Outdoor Classroom Day 2020

Play? Naturally! By Kate Macairt


Today is Outdoor Classroom Day 2020! As we tentatively begin to emerge from our safe spaces how are we going to re-adjust to human contact and integration? The enforced lock-down has in many ways been merely an exaggeration of the increasing individual isolation our modern world has created.

Physical play is important!

I grew up in the 1960’s, by the end of the 60’s watching telly had become what we did and staying in to watch a favourite programme topped going out to play with friends. How accustomed to virtual entertainment, virtual communication, virtual shopping, virtual play had we become before March 23rd?

Many of us in the wilderness and foraging community utilise Instagram/Facebook etc. to communicate, technology is great and helps support global connection, but we need to ‘stay alert’!

Outdoor Classroom Day 2020

Physical play is important. Playing is fundamental to animals and that includes human animals. Playing is the way the body and brain connect through the central nervous system.



Playing must be a sensory experience, what we hear, smell, see, taste and touch provides essential data for our brains and it is these sensations which lay the foundation of our ‘story’; our understanding of where we came from and who we are in relation to others and environment. If we limit the diversity of the sensory inputs, we limit our growth.

In his book ‘Flow; the classic work of how to achieve happiness’, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the super-power we all possess:

“The integrated cells and organs that make up the human organism are an instrument that allows us to get in touch with the rest of the universe. The body is like a probe full of sensitive devices that tries to obtain what information it can from the awesome reaches of space.it is through the body that we are related to one another and to the rest of the world”.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi p115 Flow 2002 isbn 9780712657594)

When we are in the FLOW we feel a sense of belonging and connection. Playing outdoors is going to be a very essential element to the post lock-down healing process.

Hope you got out on Outdoor Classroom Day 2020

For many of us we have been lucky and have taken a walk every day in which we have enjoyed smells, sounds, sights, textures and tastes of nature’s gifts. You know the benefits of spending time outdoors in a wood, on a beach, in a field, up a mountain.

The lock-down and enforced entrapment and isolation has encouraged many more people to get out and take walks. There are numerous reports produced in recent weeks of the health benefits both physical and mental of getting outdoors.

In the weeks months and years to come enriched and diverse sensory experiences will be vital. The urban street may seem a concrete jungle – but there is a real living jungle of insects, plants and birds lurking and hiding in surprising places.

If we limit our sensory inputs to those of the mass- produced body spray, processed food, nylon plastic etc we are limiting our future.

Circle of Life Rediscovery (CIC) has been advocating outdoor play for many years. Our Nature Play training provides guidance, ideas and activities to help encourage children in your care to connect and find joy in natural materials and natural outdoor spaces. In our second Nature play webinar we will be providing more information on health benefits and ideas for games and activities to play outdoors and practical ways to bring the outdoors inside.

Happy Outdoor Classroom Day 2020!

Free online webinar

In our second Nature Play webinar we will be providing more information on health benefits and ideas for games and activities to play outdoors and practical ways to bring the outdoors inside. 

When: Thursday 4th June 3pm – 3.45pm 
Register here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

This shorter Interactive Webinar with Kate Macairt and Marina Robb will provide more information on health benefits of the outdoors, ideas for games and activities to play in the outdoors.  We will suggest simple ways to bring the outdoors inside, for those with limited outdoor access.  All our work is framed within the idea of the Nature Play Continuum.

Marina Robb

Marina Robb is founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC, a leading outdoor learning organisation. She is Author of ‘Learning with Nature’, considered a must-have book for Forest School & Outdoor practitioners. Marina has been the recipient of funding from Natural England, Mind and The National Lottery, amongst other grant makers for her outdoor work with disadvantaged teenagers, families and young people. Read more.

Kate Macairt

Kate Macairt is an experienced Play Therapist and Child Counsellor who has been working with children and young adults for over 10 years as Therapist and previously 15 years as Teacher. Her background is in Expressive Arts Education and her interest in the significance of the creative instinct led her to research creativity and its connection to well-being and academic achievement as part of a Masters in Education. The discovery of Play Therapy persuaded her to re-train and she moved from Creative Teacher to Creative Play Therapist. Kate’s passion and love of Mother Nature and spending time outside has infiltrated into her role as a Teacher of Art and Play Therapist. Read more.


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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

Just Imagine…a Blog for Mental Health Awareness Week

Just Imagine, by Kate Macairt – Circle of Life Rediscovery Director

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. Thinking back to New Year’s Day 2020, there I was sending out positive messages to family and friends; ‘2020 Vision Happy New year!’ I think I was imagining a year in which climate activists, friends of the earth XR Greta… all would grow in strength and more of the population of the world would wake to the Crisis and demand our Leaders re-wrote the rule book.

See our Play Therapy course with Kate Macairt. Mental Health Awareness Week 2020


Then came February, remember February? We were all still busy, busy earning money ferrying children to and from school trying to juggle responsibilities as we sat in traffic jams.


I remember listening to BBC World Service and the speakers were taking this corona-virus thing very seriously but somehow it didn’t seem to be part of our story here, our crisis were the storms and floods which had decimated areas of the country.

Come April everything had changed. Life as we knew it had stopped. We were all required to retreat into our safe ‘caves’ and enter an internal space where the imaginings and memories began to resonate more.

According to research by Kings College London (quoted in the New Scientist 9th May 2020) people are sleeping more and reporting that they are experiencing more dreaming, this is partially due to turning off the alarm clock and getting more REM sleep, and also because without the daily stress of going to work and earning money people have begun to relax allowing their internal unconscious processing to function better.

taking walks and listening to the birds

For many who could get outdoors it has become a pleasure to take a walk, to watch the birds, to notice how Spring was waking up the earth. There has been a sense of collective cooperation within the isolation and folk united to clap and thank the workers who were suddenly recognised for their importance.

As the weeks progressed, I lost count of the days, it seemed as if Father Time had relinquished control to Mother Earth and each passing day relaxed more of the old routines.



A realisation dawned that DOING less and spending more time BEING made them feel happier. Of course, there are those who feel lost without the old work routine and worries about money and paying bills are real for us all. For some families I work with time at home has deepened relationships but for others the confinement has revealed cracks and stresses and a disintegration of connection.

Even for the most sanguine there has been an underlying anxiety which has seemed to fluctuate from day to day. Our innate fear of death has been fed into with each media report.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

This week is National Mental Health Awareness week. How ironic, it needs to be re-designated as National Mental Health Awareness Year. The statistics for 2019 mental health illness before the virus crisis was showing a dramatic upward curve. Anyone who works with children, young people and adults will recognise that modern life was becoming intolerably stressful for a large number of us.

Our work with CAMHS


I know that I am not alone in feeling concerned about how our already struggling mental health teams will cope with the return to ‘normality’.



The increase in suicide is not being reported and I know the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) services are running at a fraction of their normal work load, Social Services are aware of a frightening increase in domestic abuse cases.

The Woodland Project

Circle of Life Rediscovery works in partnership with organisations in Sussex to support children and young people who are accessing mental health services, and their families. You can find out about their work here.
Their Woodland Project in East Sussex offers days out in nature for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18 year olds who are accessing mental health services.

These old -world problems will inevitably be a destabilising factor in whatever form the ’new’ world takes. Now we are being encouraged to come out of our safe spaces and re-integrate, I am sensing a new anxiety taking grip, there are so many uncertainties and for many a realisation that a return to life as it was pre 2020 seems impossible and undesirable.

So, what can we do? Now is the time to start dreaming for the external reality we desire. Now is the time for us to imagine the world that we would want our children and grandchildren to live in. Now is the time to awaken our minds and look deep into our shadows. I think we have been forced to experience a new way of living which has given us time to process the inner world or unconscious mind and create new neural connections to our experience of outer world and conscious mind, we are experiencing ourselves in a new way.

I understand that lockdown is an infringement of liberty and many argue that there is a dark and sinister authoritarian force at work. There are so many contradictory ‘conspiracy’ theories bouncing around the internet to add to our anxiety, it seems a great testament to the power of the human imagination to create stories.

Story telling is an intrinsic part of my work as Play Therapist. Working non-directively with children I have come to appreciate how well they can utilise archetypes to play out the struggle between good and evil. The child’s struggle is to explore and ultimately accept the negative aspects of themselves and their experiences and balance them with their positive attributes.

Read about my work

In a Jungian sense the battle is within ourselves. “I have seen the enemy and he lies within”. The Shadow has featured in stories since humans first began telling tales, our ancestors had good reason to fear the darkness, they did not need to imagine monsters.


Our modern technological culture has become obsessed with the power of the shadow baddie.

We have been absorbing the narrative for decades, Dracula will suck your blood and make you bad, Darth Vador is lurking waiting to take control and reduce you to a robotic killing machine, the devil will tempt you to join him in his ghastly ways, the green goblin will try and destroy the world and so on and so on.

The narratives have become so ingrained in our unconscious mind we may not even be aware and perhaps in times of personal Fear we need to identify the baddie, we need to externalise the enemy; the baddie is always the ‘Other’.

Of course, I am aware that for some to be the shadow baddie feels powerful – and then it is real, the appeal of and obsession with the Baddie is seductive to some and dangerous for many! Have our modern stories, imaginings and narratives led us to unconsciously connect power with being bad? Where have all the heroes gone? I am purposefully imagining a future in which self-questioning is a norm and being fair, considerate, tolerant, grateful, loving is what we demand of ourselves and those we choose to govern us.

What can we do to feel hopeful about our personal and world recovery from the trauma that is this coronavirus global pandemic? I have been reflecting on this and I feel very apprehensive. If I start to attach to the narrative of good versus evil how do I know for sure which side is which?

Mental Health Awareness Week

We are all mammals and lone individuals, we have an instinctive drive to seek a tribe or pack to belong to, it helps us to feel safe. But our tribalism inevitably creates a need for the Other, the enemy. Is it our own shadow aspects we project onto the enemy?


If we are to create a future which is less stressful, more collaborative and cooperative do we need to start acknowledging our personal greed, spite, envy, hatred, despair and fear and be more aware of how we may try to project our shadow onto others?

We can change, we have all reduced consumption in this enforced lockdown, we have all stopped driving, flying and shopping as much and Mother Earth is less stressed. Can we imagine that this will become the new normal? Do we want to? Production and consumption has kept us focused on the external world of doing things and our internal world of sensory based feelings has been ignored, we just have not had time for reflection, and we have not been providing ‘being’ time for our children either.

Nature Connection

Nature Connection, Outdoor Education and Forest School in the old world (pre 2020!) were available to a minority of children and families. Circle of Life Rediscovery (CIC) has been pioneering projects aimed at extending the provision to mainstream schools and organisations for years. Since ‘stay at home’ many more people now appreciate the simple pleasure of connecting with our living world and I am sure that outdoor play and activities will be a vital part of the healing process for all ages.


We will need to allow time for dreaming and imagining a more satisfying life which balances inner and outer worlds and gives us time to ‘be’. I suggest we need to be more consciously aware of how stories of the shadow infiltrate our minds. Stories, movies, videogames are a great escape, but we enter an other’s imagined world and all too often it is a world of their projected fear.

We need to free time to imagine the world we want. Does it sound too idealistic? Is this an example of Utopian dreaming? Perhaps,
“the future is not there waiting for us. We create it by the power of imagination” – Vilayat Inayat Khan; Sufi Master.

Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space

Play is essential for all of our well-being and learning. In the below interview link, Marina Robb and Kate Macairt discuss the impact of sensory input on the brain and will provide an introduction to:

The holistic person – being and doing
The Importance of the senses
Simple play examples
What is play?
How does it look in and out of doors Setting up the space
The Nature Play continuum
Reflective language
The Power of play

https://youtu.be/dHNkjkvRe7Q

Two Day Training with Kate Macairt and Marina Robb

Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space

This two-day training has been created to help those working with groups of young people and children to understand why some children present difficult behaviours and are unable to participate in the group activities.
READ MORE.


Date: This will now take place on either Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th July OR Thursday 24th and Friday 25th September.
Location:
 Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP
Cost: £175.00
Time: 09.00 – 15.30
Booking: please book online here.


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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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

info@circleofliferediscovery.com 

01273 814226

 

Forest School and Therapeutic Play

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

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

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

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

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

Day one

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

Day two

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

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

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

Cost: £165 per person for both days.

 Circle of Life Rediscovery

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