home. Movement is our first language. Children need support to notice, speak and work with their first language first. But our early years framework simply doesn’t reflect this. The Early Learning goals made by people who don’t move freely, for people who do (i.e. small children). When we support children to move spontaneously and freely, the learning they do far exceeds the lowest common denominators of ‘balance and coordination’ and ‘fine and gross motor’ skills, but our education culture skips over anything to do with embodied learning and we never make up the lost ground.”

If you’re not convinced, try this exercise
Put a pen in the hand you don’t write with, and write a sentence. Notice how it feels to do this, how unfamiliar and odd; how difficult it is to make your hand do what you want it to. Now write the same sentence with the hand you usually use. The feelings will be very different – full of comfort and ease; above all – familiarity.

For writing to work well, we need this familiarity. We need to be able to fall into the physical pattern without thinking about it; for our body to feel ‘right’ as we carry out the task so that we don’t have to think about it. This ‘rightness’ is provided by our proprioceptive sense, the sense of where one body part is in relation to another. (And practice of course.) This sense also controls our sense of how much force we need to hold the pencil between our fingers and pushing the pen over the paper.

Writing practice is important. But as important is the movement play that builds a felt sense of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and back.

This is one example of the importance of senses and the development of our well-being. For more information about the above please go to: https://www.jabadao.org/?blog=

A different set of learning goals for Physical Development for babies and children:

Display a strong inner drive to explore themselves, each other and the world around through physical interactions, movement play of their own devising and physical engagement with the environment.


Are on the move for the majority of their day – moving in lots of different ways (with gusto and abandonment; care and precision; outer and inner focus; on their own, in relationship to internal and external factors, on the floor, in small and large spaces, indoors and out).


Show pleasure in being physical and know what to do to feel good in their bodies.


Show growing understanding of how to take care of themselves and other people as they actively engage in physical exploration and play.


Know how to find and use resources to extend their movement play; and how to involve adults and peers in developing their physical play.


Can make the world work for them, manipulating objects and negotiating the environment with purpose and focus, in the ways they intend; they are able to persist through physical challenges and show the determination to acquire new skills and abilities.


Show a growing ability to balance highly physical activity with rest and quieter activity.


Show a developing security and confidence in their physicality through:

  •  A growing sense of their own body (proprioception).
  • Increasing security in their relationship to gravity (vestibular sense).
  • Ease with touch and being touched (tactile sense).
  • Recognition of pain, heat, cold and hunger and appropriate responses.
  • A growing awareness of the feeling of the inside of their body (interoception) and appropriate responses.
  • A steadily developing stability and motor control in their chosen physical actions.

Take pleasure in sharing a range of discoveries made through physical play – in movement, in vocal and verbal responses, in visual representations.


Value movement play as an important part of their day and show high levels of wellbeing as they engage in it.


Use information gained through the languages of the body – sensation, feeling, movement, instinct and image – to work out how the world works, in communicating their experience, in problem solving and in becoming confident, happy, full-bodied people.


3. GET GREAT SMSC IDEAS….ANIMAL RIGHTS?

Address Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education requirements by observing and discussing other beings: the animals and plants around us have the right to a home and habitat that suit them, but what do we do when humans need homes and transport? The opportunities to hone children’s awareness of moral dilemmas around the natural world in the city are ample. Consider how reliant humans are on tools and resources, whilst the non-human world interacts without additional resources such as clothes, fire, etc.

Thinking skills with mind and body
We need to prepare children to be flexible and adaptable members of the workforce by virtue of their abilities to think laterally, creatively and sustainably. Our culture prizes intellectual skills over physical instincts. And so we constantly try and override the inbuilt instinct to be a body in the name of ‘ordered learning environments’ and acquisition of intellectual skills. We seek to tame the body, contain it, use it like a sort of vehicle to carry us quietly to the more important things in our lives. And in so doing, we miss the obvious. Our future responsibility according to Sara Knight (2013) is to children who will be dealing with environmental and climate change. To teach, ‘science and geography about individual’s place in the globalised society. In the English National Curriculum Consultation Document Feb 2013 there is nothing mentioned about how we as individuals and society as a whole interact with these processes, such as resource depletion, and the impacts on the natural world upon which we depend for all our lifestyles not about climate change, and how we can influence and care for these key processes’.

One of the biggest issues we face today is this sense of being un-rooted; disconnected from natural world. It’s a huge problem that we face now across the whole of society. It’s to do with that deep relationship, it’s to do with what sociologists describe as a ‘profound sense of alienation’ between the majority of human beings and the natural world that sustains us and makes life possible for us.

“This has been creeping up on us for many decades. Now, does this really matter? You might say that there are many more important things to be attending to. Why would we bother about this when we have so many front of mind topical, hard issues to do with society today. For me, this is a really difficult issue, because unless we get to some of these deeper concerns, much of what we do around the specific campaigning issues will not be rooted in the current reality of where we are today. Will not be grounded in that reality.” Jonathan Porritt 2013, Outdoor Learning Conference in Sussex.

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We have to take a wide approach to give us a sense of deeper insights into those whole complicated relationships inside the wider system. To begin, you can discuss ‘Ecosystem Services’ as a way of recalibrating and re-understanding people communities and place.

 

What do some of these ecosystems mean? There is a growing school of economists who seek to put a value on each of these ecosystem services. What is the value to human kind of the free work done on our behalf? Like all those insects, birds, bees, bats… all those creatures that just as part of their life carry on, carry on this pollination work for us. Try and tot up the X billions of pounds which we would have to find to pay for man made, human-made pollination services to replace the natural pollination.

There are first steps in schools to build a visceral relationship to the world around them. How many species of flora and fauna do you know about in your school grounds? The name is the least important bit, what are the colours, shapes, patterns, the medicines, the smells, where does it like to grow and live, what is the relationship between that plant and the insects and mammals. Start small.

4. CREATE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

Change the relationships in a conflict-ridden class by taking them to do different activities outdoors, such as learn to light fire or build a den. They will need to cooperate differently, make decisions, use different skills and engage in a stress-reducing environment, all of which can deflect tension built up in classroom conflicts. The outside environment is a great leveler, where children can be valued and find different strengths and roles within a group. Discipline and attention are increased, alongside the performance and ability of children.

Relationships between children can be challenged and deflected by exposing a group to tasks that stretch and stimulate them in different ways. Being outdoors can exercise children’s powers of observation, patience, alertness, courage and physical coordination, which are skills which in the familiar classroom are not so easy to exercise. If you go to a local outdoor area, a park with wild parts, a nature-reserve or even a cemetery, here are some activities which could work:

Make a colour bracelet. This works well in autumn when there are lots of beautiful dead leaves around. Give each child a strip of paper with double-sided sticky tape covering one side. It should be long enough to wrap around their wrist, like a bracelet or a cuff. They should stick on pieces of natural material of a similar colour as possible, once they take off the cover of the sticky tape. This will make them observe intensely the foliage around them. You can give a prize for the one with the closest colours, or to the most beautiful one. This activity works with almost any age group.

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Patience is enormously enhanced by wildlife observation. Download bug identification sheets, great ones are available from Holland Park ecology centre here: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/PDF/Minbeasts%20pack.pdf tell the children they are to find a certain number of creatures on their sheet, and give them a good amount of time to do it.

This activity is best done on a nature reserve or with specialist support if you aren’t confident with either the species or the tools needed to find them. On a small scale, however, it can be done very simply with magnifying glasses.

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A bird-count.
Make children sit in small groups in wild areas for a period of time that will challenge their patience, and ask them to observe as many birds as possible. Spring is a good time to do this.

 

Give them brownie points if they see birds eating, or roosting or communicating: behaviours which will prove that they were patiently and quietly observed for a time by the children.

In an area with various trees, get the children into small groups, and tell each of them to make friends with a tree. They should notice its size, its texture, its bark, its smell and how the ground around its roots is. Then, one child is blindfolded and the others should turn them around and support them to re-find their friendly tree, based on their tactile and perceptual memories.

A game where children are asked to move around a wild area unobserved is incredibly exciting for children, and encourages stealth, silence, focus, concentration and care in the environment. There are lots of such games that could be adapted, but one could be the retrieving of secret items or messages to complete a story, or moving around a quiet obstacle course without alerting the opposite team.

Making a wormery can be a challenge for those who don’t like creepy crawlies. Give a prize to people who are able to pick up worms and move them around. Jumping on a piece of land to encourage the worms to come up, then put them in a wormery to observe how they make tunnels and can quickly mix soil and create compost. There is lots of advice online about how to create a wormery. The great advantage of worms is that they eat any organic matter, and they can easily be released into the school grounds if caring for them becomes too onerous, or in the holidays.

Exposure to nature calms us, lowers our heart rate and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, in the blood, making us less likely to create conflict or lose our tempers. This is entirely relevant to children as well as to adults.

The outdoors is also a great place for teachers to observe children in new surroundings, and gain possibly new insights into their development and how they handle challenge and conflict, which can be useful in supporting individual children with difficulties in future, or gaining learning on how to manage a difficult class when back in conventional surroundings. A useful web-page on handling conflict with young children can be found here: https://www.communityplaythings.co. uk/learning-library/articles/childrenand-conflict-in-the-classroom

Berlin’s playgrounds: how to reduce urban violence through play An interesting case study is that of West Berlin’s playgrounds in the 1980s. West Berlin had long been almost surrounded with Soviet-occupied land, leaving little space for Berliners to enjoy nature. At the same time, the incidence of child and adolescent violence in Berlin’s schools was unacceptable. The education authorities undertook a very wise 20-year programme of transforming the city’s school playgrounds to make them more variant, more rich in nature and employing inspiring strategies to present choice, space, intimacy, creativity and inspiration to the spaces. They are profiled in a series of documents by Learning through landscapes, who have worked with Scottish schools to learn from Berlin and try to implement the same strategies in other conflict-ridden areas. The documents can be downloaded here: https://www.ltl.org.uk/spaces/casestudy.php?cs=31

5. BECOME AN OFSTED ‘OUTSTANDING’

Ofsted highly prizes teaching methods that include creativity and originality and engage pupils’ imaginations. Using the outside creatively could contribute to earning imaginative teachers ‘outstanding’ status at their next inspection, leading to higher status in their school and possible career enhancement.

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In particular, taking learning outside and following some of the activities above can combat the dreaded ‘teacher domination’, in which the teacher falls back on ‘talk and chalk’ methodology for teaching.

 

We know that sometimes direct spoken delivery of information is necessary, but the outdoor environment is one that directly contrasts the traditional arena of the blackboard-focused teaching style, and is thus likely to impress an inspector who sees teachers doing it. If you are in danger of overloading your daily curriculum delivery with teacher-talk, starting to become confident with the outdoors as a great arena for group work, independent work, creative child-centred collaborative work is a fantastic way to develop your classroom range towards Outstanding status.

Ofsted clarified, in a recent document, that they do not judge teachers’ performance on small snippets of observation, but want to collate an overall impression drawn from pupils’ work, talking to pupils and assessing their attitude to learning, observing behavior and teachers’ style with their class, as well as their evidence of practical preparation, book-marking, classroom displays and collaboration with support staff. All these can be supported by taking learning outside, in the following ways, in particular with regard to the animated and engaged way children who have enjoyed outdoor learning consistently will speak in way about it to any adult questioner, giving a great impression of their attitude to learning.

Marina Robb
Marina Robb

Founder & Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery
www.circleofliferediscovery.com | 01273 814226 | info@circleofliferediscovery.com

We provide nature based experiences and programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing. We run funded projects with our partners that directly support health and well-being for vulnerable members of our society.

 

We offer days for schools or family days in the woodlands and bespoke residential camps and Forest Schools. You can gain a qualification in leading your own Forest School programme; improve your knowledge and skills with our adult training CPD days.

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The Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest

The Community Sacred Fire

Are you or your child ready to participate in a Fire Quest Rites of Passage? Do you want to come and support the village and Sacred Fire, whilst learning about this ancient ceremony?

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Join our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend

The Community Sacred Fire is a special container which holds space for people to connect on many levels. It is a place to remember departed loved ones, to honour the ancestors, to remember our ancient relationship with the elements, to reconnect with people, to share stories, to laugh, to cry, and to return to inner harmony. It is also a place remember the blessings of life, and to remember to live in service to the future generations.

 

 

The Community Sacred Fire is a multi generational event held at times of need. That need can include times of deep sorrow and times of great joy and celebration. It is a place that allows the safe processing for grief; and it can also be a focal point for a community during Rites of Passage.

In September 2016, we are offering a weekend of Community Sacred Fire teachings for people wanting to learn more. The weekend will be led by Salvatore Gencarelle.

People will be introduced to this powerful container and some of its applications. As part of these teachings we will be exploring our relationship with the natural elements (fire, water, stone, and air) and how to combine these elements into the event. On Saturday September 17th we will hold an overnight Community Sacred Fire for all those attending. The fire will be tended throughout the night allowing a time for people to connect. This Community Sacred Fire is being held in support of people doing a Rite of Passage called a Fire Quest.   We will also participate in an Inipi, more commonly known as a Sweat lodge – all ages welcome.

The Fire Quest

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Taking place in September 2016, Fire Quest Weekend & Sacred Fire for adult, young people and families.

Many people in the modern world so desperately want to live lives full of connection and love. Yet we were never given the opportunity to go through authentic Rites of Passage to support our growth out of childhood. People now find themselves locked into a childlike state of reactions and views.

 

 

 

How can we help ourselves and the next generation of children to become well grounded, completely connected individuals?

Historically, the role of indigenous cultures has been to ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy “Human Being”. The ancient cultures hold a deep understanding of the life stages, as well as how to meet the challenges that come with these life stages. They had processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy. This knowledge and understanding was necessary in order to prevent people from stagnating in their personal development and getting stuck in loops of adolescent behaviour, something we can often observe in modern societies.

The Fire Quest is a Rite of Passage which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood. The quest traditionally occurs during the formative teenage years, approximately between 12-17 years of age. The quest involves a person being honoured by the community, sent out from a Community Sacred Fire into nature to tend a personal fire throughout the night. During the night the quester reflects on their life, their gifts, their wounds, and learns directly from their interaction with the fire and nature. During the night the quester is supported by their family and the people at the Community Sacred Fire. In the morning the quester is welcomed back to the Community Sacred Fire where they share their experiences from the night.

In the modern world any adult undertaking this Quest will gain deep insight into themselves and their relationship with all of life.

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Taking place 16th – 18th September 2016 with Salvatore Gencarelle

 

Please click here to find out about our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend, taking place from 16th – 18th September 2016, for adults, families and young people.

 

 

Date: 16th – 18th September 2016.
Location: Laughton, East Sussex.
Who should attend: Adults, families (including siblings) and young people (aged 12 – 17 years).

 

Environmental Achievement Award, May 2016

The Woodland Project 

On the 10th May this year we gathered at Winter Gardens in Eastbourne for the 2016 SPARK Awards. The awards provided an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the work of their member groups who are voluntary and community groups working with children and young people in East Sussex.

Sponsored by the South Downs National Park Authority and High Weald AONB Partnership, Circle of Life Rediscovery are really proud to be presented the Senior Environmental Achievement Award for our Woodland Project.

Award - Woodland Project

Receiving the Environmental Achievement Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Woodland Project, in partnership with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, enables families with children who have learning disabilities to enjoy a whole day together, to relax and have fun in each other’s company and to explore their capabilities, talents and strengths both as individuals and as a family unit.

Huge thanks to Marian Williams, Rivkah Cummerson and the team at the Sussex NHS Partnership Trust.

Find out more about our Project here:

SUPPORT OUR PROJECT

If you would like to make a donation to support the future of our Woodland Days, please do so here:

Any funds received will help to provide much needed disabled toilets, containers for tools, temporary structures for shelters and enable more Family days.