Forest School Sessions with Nursery Children

Forest School Sessions

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

A typical day with Nursery children at Forest School..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why is my heart beating so fast?”

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

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

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

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

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

(No need, they have it covered.)

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pride and self reflection gaining its own momentum.

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

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

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

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

“Can we toast marshmallows this week?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it finished already?”

“Can we do this again tomorrow?”

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

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

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


Forest School Sessions at your setting.

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

Forest School Training Level 3

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

2019/20 Course dates:

 

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

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

 

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

 

First by the heart before understood by the mind – Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

Ecopsychology, Environmental and Art Therapy in practice.

We are really looking forward to Ian Siddons Heginworth coming to run a 2 day workshop for us in March ‘Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash’, an ecopsychology and practical therapeutic training.  Ian is a highly experienced and creative practitioner who is both insightful and accessible.

Please sign up to our newsletter here to receive future updates about our courses and trainings.

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.I have owned his book ‘Environmental Arts therapy and the Tree of Life’ for many years, and am forever impressed by the depth and breadth of how his writing links our psychology with nature, and in particular the Celtic wisdom of the trees.

For those of us who work with nature as a source of healing, learning,  creativity and inspiration, these days will lead us to understanding how our true selves are intimately entwined and connected to Nature and her cycles.  Ecopsychology, art and environmental experiences are therapeutic. From the physical experience, the absorption of plant hormones that lower our cortisol,  to emotional and psychological experiences that are supported and unravelled through nature’s language of metaphor.

About the Workshops

The training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles and promises practical ecopsychology where we can explore our difficulties and let nature transform them.   At Circle of Life we offer transformational programmes and approaches that draw on old and new wisdom and all of us are willing to learn more about how nature’s gifts can help us to ‘be’ in life, and live in a connected and fulfilling way. We also know that exploring our ‘shadow’ (See our course in April – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space) and feelings are necessary to be mentally well and enable us to transform and change.  Our work with all ages and background in nature repeatedly shows us the power of nature for long lasting well-being.

Ian’s fine work explores our masculine (the active and outward parts of ourselves) and the feminine (the feeling, inward part of ourselves that receives form the world).  It offers us a way to reconsider our daily life as the year turns around through the months and seasons.  It shows us how we can reconnect to the disowned parts of ourselves that are the compost of our health.

As a Forest School trainer and group facilitator, I hope to integrate the practical knowledge of working and offering activities through the year, with the psychological benefits that nature and these methods affords us.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

This intimate relationship with the living world was not unusual for our ancestors.  Trees have always been of paramount importance.  There is enormous cultural and medicinal value of the trees.  For us in the West, our Celtic ancestors lived in a forested land and a secret form of written language was called the Ogham.  The earliest known form of Ogham was the Tree Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet.  Each letter was associated with a name of a tree. The Celtic year had thirteen months with each month associated with a tree.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

 

 

“Each month has offered us the Tree of Life in a different guise” Ian Siddons Heginworth.

 

 

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash

This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The first of two workshops will be held over the Spring Equinox and focus on the Ash – Alchemical Ash. In ancient Britain the Ash was associated with rebirth and new life.  The beginning of March is the time of year when we feel the promise of Spring and we long for it’s arrival, but winter is still here. By the end of March, it will have arrived!

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Suffocating Ivy

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

The second in Autumn, ‘Suffocating Ivy’ – associated with death as well as life, as the female body gives life, so woman brings death. “September comes and the night creeps in…  Even before the leaves start yellowing we know autumn is here….Life is beginning to pull inwards.”  For the Celts, the ivy  is considered the strongest of trees because it can choke and kill anything it grows on, even the great Oak.  The Ivy can help us to meet that which blocks our path to freedom.

 

If you would like to find out more about our ecopsychology and practical therapeutic trainings with Ian please visit our website.

We look forward to meeting you under the trees at Mill Wood finding our freedom, love, innocence and renewal but perhaps not before we meet our loss and feelings felt too by our heart.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery

ANON: Poem found in the Plough Inn, Myddfai, Dyfed, 1998

“Beechwood fires are bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year. Chestnut’s only good they say, If for long laid away. Make a fire of Elder tree, Death within your house shall be.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn to fast, Blaze up bright and do not last. It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, E’en the flames are cold.  But ash green or ash brown, Is fit for a queen with a golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke, Applewood will scent your room, With an incense-like perfume. Oaken logs if dry and old, Keep away the winter’s cold.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold”.

Ian Siddons Heginworth - Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

 

Ian is a leading practitioner, innovator and teacher of environmental arts therapy, a practical ecopsychologist, Author of ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’.

Please see his website for more information.

 

 

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 RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

 

Woodland based Awards on International Day of Forests!

International Day of Forests!
Woodland awards and qualifications for your pupils

On International Day of Forests we wanted to share details of our woodland-based and outdoor awards, enabling your students to gain valuable qualifications!

 

 

 

The John Muir Award – suitable for years 5, 6 and above

Find out more about the John Muir Award and how this can benefit your pupils!
The John Muir Award
is a National Conservation Award and can be achieved at Discovery Level either as series of day visits or 4 consecutive days.

 

The award is suitable for pupils from upper Key stage 2 onwards, and gives students the opportunity to connect with, enjoy and care for a wild place through 4 challenges: Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share.

Residential Woodland Camp Case Study: Tiffins Boys School, London

Bespoke camps for schools

We start the process with a Woodland Day in May to learn the skills students will need for camp (Discover); fire lighting, shelter building and cooking. During the woodland day, we also provide an opportunity for students to join in the planning of camp activities – within reason!

 

The camp then takes place in June for 2 nights and 3 days (Explore) and includes tool use, team building games, night stalks, cooking, a conservation activity (Conserve) and plenty of adventure!

Students then go back to school and Share what they have learnt. They come away from the experience with more confidence, closer as a team, with a better understanding of the natural environment and having achieved the John Muir Award at Discovery level.

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

Other Woodland Qualifications

Each of the qualifications below requires a minimum commitment of 4 days in an outdoor environment, ideally a woodland, but they can also take in your school grounds, a local park or a woodland across the school year.

OCN Basic Woodland Skills and Knowledge – Suitable for working at Entry Level

3 key principles:

  • Know how to work safely in the outdoors
  • Be able to use tools to make items
  • Be able to recognise woodland life
OCN Woodland Skills and Nature – Suitable for those working at Level 1

5 key principles:

  • Understand health and safety responsibilities when using woodland survival skills
  • Be able to recognise woodland life
  • Know the principles of fire lighting
  • Be able to light a fire
  • Be able to use skills for practical woodland tasks
Case Study: Moulsecoomb Community Forest Garden Project

“The majority of the students we work with have Special Educational Needs (SEN) experiencing difficulties within main stream education for many reasons. A great deal of our in nature work initially is therapeutic.

The OCN Level 1 Woodland Skills qualification gives us the opportunity to give an award that is non invasive in its evidence gathering and doesn’t compromise the therapeutic process.

Its simplicity gives us the space to be able to encourage students to develop skills, underpinning knowledge and natural awareness, creating enthusiasm and interest.

The opportunity to earn and receive a certificate as a record of achievement really does motivate students, becoming an important part of their self development and eventually CVs.

We began awarding the OCN certificates through Circle of Life Rediscovery back in 2011, as a community project many of the students who have received the award and since left school come back to see us, they always mention the OCN level 1 they received.

I would say the Level 1 award represents not just a record of achievement, but also marks a passage in time, a process these young people very much enjoyed.”

Patrick Beach, Outdoor Education Instructor / Therapeutic Practitioner
Moulsecoomb Community Forest Garden Project

Our Woodland Site

Forest School at our Woodland Site

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery welcomes all our groups to a stunning 10 acre of beautiful mixed broad-leafed woodland known as Mill Woods. It is near Laughton Village, located 10 miles from Lewes in East Sussex.

 

We offer a range of opportunities for schoolsorganisations, professional health and social services to access this natural environment though programmes, day events and trainings. Read more about it here.

Circle of Life RediscoveryOur programmes include Forest School Sessions, Enrichment Days and Activity Days for schools across East Sussex. For adults we offer CPD’s, Forest School Training, Forest School First Aid Training and bespoke in-house training for organisations.

 

If you would like to find out more, please visit our website or call 01273 814226.

#InternationalDayofForests!

Valentine’s Day in the Woods

A Parent’s View – We loved it!

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

And Relax…..

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

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

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

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

 

LOVE-ly Activities

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Relight your Fire!

Making our own fires and experiencing woodland cooking!

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Such a fun family day!Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

Family Wild Day Out  – Future Dates

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Make it ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’ every day!

Ideas to inspire your Outdoor Learning. Make it Outdoor Classroom Day every day!

Outdoor Classroom Day took place this year on 12th October 2017 with 19,800 schools getting involved and spending the day (or part of the day) learning outside the classroom with their pupils. This is an amazing collaborative effort, not just in the UK but across the World, with 2.3 million children across 105 countries taking part, quite an achievement for an initiative that started off just in London in 2012, as Empty Classroom Day.

…but shouldn’t this sort of outdoor learning be taking place every day, in every school across the world, even in the Autumn term?!

To help inspire you to get your class outside this Autumn and at Outdoor Classroom Day, we have collected some simple ideas to use the natural resources around you for outdoor learning.

Waxed Autumn Leaves

Make it Outdoor Classroom Day every day!

Taken from  ‘Learning with Nature’, by Marina Robb (Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery), Victoria Mew and Anna Richardson.

Discover outdoor learning with Learning with Nature

How to:
Waxed Autumn Leaves, ideas for outdoor learning this Autumn and Winter!

  • Gather many varieties of Autumn leaves, press and dry them in books or a flower press. The leaves take a few days to dry. Either prepare this part in advance, or see the gathering of the leaves as a separate activity.
  • Light a fire. Melt beeswax in a pan over the fire.
  • Take the pan off the fire and dip the leaves. To do so safely, hold the leaf stem and dip. Avoid immersing the fingers!
  • Take the leaf out of the wax, hold above the pan and immediately shake downwards to remove extra wax before it dries. Avoid shaking side to side as droplets of wax can go over clothing.
  • Blow the leaves gently to complete the drying.
  • The wax coating will help to preserve the leaves. They can be used for all sorts of crafts, and are especially lovely when threaded.

Create your own Environmental Art projects

Environmental Art

How to:

  • Collect fallen leaves of different colours and shapes
  • Be as creative as you like – create raindows, sunbursts, collages of animals, abstract art
  • Take inspiration from environmental artists like Andrew Goldsworthy or Nils-Udo

Twig Towers

Twig Towers for Outdoor Classroom DayHow to:

  • Collect a big pile of sticks
  • Divide your class in to groups
  • Set them the challenge – who can build the highest twig tower?
  • How can you measure which one is the tallest?
  • How many sticks did each tower use?
  • How could you use fewer sticks and still make the tallest tower?

 

For more ideas and inspiration did you know Circle of Life Rediscovery can come to your school to run bespoke Inset training in your school grounds, or you can bring your staff to our beautiful Sussex woodland site.

Contact us here for more details or call 01273 814226.

We also run CPD courses throughout the year on a number of different topics, please see our website for details.

Happy Outdoor Learning!
Katie Scanlan, Operations Manager, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

Our Teenage Woodland Programme, by Emma Thorne

Grab your wellington boots, gather the kindling, and have those marshmallows toasting at the ready. Why I hear you say? Because the Teenage Woodland Days are back and I for one cannot wait.


At the beginning of 2017 Circle of Life Rediscovery in partnership with East Sussex CAMHS (Discovery College) successfully secured a grant from ITV’s The People’s Projects. This well earnt money will be used to fund the upcoming Teenage Woodland Days, as well CLR/CAMHS-LD/FISS Family days.

As a CAMHS Peer Trainer I feel very excited about the forthcoming project, particularly as I had such close involvement in spreading the word and rallying up the support for it through its stages of public voting. Yes, this Peer Trainer was even featured on ITV Meridian doing just that, although I will confess that the fame has yet to go to my head.

Asides from getting back out into the ever changing mystical woodland, I’m especially looking forward to working with the fantastically enthusiastic young people whom have been previously involved in woodland projects. Their continued energy and passion for being outdoors is wonderful to watch. But one thing that I’m really hoping for is that there will be some new faces on our Teenage Programme. The woodland welcomes all to its beautifully calm space and all you need is an open mind and an invitation to yourself to allow your senses to take in the wonder of nature and its beauty, as it changes throughout the seasons.

The weather is already beginning to change and soon it’ll become more apparent that Autumn is ready and waiting to announce its presence. The leaves will darken and fall to the ground and suddenly the annual childlike desire to crunch all over them underfoot becomes all too irresistible. The changing of the seasons is something that I’m most excited about in relation to the upcoming woodland days. The programme will run from September 2017 through to July 2018. All four seasons will be experienced over that period of time and I’m intrigued to watch how the woodland changes in its entirety.


So, are you between the ages of 13-19 and are experiencing mental health difficulties? Why not try something new, take an exploration into the heart of the woodland or simply unleash your inner Bear Grylls and start learning how to build a fire whilst cooking something delicious on it to enjoy.

Come along and you won’t be disappointed, although I cannot guarantee that you won’t get muddy – see you in the woods!

 

Weekend Dates:
2017
September 16thOctober 23rdNovember 18th,
2018
January 13thFebruary 3rdMarch 3rdApril 6thMay 19thJune 9th, July 7th & 8th.
Celebration Event
May 29th – all families & supporters welcome.

Where:
Mill Wood, Vert Woods Community Woodland, Park Lane, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BP (map available on request).

Times:
10am – 3.30pm.

Trainers:
Mark Lloyd, Rivkah Cummerson, Luke Funnel, Marina Robb and Emma Thorne.

How to sign up:
To register for a course all you or your supporter (relatives, friends and carers) need to do is:
Phone: 0300 303 8086
Email: sussex.recoverycollege@nhs.net or
Write: to Discovery College, Aldrington House, 35 New Church Road, Hove, BN3 4AG giving the titles of the courses you would like to attend and your address.

A registration from will then be sent to you by post for you to fill in. If you find completing the form is difficult for any reason, please call us to confirm you can attend the first session and come along with your form, so we can support you to complete it. We can do a home visit if you would find that helpful.

If you have any questions about registration please contact Rivkah Cummerson, CAMHS Participation Manager, tel:  07876 037478.

For any questions about the content of the programme please contact Mark Lloyd, Circle of Life Rediscovery, tel: 07961 015307.

 

A Day in the Life of a Wild Thing!

We meet at the car park, with our packed lunches and everyone is excited and maybe a bit nervous? I wonder what we will be doing today?

We wave goodbye to our families and disappear down the track, into the woods to find the Wild Things basecamp and begin the day’s adventures.

At basecamp we are shown around, we find out there is a toilet (phew!) and play some games to learn each other’s names. Then we mix up some natural materials to make paint (and a bit of snazzaroo) and create some tribal face paint – now we are truly Wild Things!

 

Then we are set our first challenge – can we learn some new knots and then build a rope bridge to get our whole team safely from one side of the ‘ravine’ to the other?

 

 

We can…and not only that but someone has the great idea to join our bridges together and we create an amazing low ropes course to play on. Everyone has a go and we get around the whole course without touching the ground.

 

 

 

 

After this it is time to try out some fire lighting and cooking. Our challenge now is to light a fire, without matches, and to keep the fire going long enough to cook some chocolate cake! We all look at each other and wonder how we will do this without an oven?!

 

 

Luckily, Jennie shows us how to use an orange and some tin foil and we are all able to make chocolate cake, and it even tastes quite nice…apart from the burnt bits!!

 

 

It is lunch time and we get to sit around our fires and eat our lunch, and then explore the woods a bit, and play on our rope bridges. After lunch we put our fires out, and leave no trace of the fires so it doesn’t even look like we’ve been there, then other people can come and enjoy the woods too.

We play some more games after lunch, and then for our final activity we can choose if we want to build dens or make a clay creature to take home. I make a butterfly because we saw lots of butterflies in the morning sunshine, and they are my favourite animal.

 

Then it’s time to go home, and we collect all our bags, and the things we have made and set off back down the track to meet our families, chatting to our new friends on the way. We are a bit muddy, tired and happy – true Wild Things!

By Katie Scanlan

If you are looking to Get Wild – join one or more of our Wild Things Woodland Days this summer or during October Half Term. Dates are:

July – 26th, 27th, 28th
August – 30th & 31st
September – 1st
October – 23rd & 24th

Please see our website for full details or click here to book online now!

www.circleofliferediscovery.com | info@circleofliferediscovery.com | 01273 814226

 

Outdoor Learning – A Win Win Situation

Most of us know that spending hours and hours in front of screens, bombarded by emails and message notifications causes us stress.  Humans are not surprisingly more stressed that we have ever been.  It’s subtle and eats away at our well-being.  Our world with all it’s current technological achievements has at the same time adopted dopamine-filled technology to hook us in to screen life.

IMG_4084It’s necessary to know and articulate what we are trying to achieve as educators.  In business the mission statement drives the business and it’s value’s forward.  Many of us educators have a good sense of what represents and motivates us to educate, and what is ‘good education’ but this is not always represented in the requirements at school/government level.

So we do the best we can.

Neuroscience is moving so fast, that what we now understand so much more about the brain, the hormones and how we learn.  Current research corroborates the importance of both play and the outdoors as vital for a child’s development and well-being.  A by product of this is that they also learn much better when they ‘play’ and indeed are outdoors using their bodies and in the midst of the greater living world.

This is true for adults as much as young people.  There are hundreds of top business leaders who are immersing themselves in nature for restoration of their stressful lives.   The outdoors represents to me ‘free medicine’, as well as every living thing that provides life for humans – which is clearly no small thing.

trackingim1My expertise is in working with people outdoors – and for 30 years more specifically working with young people of all ages and backgrounds outdoors.  I have an interest in what motivates people to care about the natural world, to have a greater sense of nature connectedness and to live healthy and satisfying lives.  Bringing nature into our everyday life is a really good idea! We know that our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) reduces once we stay more than 15 minutes in a green space.   This also means that we step out of our predisposition to fight, freeze and flight and into higher order thinking, where we can start to be creative, think out of the box, communicate more easily with others, get in touch with how we really feel, all the while building our knowledge and understanding  through experience with nature.

Within the field of education  there are many theoretical positions that underpin our approaches to education in the UK.   We continue to draw on centuries of theories of learning that include the  authorities like Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, Steiner, Guy Claxton, Howard Gardner, to name a few. Essentially these experts value exploration and repetition as a way to learn, see the medium of the outdoors as valuable because it is so diverse and provides multiple sensory experience, and theorists acknowledge the importance of the role of the ‘teacher’ or ‘practitioner’ and how effective they are at communicating.  As brain science develops we understand that we loose what we don’t use, so it’s vital we are exposed to multisensory experiences so that healthy wiring can happen from day 1. Brains are wired,  strengthened and ‘grown’ by multiple experiences that include movement as a basic requirement as well as the critical role of care-giving to provide secure attachment for well-being.

20150407_141132Fortunately we have a win-win situation with ‘outdoor learning’.  The content of what we teach in schools can be delivered outdoors – so we teach all the subjects in nature.  This content is still decided by the teacher and the curriculum but it is taught in the outdoors.

A very large project, Natural Connections (2012 – 2016) was concluded this year.  After 4 years of working with 125 schools (primary, secondary, and special) in the South West of England – 40,000 pupils, 2,500 teachers and 2,500 teaching assistants they discovered that indeed outdoor learning has multiple benefits across any school. The Final Report of this project can be found here.

The evidence shows that giving children the opportunity to discover, learn about and experience the natural world is hugely important – it can help create a sense of belonging rooted in their local environment, enhancing their health, well-being and educational outcomes.  For example, greater amounts of natural space in or around living or learning environments is associated with higher levels of physical activity, better emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes and with children developing a greater sense of connectedness to nature.”

We need to also consider that in the UK (and worldwide) we have a huge rise in childhood obesity, mental health issues and a lack of a sense of community.  We are in need of a  vision for of a future where  where we don’t harm nature.  According to the Monitor of Engagement with Natural Environment Survey, in an average month in 2013 – 14 only 8% of all children in England (aged 5 – 16) visited natural environments with their schools.  During home time, exploring and playing outdoors has decreased by 90% over the past 20 years.  Fundamentally children (and adults) can’t protect what they don’t know and love.

DSC01155 - CopyInitiatives like Outside Classroom Day on 18th May helps us to remember to get outdoors. If you are a teacher why not join our Outdoor Learning Day?  These days help us recognise the value of getting outdoors. There are lots of official promotional materials to make it easy to get outside.  Tim Gill, an expert on the benefits of risk and play for children has produced a useful guide which you can find here.

Another useful guide is Michael Follett’s practical guide to help support playtime learning outdoors:

Learning with Nature

Learning with Nature

Finally, our very own book ‘Learning with Nature‘ is filled with nature-based ideas that connect young people of all ages, and their families to nature – it is the ‘Bible for Forest School practitioners’.

Our team at Circle of Life Rediscovery provide diverse nature experiences  for young people, schools and the wider world.  We offer trainings to develop these areas within your setting and offer year-round CPD’s for teachers linking the outdoors with the curriculum.

Have fun outdoors,

Marina.

Marina Robb, Director and Founder of Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com | 01273 814226 | info@circleofliferediscovery.com

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

In September 2016 we embarked on a weekend of Sacred Fire & Fire Quest with both adults and young people coming together to undergo a Rite of Passage. As a culture we have all but lost our traditional ways to mark transitions and to support us to move to another stage of life and relationship to the natural world.

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In 2017 we look forward to welcoming Salvatore Gencarelle from the Helpers Mentoring Society to share teachings and offer immersions through the ‘Living Fire Course’ – a four part training throughout the year commencing May 2017 (exact dates TBC). This offers an opportunity to adults to undergo a Rite, then support young people to do this in Part 3. For more information about this click here.

 

DANIEL FORD, from the University of Hull joined us in September to record his impressions and to begin to share the experience to others beyond the forest.

“We are forest people, and our stories and social networks are forest born”.
(Sara Maitland, Gossip from the Forest, 2012, p. 9)

“I prefer being in the forest than in school and I believe the more important lessons can be found there”.
(Teenage Fire Quest Participant 2016)

Stories from the Fire

It is dawn. Raven calls ring out through the wood, stark over the distant sound of traffic. The calls are not being made by birds but rather by a small group of people who, having tended a community fire throughout the night, are now making the agreed signal of return for those out beyond the encampment. Before long men, women and children emerge from the trees and gather together in a large circle. Some take seats, whilst others move closer to the fire. The man who has held vigil at the fire throughout the night, the acknowledged teacher and leader, sits on the far side of the circle silently welcoming those who are returning. When quiet descends on the gathering he asks for those present to sing the song or tell the story that has made it itself known throughout the night. Individuals are called upon to tell their stories, to share their visions and sing their songs from the solitary quests that began at dusk and that have now ended with first light. Those that have worked with these Fire Quest participants as guides gently encourage the members of their groups to share their experiences of being out in the wood, alone with their own fire.

InipiThe first group speak a little about their unexpected experience of time throughout the night. They talk of how they spent their time in preparation for their quests, how they tackled time passing in the wood through the night, and of how they collectively believed that dawn was breaking only to realise that it was the unexpected brightness of the full moon rising. There are murmurs and nods of affirmation from the others seated in the circle acknowledging shared experiences.

Attention moves to the next group. A teenage boy, standing in the outer circle, speaks out. He makes a statement that he feels sums up his quest, “that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, but if you look hard enough you can bring it back”. He recounts how he slipped in and out of a pattern of sleep and attentiveness throughout the night accidentally allowing his own fire to die out in the process. Despite almost being overwhelmed by darkness he tells how he was able to re-kindle his fire from just an ember. An adult at the far side of the circle celebrates both his mistakes and his determination by offering a personal insight “that we can give things away, all of us, without tending to ourselves”.

IMG_4220
Returning to the sharing of stories around the circle a teenage girl is called on to speak of her experience. She begins by recounting the personal question that she took into the forest with her. “How can the dark be a friend, how can it be kin, and how can I not be afraid”. She speaks matter-of-factly about how her time spent in selecting and preparing her space for the night helped to settle her anxiety and make the experience literally grounded and friendly.

As the sharing at the fireside continues a boy is invited to share the song that he ‘received’ whilst he was out in the wood throughout the night. His voice is fragile at first and the group, perhaps through solidarity of experience, begin to sing with him. The song is a simple, repeated refrain giving shape to the boy’s experience.

I’ll be climbing in the treetops,
I’ll be hiding in the bracken,
I’ll be running with the wolves,
and I will find you.

He tells the assembled group that the focus of his thinking through the night was a question about how he could learn the land and that the song was his answer. The guide of the group explains that there were also many questions from the young participants “around school and college with the question – what shall I do?” being a common theme.

A teenage girl, seated cross-legged by the community fire, continues with this thread on behalf of the next group. She speaks of how her fire bundle flared as she left the community fire at dusk on her way back alone to her chosen site and how it burnt out completely. She recounts how she retraced her steps along the path and found an ember. In the darkness she carried the ember back through the wood to her fire site and was able to bring the fire back to life. The girl continues to speak of insight gained through the process of tending fire and tending herself throughout the night. She says that she feels now “that growing in knowing is not an intellectual activity, that it is active and located in action”. To clarify her point she talks about working with her personal questions. She says that she recognised that she “had the need, the knowledge, the awareness that she had questions that needed answering but not sure about what they are or were… this led to the realisation that it is action itself that leads to knowing, and that this in turn leads to questions arising”. The teacher smiles on the opposite side of the circle.

The teacher continues by addressing the group as a community in relation to the girls sharing. He speaks of a teacher from his own wisdom tradition. “Black Elk, was an Indian elder and he had essential things to say about processing what happens out there, he spoke beautifully about this and although I not want to paraphrase – his message was this: ‘a vision without action is just a dream’”.

As the last group are invited to share their experiences attention turns to a teenage boy who decided not to venture out into the wood and instead remained behind with the teachers and guides, tending the fire throughout the night on behalf of the community, creating a link with all those out in the darkness.

Greenland sunset 4The sharing and harvesting of stories and experiences in the circle reaches its conclusion. The teacher finally turns to a woman who had joined the morning circle late and who was clearly upset and had been crying. The woman had been a key part of the ceremonies of the weekend and held an opening gratitude ceremony where all participants shared a little of their thanks for the coming experience and for life itself. She is asked if she will share her story of the night. Holding back her tears she begins.

It was a glorious night, with the strong light of a full moon and a sweet breeze. It passed slowly. I dozed occasionally, my fire dozing with me but rising back up every time I tended to it. I watched the fires of the young ones around me, rising and falling similarly to mine. I tracked the length of the night with the moon as it passed over us and with the change in traffic noise. We were near a main road and as the night wore on, the sound of traffic dropped until we were finally in total silence. In the depth of the night I heard a tawny owl call out a few times and the sound of a fox barking. The moonlight was so bright that I found myself listening out for a chorus of birdsong to confirm the approach of morning. We had been given strict instructions that our fires needed to be fully extinguished before we left them and tending the fire down to cold was an important element of the whole. I sat there, spreading the coals around with a stick and watching the embers sparkling up at me. I heard a crow call. I heard a great tit. And then I heard the traffic start up again, and the sound of traffic increasing. There was no further birdsong… The commuters were already on their way towards London and I knew that morning was upon us. And that’s when I began to drop into a well of grief. I sat there. Where were the rest of the birds? What were we facing as humanity? Going to work day in day out, by car, coming home by car, windows and doors closed to the elements, the wildlife leaving us… What have we done to the Earth? Stirring the last of the hot coals, listening to the traffic, pondering and feeling, I could not leave my site – I did not want to return. I just sat there in my well of sorrow.

At my most grief-stricken I heard the sound of movement in the branches above me. A few leaves fluttered down and then acorns started landing around me. As I looked up I saw a squirrel on one of the branches, looking down and scolding me in a way that only squirrels can. I had to laugh at myself. If nature communicates with us through signs and symbols, the different metaphors that emerge from a flying acorn brings us much information. Who knows what will happen in the future after all. Those young ones out there all night, tending to their own fires, igniting their passion and their personal fire – what acorns were being planted in them that night? How the Earth is now is how they know it to be. They have never seen a murmuration of starlings, chased butterflies or tripped over hedgehogs nightly. I realised that my grief was for how it was when I was a child and how it used to be. The weight of age.

Many, many people around us today are committed to doing what they can to change the world. We are planting acorns, both arboreal and metaphoric. With the energy and the optimism of youth – well maybe there is still hope for the future of my grandchildren and the future generations of all living things. I’ll keep praying that is so.

After this final story, the sharing of which leaves those listening in deep reflection, the group is invited to pay its respects to the site itself and encouraged to leave the woodland in better condition than they found it. The preparation to leave is unhurried and leisurely, with participants returning to their individual sites, raking over coals, covering fire pits with disturbed earth, and scattering leaves with the aim of leaving no trace of human activity. Once this had been satisfactorily completed people begin to clear away their belongings, leaving the wood without apparent sentimentality or the need to effuse to one another about the power of what has been shared.

The Fire Quest itself had been led by a man who openly drew on the traditional wisdom of his own culture, and of his own teachers and elders. This cultural aspect of the Fire Quest suggested that “the role of indigenous cultures” was to “ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy human being”. Promoted as a “rite of passage, which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood” this development would be brought about through “processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy”.

Although the processes of this Fire Quest had now been completed, the unfolding and blossoming of the young participants was perhaps only just beginning.

Daniel Ford is a doctoral research student and the recipient of a Freedom to Learn scholarship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Hull. He is currently working on an inquiry into what happens when young people have wild experiences within and alongside their formal education.

Correspondence: d.ford@2015.hull.ac.uk

For details on The Living Fire course with Sal Gencarelle, commencing in May 2017, please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.