Outdoor Classroom Day – The Power of the Outdoors

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog by Jon Cree

Communing with another – a ceremonial transformation. Encounters with a nettle.

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog, by Jon CreeThis week I experienced a palpable shift in one of the teachers on a workshop I was facilitating – let’s call her Jane (real name left out for anonymity). The workshop entitled “lost words”, is based on the book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, that seems to have swept up the country’s schools in its magic. It involves facilitating teacher’s sensory observation of non human beings then representing these encounters through various sketching and poetry techniques to rediscover the meaning of the name for said ‘being’.

What I witnessed in this teacher was more than something to do with rediscovering the meaning of adder, otter, kingfisher and willow – it was a shift where the inner and outer worlds met.

At the start of the day there was a distinct reluctance, indeed possibly belligerence, to ‘open up’ the heart to the possibilities of what might come if you just ‘be’ with other ‘more the human’ beings. There seemed to be resistance to allowing the inner and outer worlds collide…”what I can’t take my pen and paper to my sit spot?” was a retort.

On returning from said sit spot a shift had already happened and the shackles of culture started to slip away. Rules of poetry were there to be broken, and with the aid of the words ringing on the Guernsey winds of the likes of poets such as David Whyte, Ted Hughes and Mary Oliver you could see said teacher’s shoulders dropping and a sparkle and smile spreading across her face…Jane was definitely letting down her guard. After some working with senses and words, sketching exercises that emphasised a playful sensory integration of subject and paper, in her case this was flint and paper (I always feel rocks have so much to tell us), there started to be a melding of natural world awareness and expression.

The Power of the Outdoors - Outdoor Classroom Day Blog

Then came the big occasion of the day – 90 minutes of sitting with one being, in her case a nettle. Jane approached her subject as advised in a mindful slow yet playful way, observing from all angles and finding just the right spot and body distance to give both beings respect yet intimacy. I watched and witnessed a rushing at this point to distil the essence of nettle in sketch and rubbing, and then something extraordinary happened in this seemingly ordinary space.

 

Her words started to flow – she had exclaimed at the start of the day that she hated poetry (she is a leader in literacy in her school!) and there was a moment where she sat in ceremony celebrating this resilient yet vulnerable ‘being’ – she literally performed her own small ceremony for said nettle. It was as if Jane had entered her own mytho-poetic world where the inner and outer had collided…her soul and psyche had entered the nettle kingdom.

I know this sounds somewhat far fetched for to get to this stage can sometimes take years and many vision quests, but I was certain in just 5 and a half hours she had entered into a ceremonial conversation with the world…the words were flowing. It was a beautiful moment to witness she was participating fully in the world from which we all come from – not the technological but the natural. I couldn’t but help myself from going over to sit beside Jane and she willingly showed me her sketchbook, made that morning, and the words that just kept coming…she had entered into a deep caring relationship with the nettle.

The Power of the OutdoorsSome may say that this was nothing other than the keen observation and spending time with another being that provoked the words, i.e time for ‘contact’. But I am certain this was down to an opening of heart and the imaginal whispers of the nettle that created an almost sacred space in which Jane could, in her own soft way, make this a ceremonial instance to cement said ‘connection’ rather than ‘contact’.

My words may seem grandiose and exaggerated but I am certain, indeed we know from cultures of the past and present, that ceremony deepens relationship.

I came away feeling that we need to allow our learners more time with the non human and celebrate the ensuing relationship in some form of respectful way with a mixture of ‘gravitas’ and ‘levitas’.

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors – 3 day course with Jon Cree.
Optional Level 3 Accreditation available.

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

This course will delve into:

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

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


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.

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

International School Grounds Month

What is International School Grounds Month?

Each year, in May, the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) calls on schools around the world to take their pupils outside to celebrate International School Grounds Month. They believe that school grounds are hugely important to children and youth, and shape their experience of the world around them.

Why is it important?

International School Grounds Month - Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.In some cases, school or nursery grounds are the first place children have the opportunity to become acquainted with the natural world. Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.

In 2016, a study funded by Persil, as part of their ‘dirt is good’ campaign, found that 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

 

This is less time than the UN guidelines for prisoners, which requires “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily”.

Further to this, the World Health Organisation has just released new guidelines to say that ‘children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy’ WHO, 24th April 2019. Visit their website for details.

So more time outdoors is imperative for our young people, and school grounds provide the perfect opportunity.

How can you get involved?

The ISGA is encouraging all schools to use this opportunity to engage their students in learning, play and other activities outside – for an hour, a day, or a week during International School Grounds in May.

For activity ideas, download their Activity Guide which includes a collection of 104 exciting ideas that support learning across the curriculum, promote healthy lifestyles, and encourage play and exploration during free time, before, during, and after school.

Share with us during International Schools Grounds Month

What are you doing for International School Grounds Month?

We would love to know what your school is doing for International Schools Grounds Month, please share your activities with us on social media on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram page.

 

 

What is Circle of Life Rediscovery doing for International School Grounds Month?

Circle of Life Rediscovery is delighted to launch a new range of bespoke products and services, to develop your school grounds and support outdoor learning and Forest School.

We will be working in collaboration with Vert Woods Community Woodland (VWCW), a locally and sustainably managed community woodland, to supply sustainable wood for the products, with ‘Grown in Britain’ status.

What can we offer?

Forest School Shelters – our shelters are all bespoke, designed for each space, with your choice of tarp material and colour.

Forest School Shelters“Thank you so much for the fantastic shelter. It has completely exceeded our expectations and will provide years of enjoyment for both children and adults! Mark and Tom were helpful and efficient throughout the whole process and I would not hesitate to recommend them to other Forest Schools.”

Becky Evans, Inclusion Leader, Park Mead School.

“We are delighted with our wonderful new Forest School shelter built by Circle of Life Rediscovery. Prior to construction they came to the site to discuss our needs and offer helpful suggestions. They gave us a choice of tarpaulins to suit our requirements and explained the construction process.

Forest School SheltersThey built the shelter in the holidays to avoid any term time disruption. The job was completed on the days stated, despite the appalling weather! Lots of the shelters I researched on line were more like garden buildings or outdoor classrooms. We wanted something more in keeping with our natural setting and as you can see from the photo it looks great within the woodland. It is very solidly constructed. Mark and Tom are obviously talented craftsmen and were also generous with their advice for our site. This was money very well spent. This shelter will serve our forest school well, enabling us to work with the children in all weathers. The wind on site had been a real problem with our temporary tarps. The children absolutely love it!”
Ocklynge Primary School, September 2018.

NEW products for 2019…
  • Wood stores
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire circle/basecamp log seating
  • Wooden planters
  • Wildlife boxes for birds, bats or hedgehogs
  • Tippy taps
Outdoor Learning Services

Please contact us for more details on any of our products and services or call 01273 814226. We look forward to hearing from you.

Katie Scanlan – Operations Manager, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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.

Challenging Behaviour – A balanced brain means a pro social mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore Challenging Behaviour in the outdoors with Jon Cree

 

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

 

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

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

By Jon Cree

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

 

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

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

This course will delve into:

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

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


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

 

Forest School in an urban environment – how can it work?

Forest School Training & Forest School in an urban environmentAt Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run our Forest School Training Level 3 from a beautiful, mixed broadleaf woodland in the heart of the Sussex countryside. In this environment, it is so easy for our trainees to understand the ethos and principles of Forest School, to see how child-led learning can take place, the resources that are available and the importance of nature connection, they can feel it just by being here.

In a woodland environment there is so much stimulus. To our  trainees, it is clear to see how the children can explore and lead their own learning.

There are places to climb, logs to balance on, mud to dig, creatures to discover, leaves to throw, sticks for dens, the list is endless….but how to translate all this to an urban environment, where there is no woodland?

Forest School in an Urban Environment?

We run Forest School Training Level 3 in East SussexThe answer is to remember the ethos of Forest School – child-led, learner-centred sessions, which take place regularly (weekly if possible), with opportunities for supported risk taking, in a natural environment…this could be your local park, the school field or even a corner of the playground.

This, plus a little bit of creativity can go a long way towards giving the children the same sense of connection, freedom and opportunities for exploration and learning, regardless of where they are.

Forest School Sessions - find out more here

 

I have seen an excellent example of Forest School run on a small patch of grass, with one tree, in the middle of a housing estate in East London.  The children walk there from their nursery every week, the site is a public space overlooked by hundreds of residents that used to be empty apart from the broken glass, used needles and empty drinks cans.

 

Now once a week it rings with children’s voices, the litter has gone and the local residents know that Forest School is taking place.

As for the children, they are motivated, engaged and learning. They find worms, they dig, they make paint from mud, they use the tree to make shelters and homes for the creatures, they lie on the grass and look at the clouds, they play, they learn…to these urban children, this is nature.

Activity ideas for Forest School in urban spaces:

Activity ideas for Urban Forest School - contact us for more informationDen building – if you don’t have any natural resources use tarps and ropes – tie them to trees, fences, benches, bins, goal posts.

Mini-shelters – ask the children to bring in a bag of sticks and leaves as their homework. Have this available as a resource for free play. Leave pictures of different types of shelters as inspiration.

Clay – use it to make mini-beasts, creatures, fairies, faces on trees (or brick walls).

 

Natural paints – bring in a bucket of mud if you don’t have any, use frozen blackberries, crushed chalk, charcoal – mix with water and paint on the playground (it will wash off) or an old bed sheet.

Listening activities – tune in to what is around you, what sounds can you hear? Can you identify which sounds are from nature (birds, leaves rustling, wind in the trees, rain) and which ones are human sounds?

Mini beast hunting – Use magnifiers to search carefully in the corners of buildings, in the cracks of the pavement, in flower beds….. it’s amazing what you can find, even in a concrete jungle.

The most important thing is to get out there, the environment (even if it is urban) and the children’s imagination will do the rest.

By Katie Scanlan, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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

Endorsed FSA TrainerForest School Training Level 3 Courses:

If you are keen on Forest School Level 3 Training in East Sussex, our next courses are:

 

 

Course One
Part one: 4th & 5th March (Mill Woods) & 6th & 7th March (Picketts Wood).
Part two: 29th April – 1st May (Mill Woods).
Part three: 20th – 21st May (Mill Woods).

Course Two
Part 1: 26th, 27th & 30th September and 1st, 2nd October 2019.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February and 2nd, 3rd March 2020.
Location to be confirmed but will be East Sussex/Brighton area.

Please visit our website for details.

 

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

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

Nature Pedagogy – the teaching of nature within a nature-centric worldview.

Nature Pedagogy

NATURE PEDAGOGY AND GAMES FOR LEARNING - CPD course in AprilWhilst the use of the terminology ‘nature pedagogy’ may appear relatively new, developing a deep nature connection and understanding how our needs and interests can be met successfully though nature to provide a meaningful contribution to our lives, is our most ancient and biologically responsive blueprint.

As a teacher we often use this word ‘pedagogy’.  Simply stated, it is the method and practice of teaching.  It involves understanding the learner’s needs, their interests and providing relevant experiences that our meaningful.

 

Our modern culture is very disconnected from nature.  Our rational approach to this inconceivably complex and successful living system, is diminished to an object that we can exploit and deny our own animal heritage.

The development of our pre-frontal cortex, that defines human evolution, rest on a much larger sensory-based brain that thrives on relationships and filtering sensory information and feelings.    Our capacity to view nature as an ally, a necessary partner and great, great, great grandparent is determined partly by our capacity to be empathetic, to feel through our senses, and to see a much bigger picture of our past and our future.

The Big Questions?

I have been largely influenced by the big questions: Why? What? How?  I suppose I never stopped being the person who wanted to know why? Why do people believe in god? Why are some people more valued than others? Why is life unfair?  How do people know they are right? What happens when we die? Why is it so difficult for our society to create systems that look after nature – as an absolute priority.  I don’t think there are easy answers, and I know the different points of view are inevitable, despite nature as our common interest.

Nature Pedagogy, Well-being & Therapeutic training in East Sussex this yearWhat I have observed is that young children, particularly the early years have a wonderful facility to experience the world as animistic, that everything is a subject not an object.  A child can easily converse with ‘inanimate objects’ and are very comfortable immersing themselves in their own imagination, which for them, is real.   In the west this facility seems to diminish, whereas in earth-sensory-based cultures it usually prevails.

I have studied many different cultures and worldviews.  I tried for many years to square what seems like story-making about a mountain, or river, the apparent communication that many traditional people have with nature, as not real.  I can’t stop objectifying.  Yet, I have been fascinated by healing practices and the intimacy of those people with nature, all offering different ‘answers’ to those big questions.  How tantalising.

Recently I was listening to a Ted Talk on Animism and the Maori people and the presenter beautifully explained that their worldview is like belonging to a vast family – tree, the humans, the animals, the plants, the seas, the stars, are all family. He asked if we consider our pet dog as part of the family?  Yes, of course.  I know and love my dog Ruby, she doesn’t speak, but she communicates and empathises.  It is only a little more of a jump, and a lot more time,  to feel a meaningful relationship to land, mountain, or tree where  your worldview  transforms to a friendly, caring approach, with gratitude for life.

Our entire system is operated by nature’s own manual.   It is the primary way our neurological system is strengthened and extended.   With our natural senses intact, we can be happy and healthy. Without time in nature, our systems become dysfunctional and we are undernourished, mistaking shopping and screen life with life-sustaining human and nature connection. One cannot replace the other, it will never do that.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.Nature sends out a multitude of natural chemicals (at quantum level everything is energy) and we respond, even if we don’t know it.  This ‘serve and return’ between nature and humans is the way we grow, learn, and thrive.  Nature pedagogy puts us back in touch with our natural and original operating system. Not the human-imposed one, but one that sits in a large wheel of life representing all of life, as we can possibly know it.

From ideas of creation to the life cycle of a plant.   There are many models and methods, tools and skills that help us to find our way back to nature’s medicine, and to provide this for ourselves and our children.  Learning through experiences in nature, building psychological flexibility and pursuing important values increase our well-being and restores a natural balance in all of us.

Keep in touch to find out more about Nature Pedagogy and:

  • Approaches within nature education and key differences
  • Connection Practices & nature awareness games
  • Nature-centric models that inform our planning and holistic approach
  • Experiencing and activities that support an inclusive and nature-centric worldview
  • Indicators of awareness and attributes

Our work draws on best practice from Forest School, ecopsychology, ecotherapy, indigenous and western knowledge,  earth education and deep nature connection.

By Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

Nature Pedagogy related CPD’s & Courses:

21st & 22nd March: Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth
This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash.’
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 17.00. Cost £175.

1st & 2nd April: Nature Play & the Therapeutic Space
An Experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces’.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £175.

17th April: Nature Pedagogy and Games for Learning
This workshop brings together new thinking around ‘Nature Pedagogy’.  This includes exploring the models, methods, worldviews and values that underpin our teaching practice in nature.
Location:
Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £95.

25th & 26th May: Landplay Therapy
Post qualifying training for Play Therapists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists. This two -day training will provide you with the tools you need to extend your therapeutic practice to include indoor and outdoor sessions.
Location:
Brook Farm, Messing, Essex Time: 09.30 – 16.00 Cost £165.

Visit our website for full details.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

 

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

Therapeutic Play & Nature Connection

Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

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

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

Challenging Behaviour & Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

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

Green Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Connection

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

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

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

Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

 

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

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

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

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

Forest School Training Level 3

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

Forest School Training Level 3

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

Why does anyone study?

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

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

Forest School Training Level 3 – a learning community

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

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

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

Insurance

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

Quality Training

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

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

 

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

Values of Forest School

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

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

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

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

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

Principles of Forest School

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forest School Training Level 3 with Circle of Life Rediscovery

Our Level 3 Forest School Training provides the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to prepare learners for employment as a Forest School Leader.Our Forest School Training Level 3, trains us following our natural operating biological, evolutionary and sensory system. This approach to learning and developments forms an essential part of a healthy life, that we hope will form part of every child’s school experience.

Our next course takes place in March 2019 in East Sussex and the dates are:
Part one: 4th – 7th March
Part two: 29th April – 1st May
Part three: 20th – 21st May

 

Course Two
Part 1: 26th, 27th & 30th September and 1st, 2nd October 2019.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February and 2nd, 3rd March 2020.

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

2018 Feedback:

“I have learnt so much but at the same time it wasn’t hurried and there was time to enjoy the activities. Personally, I feel more relaxed after training outside.”

“I loved the games, songs, craft activities, learning theories, it was magical.”

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

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

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

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

Marina.

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

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

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

https://circleofliferediscovery.com/blog/

www.facebook.com/circleofliferediscovery

 

 

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

Forest School – A Day in the Life

A day in the life of pumpkin patch nursery forest school

Forest School Sessions in East Sussex

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out about forest school sessions for your school or nursery

 

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

 

 

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

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

You can also see our website for details and information.

 

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.