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

Therapeutic Play & Nature Connection

Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

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

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

Challenging Behaviour & Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

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

Green Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Connection

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

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

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

Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

 

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

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

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com 

01273 814226

 

The Adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery – Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

Outdoor Classroom Day – 1st November 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Picking blackberries for paint! Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

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

 

 

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

The adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery

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

 

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

Popcorn over the fire!

 

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

By Katie Scanlan

 

 

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Working with Nature to Support our Mental Health

World Mental Health Day 2018

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

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

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

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

The World Health Organisation defines mental health:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPD’s & Training Programmes

Courses and trainings

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Group Nature-based Therapeutic Interventions

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

Team Building & Away Days

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

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

Donate

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

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

Ideas for Outdoor Maths, by Juliet Robertson

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

Blog By Juliet Robertson, Creative Star Learning Ltd.

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

Find out more about Outdoor Maths on 21st September!

 

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

Can you see:

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

The syringes provide further learning opportunities:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outdoor Maths, Place Value, Nature Counts.

Outdoor Maths, 21st September with Juliet Robertson

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

 

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

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

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

Explore Outdoor Maths and more with Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 

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

An Award Winning Woodland Project for Children and Young People with Learning Disabilities and their Families

A Woodland Celebration!

Circle of Life Rediscovery (CLR) and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Learning Disability / Family Intensive Support Service (CAMHSLD/FISS) held a Celebration Day on 31st March to mark the huge success of their three year project.

“We have had a great three years working together supporting families, siblings, parents and grandparents to get outdoors, find peer support, discover new skills, have fun and relax.” Marina Robb, Founder of Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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The Woodlands Project was awarded Silver at the 2015 Sussex Partnership Positive Practice Awards and Highly Commended in the national Innovation in Child, Adolescent and Young People’s Mental Health Award presented by the Positive Practice Collaborative.

 

The Issues

Children and young people with learning disabilities often have fewer opportunities in life and their families find it harder to spend time together as a family, building the kind of memories we all expect to find in our photo albums. Furthermore, families attending our project rarely get out and some have withdrawn into their homes completely. The reasons can be shocking; being asked to get off a bus because their autistic child is anxious and making noises to communicate their distress, or other adults asking parents to remove their child from the play area because they don’t understand the non-verbal communication being used. These daily experiences of prejudice, judgement and sometimes, abuse, make day to day life even more challenging.

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These are the issues CLR and CAMHSLD/FISS decided to tackle in a programme which was specially designed, in partnership with families. The project enables them 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. Due to the complex needs of the young people attending the activities, a very high level of support is put in place with each family being supported by one staff member from CLR and one from CAMHSLD/FISS.

 

So far 150 people have attended and benefited from this project over the past three years. Learning has happened on all sides. Families have gained woodland skills and can now build and cook on a campfire, some have learnt safe saw and drill use. Families have learnt that they can access the outdoors and that when they do, they feel much calmer and more resilient. Parents and siblings have met other people who share their experiences and found that sharing their stories is deeply supportive.

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We know that there is very little provision for families to stay together as a whole unit when there is a child with a learning disability. Most of the support offered consists of respite which splits the family up and they have told us how limiting this is. We have also learnt that families that are already coping with high levels of distress are subject to daily experiences of rejection and threat in their own communities. And finally, we have seen first-hand, the healing power of getting together with peers in woodland. As one parent said, “the trees are drinking my stresses.”

 

The Project

The Woodland Project aims to make a relaxing, whole family day a reality; stretching young people to learn new skills and discover new talents and supporting parents so they could find peace, and create fun memories of their time together. Typically a day begins with songs around a main fire before tuition in building a cooking fire is given. After lunch, woodland crafts are the order of the day with young people learning how to safely use a saw or drill. Throughout, access to hammocks and swings provides quieter, reflective spaces if children feel over stimulated by the new sensations available to them.

The project seeks to challenge some of the assumptions that limit the experience of young people with learning disabilities. In addition the goal is to equip adults with the necessary skills and key safety knowledge to give them the confidence to make choices to go outdoors independently of the project.

See our wonderful film about our Woodland Project:

Photos from our Woodland Days can be seen here.

Photos from our Celebration Day can be seen here.

Feedback from a parent

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“We had a brilliant day and felt very relaxed. The children loved the woods and the quiet life and thoroughly enjoyed on how to make camp fires and cook on a camp fire. This environment is really perfect and safe for children, who love the outdoors and learning new things. The staff were brilliant and made us feel very welcome and very supportive. Would love to come back again as the day was great and the kids were kept busy from beginning to end.”

 

 

Quote from Clinical Psychologist

“Spending time in a new environment, away from usual routines, provided a space for the family to interact with each other in a different way. As parents have support from staff at the woodland they are able to relax and engage with their children in a way that is not always possible in everyday life. Parents were also able to connect with other parents. This is not usually easy for parents or carers of a child with a learning disability as transport is often arranged to take the child to school, so they do not have the opportunity to meet and talk to other parents.”

“As a clinician the day provided a unique opportunity to get to know the family in a way that is not possible in the course of normal clinical work. It facilitated relationship building with the family as well as providing an opportunity to observe family dynamics in a completely natural, unobtrusive way.”

Feedback from parents:

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“I can’t express enough how much relaxing, healing and peace there has been for me today.”

 

 

20150613_105416 “This is not the kind of place we would normally come to so it has been a nice change. It makes me think we will come back. You forget it doesn’t have to be structured such as a playground. It has been good that we have been outdoors rather than in a play centre or community hall.”


WHY NATURE MATTERS

Nature has an extraordinary way of bringing out the best in people.

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Circle of Life Rediscovery bases all its work around nature. It now has information gathered from over 15 years of why nature matters. The belief that change comes with the right environment to be able to try new things is at the heart of this nature work.

It’s a simple thing to go out into nature, and yet so many people don’t think of it or because they don’t do it often are afraid of it. We use it to support our work and in return we feel nature has exceptional ways of teaching so much that can be used in everyday life.

Find out more about our Funded work here.

SUPPORT OUR PROJECT

If you would like to make a donation to support the future of our Woodland Days, please click here or contact us at info@circleofliferediscovery.com. Any funds received will help to provide much needed disabled toilets, containers for tools and temporary structures for shelters.

Leaky Buckets GIG on 29th and 30th April

The Leaky Buckets are back at Iford Village Hall on 29th and 30th April with a new set of songs to get you on your feet! The evening includes a cash bar, barbeque and a collection to support our Funded Projects. Please come along – we hope to see you there! Entry is FREE but must be pre-booked. Please see details here.

Circle of Life Rediscovery would like to thank to NHS England for supporting us over the last 3 months; to SPARK for their Life More Ordinary Grant support and to all the families, staff and people who helped shape this project.

About Circle of Life Rediscovery
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Circle of Life Rediscovery is a Community Interest Company based in Ringmer, East Sussex that provides funded and bespoke learning with nature experiences and training for young people, adults, families, schools and organisations.

Our team of outdoor Learning specialists are passionate about nature and our aim is to share our knowledge and expertise with the next generation while helping to boost self-esteem, confidence, communication skills as well as physical development.

About Sussex Partnership

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Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides NHS mental health, specialist learning disability and substance misuse services across and beyond Sussex.

Farming & Countryside Education Book Review

cropped-cropped-cropped-img_549512.jpgLearning with Nature is fittingly described as “A how-to guide to
inspiring children through outdoor games and activities”. Featuring
a foreword from Chris Packham, the book is packed with dozens of
activities and games as well as survival skills and a brief note on
looking after nature.

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The activities, some of which are split by season, are varied and
suitable for families of all sizes. We especially enjoyed the Walnut
Boats activity and the Swallow Migration activity, which involves
children simulating the epic journey swallows make with their own
home-made birds.

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The games section of the book is perfect for youth groups or schools,
as the majority of games require 4 or more children to play and many
are suitable for groups of 8 or larger.

Learning with Nature is an excellent resource for youth groups or
schools looking for some inspiring ideas for outdoor pursuits. In
terms of activities, the book is great for families, though some of
the games will require your children’s friends to come along!

Circle of Life Rediscovery are pleased to be offering trainings throughout 2015 that will inspire you to be outside! Visit our Nature-based Workshops.

Thanks FACE: www.face-online.org.uk to visit their website

 

Viva Lewes Book Review

bookreviewvivalewesAnother fantastic book review! Thank you Viva Lewes. Glad to see these activities being tried and tested! Special Christmas offer is available now.