Forest School Sessions with Nursery Children

Forest School Sessions

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

A typical day with Nursery children at Forest School..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why is my heart beating so fast?”

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

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

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

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

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

(No need, they have it covered.)

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pride and self reflection gaining its own momentum.

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

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

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

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

“Can we toast marshmallows this week?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it finished already?”

“Can we do this again tomorrow?”

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

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

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


Forest School Sessions at your setting.

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

Forest School Training Level 3

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

2019/20 Course dates:

 

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

 

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

Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Landplay Therapy – Two Day Training Course with Kate Macairt.

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

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

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

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


Recommended related reads

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

Copyright

Neuroscience: Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

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

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

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

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the Outdoors

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

 

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

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

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

System 1 and 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landplay Training Course

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

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

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

 

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

Author Kate Macairt
Copyright

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

Get Real. Get Messy. Get Maths. Get Outdoors.

Outdoors Maths with Juliet Robertson.

There are many reasons why maths is a core part of the curriculum worldwide. It provides us with skills and knowledge that can be used in our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, we are constantly estimating, problem-solving and making quick judgements about quantities and amounts. For example, you may need to check you have the exact change for a bus or wonder if you can still fit into your trousers after several days of a festive celebration.

Join our Messy Maths CPD on 21st September with Juliet Robertson

 

To help you think and plan maths experiences outdoors here are some practical suggestions:

Getting ready to go outside provides many mathematical moments:

  • Time the class to get ready. This can be using a non-standard unit of measurement, such as a song for little children. With older children, this will be using a stopwatch or other timer.
  • Use lining up to reinforce key data handling skills. For example, request children make two lines, e.g. those who are wearing green, those who are not wearing green. This creates a human line graph and can be used for counting and discussing differences between the length of each line. Change the attributes each time you go out. Your children will have plenty of suggestions here.
  • Problem-solve with your class about ways of getting ready quickly and without fuss. Link these to the strategies used to solve problems, so children can see how a skill learned has real life applications.

Maths on the move. Make the most of the distance between your class and your outdoor space:

  • Estimate the number of steps it takes to get outside. Discuss afterwards why everyone has a different answer. Is it possible to standardise this distance and how would we do this?
  • Count aloud and chant in multiples, e.g. multiples of three on each step: 3, 6, 9, etc.
  • What happens to your counting when you take five steps forward and one step back. Consider how to create links between numbers and the pattern of walking forwards and backwards.

Creating a gathering circle in mathematical ways

Explore the size of the circle made when children hold hands, stretch out and touch each other’s fingertips or huddle together shoulder-to-shoulder. Discuss and explore how the size could be measured. This may include:

  • Pacing around the outside of the circle as a non-standard approach.
  • Using a trundle wheel for noting metres or yards.
  • Using a long piece or rope or string. If you put a mark at every metre or yard on the rope then it becomes a giant measuring tape.

Estimating everything

Messy Maths CPD

Children need lots of practice at estimating so they are able to make reasonable guesses based upon experience and knowledge. It is a basic strategy for problem solving and enquiry work as well as a useful life skill. Being outside provides a real context for estimating. It is hard to tell the number of birds in a flock, bricks in a wall or exactly how long it will take to walk to the shops. There is a constant need for everyone to be making estimates of amounts and activities based upon our experiences. Teachers can encourage the children estimate and then to check:

  • Number: having a guess before counting the flock of birds flying overhead – we count ten birds and then use this to count the rest in chunks of ten.
  • Money: evaluating whether we have enough money to buy something we need.
  • Distance: estimating how far away the end of the playing field is.
  • Volume: thinking about the volume of water in one bucket or watering can compared to another.
  • Weight and mass: wondering how much food the birds will eat at a bird table.
  • Time: considering how long it will take to complete a task.

It can help to make group estimates where there is a consensus. With older children, the skill of rounding up or down is a natural progression within estimation.

Playing maths games

All around the world there are strategy games, which were developed using locally found materials on a board that can be drawn onto an outdoor surface. Games involve looking for patterns and knowing the cause and effect of moves undertaken in particular sequences. This usually involves playing the game lots of times and experimenting with different moves. Some basic points include:

  • Children need time to learn each game by just enjoying the experience of playing it. Older children can assist younger ones. Hold a games session so that parents and carers can learn different games too.
  • If a game isn’t going well, ask the children for their ideas about making it better. What rules could be adapted or changed? How can they make the game more exciting?
  • Games can be adapted to help the children acquire specific skills in many areas of maths. When you do this, it can be helpful to seek the children’s thoughts and suggestions. This gives them ownership of their learning and facilitates a personal interest.
  • Children enjoy inventing their own games. Whether you have a pile of stones or a few leaves lying under a tree, challenge them to create a game to help them learn a specific maths concept or skill.

By Juliet Robertson, foMessy Maths under of Creative STAR Learning, UK.

Many of these ideas are expanded upon in her book: Messy Maths: An Outdoor and Playful Approach for Early Years.

 

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

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Outdoor Learning – A Case Study by Juliet Robertson

Outdoor Learning at St Geradine Primary School

One year ago Juliet Robertson spent two mornings working with a small group of teachers at St Geradine’s Primary School in Lossiemouth. The Depute Head, Fiona Stevenson, who was leading the outdoor learning improvements, wrote the report below, with one of the class teachers, Laura McGurke, for their local authority newsletter.
How do you develop a Whole School Approach to Outdoor Learning?
St Geradine School in Lossiemouth was delighted to receive £3000 from the Innovation Fund to support their work in developing outdoor learning.
Their aims were:
  1. To develop outdoor learning within and across their school in order that it is embedded within the curriculum and sustainable for the future, with a view to being able to share/roll out developments to other interested primary schools.
  2. To provide learners with a wide range of fun, meaningful and challenging experiences:
  • Pupils will have opportunities for challenge and enjoyment through outdoor learning experiences.
  • Pupils’ learning and development will be supported and enhanced through meaningful play opportunities.
  • Pupils will develop their skills (e.g. problem solving, team working etc.) and personal attributes (e.g. resilience).
A working group comprising one of their DHTs, P2 teacher and P6/7 teacher consulted with Juliet Robertson from Creative STAR Learning to plan and lead the development.
Through a series of staff meetings they achieved their aims by:
Creating outdoor learning folders:
  • These included risk benefit assessments personalised for Lossiemouth and their school grounds, helpful guides on planning trips to the forest, beach and quarry, ideas for activities in Numeracy, Literacy and Inter-disciplinary Learning (IDL), the Countryside Code, the Highway Code and local maps.
  • Ordering resources to support the stewardship roles, literacy and numeracy.
  • Creating class backpacks with essential equipment for off-site visits in the local area.
  • Beginning to plan for developing the school grounds to enhance learning experiences.
  • Staff involvement in a series of twilight sessions looking at the local area and the opportunities within it for outdoor learning, learning experiences in numeracy and literacy and how to use the beach as a learning context.
The impact on learners:
  1. Improved health & wellbeing (fitness, fresh air, emotional & mental health etc.)
  • Children state they feel better working outside as there is more space available and lots of fresh air.
  • P7 parents have commented on the increase of outdoor play at home as a result of ‘Wolf Brother’ sessions outdoors.
  • Nursery parents strongly believe our outdoor provision is very good.
  • Classes walk from the school to the forest, quarry and beach areas.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy outdoors because it’s very peaceful’ Claudia P7 Pupil
  • ‘It’s a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors which is extremely enjoyable.’ P7 pupil
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because of the outdoor atmosphere, especially when it’s slightly breezy and the birds are tweeting. It all feels very peaceful and relaxing.’ Aimee P7
  • ‘I like the coolness and I also like the hotness and I like the games we play.’ Lewis P2
  • ‘I think I learn more when I’m outside.’ Evie P2
  • ‘I like running outside because it’s good for my bones.’ Ava P2
  • ‘It was cold. We run outside to keep warm.’ Niall Nursery
 
  1. Connections being made in their learning from curricular areas to the real world and within real contexts; seeing the relevance of their learning; making sense of their learning; interdisciplinary learning experiences.
  • All classes had planned outdoor sessions for the next term. P1 are used the local community and school grounds to support literacy and maths (line and shape, information handling, shape, measurement and number in context). They gathered information to write reports and identified landmarks within Lossiemouth; P2 visited the forest weekly to support all areas of the curriculum; P2-3 classes have used learning walks around Lossiemouth within an IDL on ‘Footprints from the past’; P4-5 classes used the school grounds to support literacy and numeracy and have visited the beach to work on science and poetry writing; P5-7 are using ‘Wolf Brother’ novel as a stimulus to work outside using the forest, quarry and school grounds.
  • SFL staff are using the outdoors to support work in literacy and numeracy.
  • Nursery classes are outdoors every day for focussed and free play.
  • All classes have undertaken a stewardship role with their classes which should promote feeling of responsibility for our school grounds for all e.g. litter, birds, wildlife, willow, garden, composting.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy all of outdoor learning because I enjoy going outside and going to the woods and quarry’ Olivia P7
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because you can engage with nature.’ Mollie P7
  • ‘We planted golden flowers. We sprinkled the seeds in the soil.’ Grace Nursery
  • ‘I put the soil on the seeds. I watered them with water and a watering can. We were raking to put the air in.’ Archie Nursery
  1. Opportunities for creative and critical thinking, challenge and enquiry
  • P2 used small world toys and a fairy tree stimulus to create stories in the local woods.
  • P5-7 used natural dyes to create artwork.
  • Learners at all stages using natural materials to create artwork and to support literacy and numeracy.
  • Learners frequently talking and reflecting about their learning outside.
Quotes from learners:
  • My favourite part of outdoor learning was doing the arty stuff.’ Sally P7
  • I enjoy doing all the different jobs because some are hard.’ Georgina P7
  • I like outdoor learning because we get to hear sounds.’ Aaliyah P2
  • I was putting sticks in a pile. I was pretending it was a fire.’ Aiden Nursery
  • I collected shells and wood and ice and pine cones and old leaves off trees. We sorted it all out into piles.’ Aiden Nursery
  1. Stimulating and varied learning experiences, a different learning environment, more relaxed learning environment
  • Use of school grounds, beaches, forest and quarry.
  • Homework tasks which are outdoor based have been more successfully completed by more learners.
  • Parents are aware and are enthusiastic about the increased variety of experiences outdoors.
  • Learners are more openly talking about these experiences with their families.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because it gives me a chance to learn about nature.’ Claire P7
  • ‘I like working outside because it’s easier to learn and I like the activities we do.’ Bella P7
  • ‘I liked how you can learn things and do them at home.’ Bethan P7
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because I like going out to different places and to see different things’ Fern P7
  • ‘I enjoy doing maths outside.’ Oliver P2
  1. Opportunities for personal achievement
  1. Motivation through experiential learning
  • Staff have reported learners being more engaged and enthused with learning outdoors.
  • Parents have reported increased use of outdoors at home.
  1. Opportunities for risk benefit management; decision making skills.
  • Learners are actively involved in considering possible risks when working outdoors.
  • All classes have established rules and responsibilities and are developing confidence in their routines.
Impact on staff:
  • Every class within the school has engaged with outdoor learning and staff now feel more confident and equipped to take their classes outdoors.
  • Staff have embraced the challenge of working outdoors and are creating challenging and enjoyable experiences for our pupils.
  • Staff feel supported with the Risk Benefit Assessments, class backpacks and bank of resources and have enjoyed reading Dirty Teaching.
  • The teachers who have been leading the development have enjoyed the opportunity to develop something they have a keen interest in and are delighted with the clear impact it has had on staff and learners. They now have a better understanding of the process of development work and how to integrate outdoor learning into all curricular areas.
Developments for the future:
  • To further embed the use of the outdoors in their practice.
  • To continue to develop routines for going outside so that learners are more confident and independent.
  • Develop the school grounds in partnership with the school and local community.
  • Continue to build on the award schemes they have begun.
  • Continue to build a bank of resources and accommodation for these.
Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
If this guest blog post gives you a flavour of what can be kick started with a little support from Juliet, please come along to the Circle of Life Rediscovery CPD on 18th May:
Dirty Teaching – Developing a Whole School Approach to Learning Outdoors. Click here to find out more and book your place!
In this practical course, we look at realistic ways of embedding outdoor practice into the life and ethos of your school.
Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery is a not for profit CIC company in East Sussex. They provide outdoor learning and nature based experiences including bespoke Camps for schools, Forest School sessions, Enrichment Days plus Forest School Training Level 3 and CPD’s for adults as well as funded programmes. Find out more here.

Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
“I believe strongly in the capacity of schools and teachers to develop their own outdoor practice. I save time re-inventing the wheel or getting stuck on irrelevant matters – keeping the focus on the learning experiences and outcomes for children. I also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience which can help staff think more strategically about embedding outdoor learning into the life of the school.”
Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning. Find out more here.

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.

 

 

 

Whose Tracks? Answers here!

Did you have fun with the kids guessing who made the tracks on our recent activity sheet?

Click here to view our answer sheet!

Keep your eye on our emails to download the next FREE activity sheet – coming soon just in time for the Easter break. Packed with quizzes, games and guess the egg!kids-walk-wood-parent

Need Easter holiday ideas? Why not come along to our family day on 7th April. Fun in the woods for the entire family including games, activities and crafts. Take some time out and connect with nature, inspire your children and most importantly – have fun!

 

Book Review by Graham Watson, John Muir Award Cumbria Manager

Learning with Nature.

20140617=learning-with-nature=front-cover=low-res-1000x1000Beautifully presented as a ‘how-to’ guide to inspire children, Learning with Nature is aimed at families, schools, youth groups and anyone working with children. The blurb tells me the activities are suitable for ages 3 to 16 and will help develop practical skills, awareness and respect for the natural world. An initial flick through reveals great images and a layout of activities that is easy to follow.

The introduction gives context in the form of an intriguing diagram showing an ‘extinction of experience’ revealed by the decline in roaming radius from home of 8 year olds from the 1920s (6 miles) to 2007 (700 yards), followed by the benefits of increased time in nature. There’s also advice on how to make the most of the book through the art of questioning to nurture curiosity, and a section on Looking after Nature which sets out the interplay between nature and people to allow both to flourish. I was thinking hard before I got to the activities!

leafThe activities are set out in 4 themes: games, naturalist, seasonal and survival skills. There’s a large range and each activity has clear advice on resources needed (often none, which I like), number of people, age, duration and how to do it. A note on variations and links to similar or complimentary activities is helpful. A side box titled Invisible Learning gives an idea of what we might expect when using the activity, advice I found either reinforced my own ideas or alerted me to new possibilities.

If the book lacks anything it’s the benefits of using the outdoors from a formal education perspective. However I think those working in this context will easily recognise ways of using these activities in their work.

10246355_10152042900188803_739863649045105486_nThis book is much more than a collection of great activities. It has an aim we can all buy into to forge “a heartfelt relationship [with nature] that will renew and inform our culture, creating love and respect for the natural world.” This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and youth leaders alike looking to inspire young people with nature. Get a copy and head outdoors!

Learning with Nature is now available at the special offer price of £14.99 (+ postage) via the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.


Graham Watson is the John Muir Award Cumbria Manager with the Lake District National Park. “Connect, enjoy and care for wild places.”

Graham can be contacted at cumbria@johnmuiraward.org 

The John Muir Award encourages people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places. It’s the main educational initiative of the John Muir Trust the leading wild land conservation charity in the UK, which works to protect wild land and wild places.

Find out the difference the John Muir Award makes and why they need your support.

The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery

Photo taken from www.secretgardenoutdoor-nursery.co.uk

On this blog we want to feature some of the people and projects which inspire us. We came across The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery years ago in a Guardian article about early years education. It’s based in Scotland and the pre-school children spend all day, whatever the weather, outside playing in the woods. The nursery has a lovely website which is worth a look at and Cathy Bache (founder of the nursery) writes eloquently:

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