Forest School Training in Ireland!

Circle of Life Training in association with Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC offers a Level 3 Forest School Programme Leadership. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Earth Force Education to bring our ground breaking Forest School Leadership training to Ireland.

Who is the training designed for?

This Level 3 Training is designed for professionals already working with young people who wish to establish and deliver a Forest School/Environmental Education programme. It is appropriate for those over the age of 21 years with relevant qualifications including teachers, youth workers, playworkers, rangers, ecologists or teaching assistants with experience of working with young people  (at least 2 years).

What do people think about our training? See below for feedback and how to get involved!

What have you enjoyed most about this training?

Forest School Training Ireland
“How all the participants were bought together through activities, games and music and how I have noticed nature at a different level.”

“I have loved the games, songs, new ideas and learning from new people.”

“There was an excellent combination of outdoor and classroom lessons.”

 

“It was great having 3 leaders all with different experience and ideas to share.”

“Passion for the outdoors is infectious!”

Forest School Training Ireland

“The course was delivered in such a lovely way, I would love to be a child in your forest school! I have learnt more about nature and to be free of the ties and expectations of everyday life.”

“I have learnt so many practical skills as well as how to do a risk assessment!”

“I loved everything about this training, from the skills learned, enthusiasm of the trainers and have learnt so much about nature. Thank you for an amazing 5 days with a lovely team.”

“I loved using the tools, I was nervous at first but was made to feel at ease straight away.”

Forest School Training Ireland

“I enjoyed the sit spots and quite moments. The knife work was fun and challenging. You made me feel very safe and included.”

“I loved the welcoming atmosphere, the wealth of knowledge and the hands on activities.”

“I loved making crafts from natural materials found in the woods.”

How has the training personally impacted you?

“The passion of the course leaders has really inspired me.”

“The inspiring leaders have had a positive impact on me and how I work.”

Forest School Training Ireland

“I feel invigorated! I have now started to think about my own practices and bring my ideas to life.”

“I have met so many enthusiastic people on the training, I am now excited for what I can do in the future.”

“It has made me realise the importance of child led activities and has made me want to become a forest school leader.”

” I loved being in the fresh air and have felt healthier all round.”

“I had time to reflect, which I found very moving.”

Forest School Training Ireland

“The child led approach has been fascinating, I learnt to give everything a go.”

“It has been an inspiring and emotional experience (in a good way!)”

“I feel my stress levels have been reduced and you have made me re-evaluate my life. Plus, I have laughed so much! This has been the best week of my life.”

Forest School Training Ireland

 

“You have brought me out of myself and have reminded me what is important.”

This training is booked through our partner provider Earth Force Education further information can be found here.

Please contact Ciara Hinksman or call 086 3199 515 for more information about this training in Ireland.


Forest School Training in the UK

If you are looking for a course in the UK, Circle of Life Rediscovery offers a Level 3 course, commencing March 2017! Full details can be found here. The training dates are:

Part one: March 6th – 9th 2017
Part two: April 24th – 26th 2017
Part three: May 15th – 16th 2017

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.

Please call 01273 814226 or send an email for more information.

The Great Outdoors

One great book and five great reasons to teach core curriculum subjects Outside the Classroom.

Learning with Nature is aimed at inspiring and supporting adults to get outdoors with young people aged 3 to 16 years old.

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Chris Packham


“This book offers a chance to the youth of today and the nature of tomorrow. It has a wealth of structured, tried and tested projects, ideas and games all designed to allow children to breathe fresh air and engage personally with a real world where their minds and bodies can develop and bloom, burst into life and inspire them to love life.”
  Chris Packham, March 2014.

 

“For the first time I am meeting teachers who have themselves never played or enjoyed the outdoors during their childhood. They don’t know what to ‘do’, and place a low value on the outdoors as a learning environment. We know young people today are spending hours on video games, and that their roaming radius has reduced by about 70% since the 1950s with the consequent rise in levels of obesity, mental health issues and isolation.” Marina Robb, Author and Founder Circle of Life Rediscovery.

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Learning with Nature


Why is this book important?

This book makes it possible for parents and teachers to get outdoors. It aims to capture the imagination of families and contribute to reversing the current ‘indoor’ trend. It provides a valuable resource for educators to deepen and expand what they already offer.

SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE NOW – £12.00 + POSTAGE. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

1. THE ‘WOW’ MOMENT

Natural environments can transform individual and school performance. Nature can provide a fantastic Wow! moment for your lesson, to bookend your key learning outcomes, and to support them. Children have an innate fascination about nature. It may be soaking in an atmospheric place in your local park or nature reserve as a stimulus for creative writing, or estimating measurements or volumes of areas, spaces, trees or ponds as a basis for maths. The outdoors facilitates strong emotional memories and aids learning. Play outdoors can be physical, explorative, constructive, imaginative and creative.

SAM_1515There are many adventurous activities to be had in the outdoors that do not necessarily conform to normal activities such as climbing trees and playing outdoor games. Evidence shows that learning in natural environments can transform individual and school performance by increasing the standards of teaching and learning, allowing innovation, creativity and excellence in curriculum delivery, as well as increasing motivation and attainment.

For example, The Natural Connections Demonstration Project was set up as one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK. The Project approach and design is informed by the latest insight research of teachers needs, evidence of barriers and benefits of learning in natural environments and best practice models for engaging volunteers.

Wherever your outdoor classroom is, find resources to help bring the lesson to life: https://www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk/

  • Case Study: Developing children’s learning through work in the natural environment from Preesall Fleetwood’s Charity Church of England Primary School.

“The initiative started as a way of engaging a small group of boys who were underachieving and were not keen to be at school. These boys showed an interest in the natural environment and we capitalised on this by providing practical learning sessions working outdoors in the school grounds and woods. The results were fabulous. They continued to work in the school grounds during their lunch periods and they had a reason to come to school. Their attitudes improved, which carried over into their school work and their achievement at level 4 was better than expected. The ‘forest school’ and wider environmental work are now integral parts of this school’s work.” 
John Belshire, Headteacher.

  • The good practice in detail.

Inspectors identified the ‘forest school’ as an outstanding feature of environmental education at the school. All the children are involved in activities in the outdoors and in the woodland, but it is the youngest and oldest children who spend most time there. Children are allowed to climb trees and build fires. They listen to the heartbeat of trees (sap rising), and identify bird songs. They make and use tools ranging from potato peelers to knives, axes and mallets. They make environmental art, maintain the grounds and plant trees. There is a thriving ‘bug hotel’ and older children are involved in more complex tasks such as hedge-laying and pond maintenance.

While it’s clear that pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the environment improves, Julia Crompton, the school’s ‘forest school’ teacher, identifies the real benefits of this outdoor learning as:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved social skills
  • The development of language and communication skills
  • Improved physical motor skills
  • Improved motivation and concentration.

trackingim1“We focused on the natural environment provided by the school grounds as a learning opportunity and a way to enrich children’s experiences. The grounds were originally established about 15 years ago but had not been actively used by the children. They were used for science lessons and the greenhouse was used for growing some plants but we found opportunities to do much more. It has been made easy by the enthusiasm and the expertise of staff and is now a regular part of this school’s work.”
John Belshire, Headteacher.

Children enjoy taking risks, but the school recognises that safety is paramount. Skills are learnt carefully and safety equipment is always used. By its nature, practical work is not a mass participation activity. Children work in groups of around six at a time to ensure that they have a quality learning activity which is safe. Once the children have been taught to use tools, they will expand the quality of their ideas and plans because the range of what they perceive to be possible has expanded.

Case Study: The Chicken Project – Beechwood Primary School

“The chickens have slowed us down, they make us stop and stare’. Staff report that the children are quieter and calmer around the chickens and the whole school benefits because the aviary is right in the centre of the school.

Learning Objectives
We were looking for ideas to motivate the children to write, through cross curricular contexts and to inspire the teachers to revisit the planning and incorporate child-centred, compelling learning experiences. We were also hoping to engage the parents through homework and in school activities.

Pupil Learning Outcomes
Increased empathy and awareness of other living creatures. Awe and wonder of nature as the chickens hatch from eggs. Imagine the children writing from the perspective of the chick hatching form the egg…incredible! Confidence building, you can email a company to ask for fundraising money or telephone the manager of the local Coop to fund our coop! And many, many more!

What lessons have teachers / the school learned from the project / activity?
Ofsted like Learning in the natural environment! Our recent Ofsted report for which we received a ‘good’ included this statement: ‘Pupils are keen to undertake responsibilities such as looking after the school chickens.’ Staff discovered that children engage better with their learning when they are immersed in and have a personal connection with the theme. Money is no object, fund raising large sums of money is possible. With enough enthusiasm you can achieve anything!

2. ADDRESS DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES

We are programmed to interact with our environment in useful ways. Being outside provides opportunities to address different learning styles, in particularly kinesthetic learners can excel as they use their bodies differently to learn. Getting all children off their seats is a great way to stretch their capacities to learn in different ways. All the senses are stimulated, the colours, textures, shapes, smells, sounds awaken our awareness and develop our skills to navigate their surroundings.

Physical Development has become one of three key areas in the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance and this is a golden opportunity for introducing Outdoor Learning. The things children do in their bodies and the way they are physically in their everyday life massively affect the way they develop, the things they can learn and how they feel about themselves.

The developing human animal is biologically programmed to get what it needs. We are programmed to interact with our environment in useful ways. Thus a low brick wall invites us to walk along it; a tree (or a chair, or an adult’s body) suggests we climb or hang off it; a large open space tells us to run. These aren’t decisions, they’re instincts, imperatives – because we must run and climb and spin and roll to grow the body systems we need for all that life asks of us in future. These instincts come before any complex intellectual or social skills. They underpin them – and our bodies know it. In the rough and tumble, run, spin, tip and roll of movement play we grow the foundations for our health, our wellbeing and our capacity to learn things.

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Children’s bodies matter to their learning

Proprioception (sense of body) provides feedback of where one part of our body is in relation to the others and how we feel in our bodies.

We are compelled to get this sense in place before we can concentrate on anything else. (Think of the day you break a tooth, and how your tongue is compelled to feel it out over and over until you have a new sense of your body, without that bit of tooth.) Developing our vestibular system (the thing that monitors our relationship with gravity and the ground beneath us), must come before any more complicated physical or mental skills we might acquire in PE lesson or in the classroom. It provides a sense of, and security in, our relationship with the world around – being in balance or equilibrium. Spinning is an excellent vestibular workout. As it happens, it also helps prepare the eyes for reading.

“We humans are, first and foremost, physical creatures. Our body is our first home. Movement is our first language. Children need support to notice, speak and work with their first language first. But our early years framework simply doesn’t reflect this. The Early Learning goals made by people who don’t move freely, for people who do (i.e. small children). When we support children to move spontaneously and freely, the learning they do far exceeds the lowest common denominators of ‘balance and coordination’ and ‘fine and gross motor’ skills, but our education culture skips over anything to do with embodied learning and we never make up the lost ground.”

If you’re not convinced, try this exercise
Put a pen in the hand you don’t write with, and write a sentence. Notice how it feels to do this, how unfamiliar and odd; how difficult it is to make your hand do what you want it to. Now write the same sentence with the hand you usually use. The feelings will be very different – full of comfort and ease; above all – familiarity.

For writing to work well, we need this familiarity. We need to be able to fall into the physical pattern without thinking about it; for our body to feel ‘right’ as we carry out the task so that we don’t have to think about it. This ‘rightness’ is provided by our proprioceptive sense, the sense of where one body part is in relation to another. (And practice of course.) This sense also controls our sense of how much force we need to hold the pencil between our fingers and pushing the pen over the paper.

Writing practice is important. But as important is the movement play that builds a felt sense of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and back.

This is one example of the importance of senses and the development of our well-being. For more information about the above please go to: https://www.jabadao.org/?blog=

A different set of learning goals for Physical Development for babies and children:

Display a strong inner drive to explore themselves, each other and the world around through physical interactions, movement play of their own devising and physical engagement with the environment.


Are on the move for the majority of their day – moving in lots of different ways (with gusto and abandonment; care and precision; outer and inner focus; on their own, in relationship to internal and external factors, on the floor, in small and large spaces, indoors and out).


Show pleasure in being physical and know what to do to feel good in their bodies.


Show growing understanding of how to take care of themselves and other people as they actively engage in physical exploration and play.


Know how to find and use resources to extend their movement play; and how to involve adults and peers in developing their physical play.


Can make the world work for them, manipulating objects and negotiating the environment with purpose and focus, in the ways they intend; they are able to persist through physical challenges and show the determination to acquire new skills and abilities.


Show a growing ability to balance highly physical activity with rest and quieter activity.


Show a developing security and confidence in their physicality through:

  •  A growing sense of their own body (proprioception).
  • Increasing security in their relationship to gravity (vestibular sense).
  • Ease with touch and being touched (tactile sense).
  • Recognition of pain, heat, cold and hunger and appropriate responses.
  • A growing awareness of the feeling of the inside of their body (interoception) and appropriate responses.
  • A steadily developing stability and motor control in their chosen physical actions.

Take pleasure in sharing a range of discoveries made through physical play – in movement, in vocal and verbal responses, in visual representations.


Value movement play as an important part of their day and show high levels of wellbeing as they engage in it.


Use information gained through the languages of the body – sensation, feeling, movement, instinct and image – to work out how the world works, in communicating their experience, in problem solving and in becoming confident, happy, full-bodied people.


3. GET GREAT SMSC IDEAS….ANIMAL RIGHTS?

Address Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education requirements by observing and discussing other beings: the animals and plants around us have the right to a home and habitat that suit them, but what do we do when humans need homes and transport? The opportunities to hone children’s awareness of moral dilemmas around the natural world in the city are ample. Consider how reliant humans are on tools and resources, whilst the non-human world interacts without additional resources such as clothes, fire, etc.

Thinking skills with mind and body
We need to prepare children to be flexible and adaptable members of the workforce by virtue of their abilities to think laterally, creatively and sustainably. Our culture prizes intellectual skills over physical instincts. And so we constantly try and override the inbuilt instinct to be a body in the name of ‘ordered learning environments’ and acquisition of intellectual skills. We seek to tame the body, contain it, use it like a sort of vehicle to carry us quietly to the more important things in our lives. And in so doing, we miss the obvious. Our future responsibility according to Sara Knight (2013) is to children who will be dealing with environmental and climate change. To teach, ‘science and geography about individual’s place in the globalised society. In the English National Curriculum Consultation Document Feb 2013 there is nothing mentioned about how we as individuals and society as a whole interact with these processes, such as resource depletion, and the impacts on the natural world upon which we depend for all our lifestyles not about climate change, and how we can influence and care for these key processes’.

One of the biggest issues we face today is this sense of being un-rooted; disconnected from natural world. It’s a huge problem that we face now across the whole of society. It’s to do with that deep relationship, it’s to do with what sociologists describe as a ‘profound sense of alienation’ between the majority of human beings and the natural world that sustains us and makes life possible for us.

“This has been creeping up on us for many decades. Now, does this really matter? You might say that there are many more important things to be attending to. Why would we bother about this when we have so many front of mind topical, hard issues to do with society today. For me, this is a really difficult issue, because unless we get to some of these deeper concerns, much of what we do around the specific campaigning issues will not be rooted in the current reality of where we are today. Will not be grounded in that reality.” Jonathan Porritt 2013, Outdoor Learning Conference in Sussex.

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We have to take a wide approach to give us a sense of deeper insights into those whole complicated relationships inside the wider system. To begin, you can discuss ‘Ecosystem Services’ as a way of recalibrating and re-understanding people communities and place.

 

What do some of these ecosystems mean? There is a growing school of economists who seek to put a value on each of these ecosystem services. What is the value to human kind of the free work done on our behalf? Like all those insects, birds, bees, bats… all those creatures that just as part of their life carry on, carry on this pollination work for us. Try and tot up the X billions of pounds which we would have to find to pay for man made, human-made pollination services to replace the natural pollination.

There are first steps in schools to build a visceral relationship to the world around them. How many species of flora and fauna do you know about in your school grounds? The name is the least important bit, what are the colours, shapes, patterns, the medicines, the smells, where does it like to grow and live, what is the relationship between that plant and the insects and mammals. Start small.

4. CREATE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

Change the relationships in a conflict-ridden class by taking them to do different activities outdoors, such as learn to light fire or build a den. They will need to cooperate differently, make decisions, use different skills and engage in a stress-reducing environment, all of which can deflect tension built up in classroom conflicts. The outside environment is a great leveler, where children can be valued and find different strengths and roles within a group. Discipline and attention are increased, alongside the performance and ability of children.

Relationships between children can be challenged and deflected by exposing a group to tasks that stretch and stimulate them in different ways. Being outdoors can exercise children’s powers of observation, patience, alertness, courage and physical coordination, which are skills which in the familiar classroom are not so easy to exercise. If you go to a local outdoor area, a park with wild parts, a nature-reserve or even a cemetery, here are some activities which could work:

Make a colour bracelet. This works well in autumn when there are lots of beautiful dead leaves around. Give each child a strip of paper with double-sided sticky tape covering one side. It should be long enough to wrap around their wrist, like a bracelet or a cuff. They should stick on pieces of natural material of a similar colour as possible, once they take off the cover of the sticky tape. This will make them observe intensely the foliage around them. You can give a prize for the one with the closest colours, or to the most beautiful one. This activity works with almost any age group.

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Patience is enormously enhanced by wildlife observation. Download bug identification sheets, great ones are available from Holland Park ecology centre here: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/PDF/Minbeasts%20pack.pdf tell the children they are to find a certain number of creatures on their sheet, and give them a good amount of time to do it.

This activity is best done on a nature reserve or with specialist support if you aren’t confident with either the species or the tools needed to find them. On a small scale, however, it can be done very simply with magnifying glasses.

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A bird-count.
Make children sit in small groups in wild areas for a period of time that will challenge their patience, and ask them to observe as many birds as possible. Spring is a good time to do this.

 

Give them brownie points if they see birds eating, or roosting or communicating: behaviours which will prove that they were patiently and quietly observed for a time by the children.

In an area with various trees, get the children into small groups, and tell each of them to make friends with a tree. They should notice its size, its texture, its bark, its smell and how the ground around its roots is. Then, one child is blindfolded and the others should turn them around and support them to re-find their friendly tree, based on their tactile and perceptual memories.

A game where children are asked to move around a wild area unobserved is incredibly exciting for children, and encourages stealth, silence, focus, concentration and care in the environment. There are lots of such games that could be adapted, but one could be the retrieving of secret items or messages to complete a story, or moving around a quiet obstacle course without alerting the opposite team.

Making a wormery can be a challenge for those who don’t like creepy crawlies. Give a prize to people who are able to pick up worms and move them around. Jumping on a piece of land to encourage the worms to come up, then put them in a wormery to observe how they make tunnels and can quickly mix soil and create compost. There is lots of advice online about how to create a wormery. The great advantage of worms is that they eat any organic matter, and they can easily be released into the school grounds if caring for them becomes too onerous, or in the holidays.

Exposure to nature calms us, lowers our heart rate and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, in the blood, making us less likely to create conflict or lose our tempers. This is entirely relevant to children as well as to adults.

The outdoors is also a great place for teachers to observe children in new surroundings, and gain possibly new insights into their development and how they handle challenge and conflict, which can be useful in supporting individual children with difficulties in future, or gaining learning on how to manage a difficult class when back in conventional surroundings. A useful web-page on handling conflict with young children can be found here: https://www.communityplaythings.co. uk/learning-library/articles/childrenand-conflict-in-the-classroom

Berlin’s playgrounds: how to reduce urban violence through play An interesting case study is that of West Berlin’s playgrounds in the 1980s. West Berlin had long been almost surrounded with Soviet-occupied land, leaving little space for Berliners to enjoy nature. At the same time, the incidence of child and adolescent violence in Berlin’s schools was unacceptable. The education authorities undertook a very wise 20-year programme of transforming the city’s school playgrounds to make them more variant, more rich in nature and employing inspiring strategies to present choice, space, intimacy, creativity and inspiration to the spaces. They are profiled in a series of documents by Learning through landscapes, who have worked with Scottish schools to learn from Berlin and try to implement the same strategies in other conflict-ridden areas. The documents can be downloaded here: https://www.ltl.org.uk/spaces/casestudy.php?cs=31

5. BECOME AN OFSTED ‘OUTSTANDING’

Ofsted highly prizes teaching methods that include creativity and originality and engage pupils’ imaginations. Using the outside creatively could contribute to earning imaginative teachers ‘outstanding’ status at their next inspection, leading to higher status in their school and possible career enhancement.

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In particular, taking learning outside and following some of the activities above can combat the dreaded ‘teacher domination’, in which the teacher falls back on ‘talk and chalk’ methodology for teaching.

 

We know that sometimes direct spoken delivery of information is necessary, but the outdoor environment is one that directly contrasts the traditional arena of the blackboard-focused teaching style, and is thus likely to impress an inspector who sees teachers doing it. If you are in danger of overloading your daily curriculum delivery with teacher-talk, starting to become confident with the outdoors as a great arena for group work, independent work, creative child-centred collaborative work is a fantastic way to develop your classroom range towards Outstanding status.

Ofsted clarified, in a recent document, that they do not judge teachers’ performance on small snippets of observation, but want to collate an overall impression drawn from pupils’ work, talking to pupils and assessing their attitude to learning, observing behavior and teachers’ style with their class, as well as their evidence of practical preparation, book-marking, classroom displays and collaboration with support staff. All these can be supported by taking learning outside, in the following ways, in particular with regard to the animated and engaged way children who have enjoyed outdoor learning consistently will speak in way about it to any adult questioner, giving a great impression of their attitude to learning.

Marina Robb
Marina Robb

Founder & Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery
www.circleofliferediscovery.com | 01273 814226 | info@circleofliferediscovery.com

We provide nature based experiences and programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing. We run funded projects with our partners that directly support health and well-being for vulnerable members of our society.

 

We offer days for schools or family days in the woodlands and bespoke residential camps and Forest Schools. You can gain a qualification in leading your own Forest School programme; improve your knowledge and skills with our adult training CPD days.

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

A Woodland Celebration!

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

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

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

 

The Issues

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

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These are the issues CLR and CAMHSLD/FISS decided to tackle in a programme which was specially designed, in partnership with families. The project enables them to enjoy a whole day together, to relax and have fun in each other’s company and to explore their capabilities, talents and strengths both as individuals and as a family unit. Due to the complex needs of the young people attending the activities, a very high level of support is put in place with each family being supported by one staff member from CLR and one from CAMHSLD/FISS.

 

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

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

 

The Project

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

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

See our wonderful film about our Woodland Project:

Photos from our Woodland Days can be seen here.

Photos from our Celebration Day can be seen here.

Feedback from a parent

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

 

 

Quote from Clinical Psychologist

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

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

Feedback from parents:

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

 

 

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


WHY NATURE MATTERS

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

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

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

Find out more about our Funded work here.

SUPPORT OUR PROJECT

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

Leaky Buckets GIG on 29th and 30th April

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

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

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

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

About Sussex Partnership

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

Learning with Nature – Reflections, Thoughts & Reviews

“This book offers a chance to the youth of today and the nature of tomorrow. It has a wealth of structured, tried and tested projects, ideas and games all designed to allow children to breathe fresh air and engage personally with a real world where their minds and bodies can develop and bloom, burst into life and inspire them to love life.”
Chris Packham, BBC

Learning with Nature, special offer available now!

 

“This wonderful new book aims to connect children with nature. Through a broad range of outdoor activities and games, young people are encouraged to engage their senses and interact with nature. This not only leads to a better understanding of the natural world but can also contribute to much broader agendas such as personal and social development.

 

Most importantly, the activities are fun. It is through enjoyment and understanding that people will want to conserve and care for their environment and so I encourage everyone to give the book a try.”
Andy Naylor, John Muir Award England Manager

“Whether you are a parent or educator, Learning with Nature is full of ideas for fun in the great outdoors. It caters for children and young people of all ages and abilities – and comes with clear instructions and illustrations. So grab a copy, get your boots on, fill your backpack and head to your nearest wild (or not so wild) space for some playful adventures.”
Tim Gill, Author of No Fear: Growing Up In A Risk Averse Society

Learning with Nature, special offer available now!
“Learning with Nature is fittingly described as “A how-to guide to inspiring children through outdoor games and activities”. Featuring a foreword from Chris Packham, the book is packed with dozens of activities and games as well as survival skills and a brief note on looking after nature. The activities, some of which are split by season, are varied and suitable for families of all sizes.

 

We especially enjoyed the Walnut Boats activity and the Swallow Migration activity, which involves children simulating the epic journey swallows make with their own home-made birds.

The games section of the book is perfect for youth groups or schools, as the majority of games require 4 or more children to play and many are suitable for groups of 8 or larger.
Learning with Nature is an excellent resource for youth groups or schools looking for some inspiring ideas for outdoor pursuits. In terms of activities, the book is great for families, though some of the games will require your children’s friends to come along!”
Farming & Countryside Education (FACE)

“Beautifully presented as a ‘how-to’ guide to inspire children, Learning with Nature is aimed at families, schools, youth groups and anyone working with children. The activities are suitable for ages 3 to 16 and will help develop practical skills, awareness and respect for the natural world. An initial flick through reveals great images and a layout of activities that is easy to follow.
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The introduction gives context in the form of an intriguing diagram showing an ‘extinction of experience’ revealed by the decline in roaming radius from home of 8 year olds from the 1920s (6 miles) to 2007 (700 yards), followed by the benefits of increased time in nature.

 

There’s also advice on how to make the most of the book through the art of questioning to nurture curiosity, and a section on Looking after Nature which sets out the interplay between nature and people to allow both to flourish. I was thinking hard before I got to the activities!

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

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If the book lacks anything it’s the benefits of using the outdoors from a formal education perspective. However I think those working in this context will easily recognise ways of using these activities in their work. This book is much more than a collection of great activities. It has an aim we can all buy into to forge “a heartfelt relationship [with nature] that will renew and inform our culture, creating love and respect for the natural world.”

 

 

This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and youth leaders alike looking to inspire young people with nature. Get a copy and head outdoors!”
Graham Watson, John Muir Award Cumbria Manager

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“I picked this book up thinking that it would be another ‘nice to have but probably not essential’ addition to our Learning through Landscapes library. I glanced briefly at the introduction expecting to be presented with the usual list of academics’ justifications of why learning and playing outside is good, quoting myriad obscure references with long names and concepts that mean little when you are thinking – ‘shall we go outside today to do something?’. I was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

 

The book has clearly been written by people who have their own clear, well developed and straightforward understanding of why challenging, fun and educational activities in the outdoors are not only good, they are essential, enjoyable and inspirational.

Simple concepts presented in beautifully illustrated pages in a very non-patronising style. For example – there are assumptions made that practitioners already know how to make things like bread dough and if they don’t, they can easily look it up – we don’t want to spend money on a book that tells us how to make dough – we want to spend money on a book that takes bread dough outside for an interesting experience. This book does that. I have to confess I went completely off task at one point as I was trying to remember if I had any essential oils hanging around so I could try sniff-tracking with them or if we had any suitably shaped wood for the burning bowls.

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Many of these ideas are new or are presented in a new context which is a refreshing change from reading about 50 things I was doing ten years ago with children. Many of them use risk and adventure as vehicles for effective experiential learning meaning that these activities will appeal to older children as well as the younger ones and indeed many adults.  I can see these activities turning up in LTL training sessions.

Some activities will need to be delivered by people who have experience of the safe handling of tools such as bow-saws and palm drills. Others can be safely delivered by anyone who can be trusted with a spot of clay or some melted candle-wax.

Not all of the activities require resources or tools at all. Some make new games out of old concepts, others do require specific items but these are generally not hard to source. The language of the book is gentle and thoughtful, we are asked to harvest sticks of wood ‘respectfully’, one activity refers to the ‘heartbeat of a cow’. A bug hotel suggests that we make ‘diverse rooms for the insects’ rather like some sort of more boutique or art-house style bug hotel, a cut above your cheaper end motel. The references to invisible learning ensure that no activity fails to hold its own and everything can contribute to effective teaching and learning. The book has a sense of a refined collection to it not a random gathering of ideas. My over-whelming feeling when looking through the ideas is that I really, really want to try some of these. Some of the artistic creations are very beautiful.

And if I am this excited about it then I am sure others will be too. Be nice to yourself – invest in this harvest of ideas, it’s actually really worth it. Isn’t it time you got out more?” Juno Hollyhock, Executive Director, Learning through Landscapes

“By my bed I have a pile of books I dip into every now and then for a bit of inspiration. This book is now top of my pile; a must have resource for outdoor fun. Learning with Nature is full of activities, games to get children outside, keep them motivated and most importantly of all having fun. The book is split up into sections covering games, nature activities, seasonal activities and survival skills. The book is straightforward to navigate and gets the right balance of pictures and text, which can be all too often overlooked in books. This book gets in just right. The information is uncomplicated to follow and easy to digest, with top tips and interesting facts throughout the book.

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The activities are well structured, though some of the activities work best with groups, but can be adapted for the family. I like the extra  information provided on what’s being learnt and provides some inspiration on questions you can ask your child to enhance their learning. We decided to try out a few of the activities.

 

We had a great fun trying out these activities on a woodland walk and enhanced a walk into something much more exciting and educational for the children.”
Shell, Get Out with the Kids

Learning with Nature – special offer available now for Christmas, click here to purchase and find out more!

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Learning with Nature

In our time of fast-paced, exam-pressured, high-tech culture, where does learning with nature have a place?

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When adults are asked to recall a time in their youth when they were happiest, invariably they refer to times spent outdoors and with friends. Our clever screen world keeps us busy and on the go, but does not help us to communicate, feel loved, gain the satisfaction of the quiet mind, and relax. Time with others in nature does exactly that — and much, much more!

Engaging and Thriving
We need an education that includes learning and understanding how the world is much more than human-centered, and that instills in us a sense of belonging and curiosity about life. When subject learning takes place outside, it becomes embodied and has greater meaning. Our work aims to bring the subjects outside while building meaningful relationships with the natural world. For example, a tree becomes a living being with its own characteristics and often with healing properties. The class “builds a tree” using all the parts: the bark, xylem, cambium, sapwood, heartwood, roots, and leaves. Real experiences build empathy, a hallmark of a healthy human.

In language arts classes, sensory description supports a good piece of creative writing and generally helps the reader to be “in” the piece. If we ask students to describe what things smell and sound like, their attention is drawn to notice the smells of soil, how rough some tree bark may feel, or the sound of the wind through branches. One consequence of this sensory focus is improved, descriptive writing full of imagination — with an added bonus of high marks on writing assignments!

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Young children thrive outdoors. They develop their sense of balance by moving, not by sitting down, and exploring the world around them. We all need encouragement to take risks, building up our resilience and confidence — the skills that will equip us all our life.

We live in a time where disconnection is rife. It is common for 14-year-olds to not know that a book is made from a tree or that the fuel for their school bus comes from the earth long before it comes from the petrol station.

We have taken hundreds of young people out into nature for a one-time afternoon session, overnight or weeklong camping trips, and regular on going woodland programs. We have worked with young people from a wide diversity of backgrounds. The satisfaction of seeing them transform from indoor kids afraid of nature, recoiling at the yuck factor and the thought of getting dirty, to brave young adventurers diving into bushes to hide from the “eagle eyes” that will be looking for them in “3, 2, 1…” makes it all worth the effort.

Outdoor Learning
There are hundreds of activities that we could suggest, but here are a couple of the simplest, most accessible, and effective.

Try a scavenger hunt in an outdoor area. In small groups or in pairs, children must seek different objects that you have written on their list, such as:

A feather
An acorn
Something that’s been eaten
Something that smells
A seed
Something that’s rough
Something that’s heavy
Something yellow
An animal hair

Depending on your age group, it can be fun to add objects that engage the imagination even more, such as something that could be a gnome’s hat. Once many objects have been gathered, you could use them in many ways depending on your aims and objectives. You could talk about classification and group the objects according to whether they belong to the animal, mineral, or plant kingdoms. You might keep some of the more robust items in a bag and have a child feel inside, pick one up, and describe what he or she can feel while the others guess, thus developing vocabulary and understanding of adjectives.

20150523_142734Before launching into any biology around botany, plant life, and transpiration, it can be a fun challenge to try doing leaf puzzles with your class. This is just like a jigsaw puzzle. We start by choosing a leaf that is at least as long as an adult’s palm and tearing it into four or more pieces (depending on age and ability of your students). Give each child a single torn leaf and break the class into pairs. Partners trade leaves and try to put the puzzle back together again. Children often soon notice how the veins can help them in rearranging their leaves and detecting differences in the upper and lower sides. Just be mindful not to include any leaves that could be toxic. Common examples that work well include hazel, lime, oak, and dandelion.

In the end, we hope that our children will be healthy and happy, and that they’ll have a good future. It’s unusual to hear people ask whether nature has a place in education. How can it not? The most important question of our time is how we can look after the natural world, because we need so much from it to sustain us. The future belongs to a generation who figures out how to do this.

Marina Robb and Victoria Mew. Authors of ‘Learning with Nature’.

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho Off To Camp We Go…

First off I would like to apologise for such a late blog, so many things have happened recently in my life that I’ve just had no time to update my blog with my recent tales! I thought you all should know I am typing this from my balcony in Ciovo, Croatia- the view is absolutely beautiful, I’m currently watching someone water their Orange trees- if only we had these views in England! I cannot wait to share with you all my next blog which will all be about Croatia. But for now, back to England!!

Here is my long awaited blog that I’ve been super excited about writing for a couple of months now purely because it was a new experience for me and I’m very excited to share it with you all….CAMPING!! Yes, that’s right folks at the end of May, CAMHS in partnership with Circle of Life Rediscovery did our first ever overnight camping trip in Powder Mill Woods in Battle. Not only was it the first ever camping trip for CAMHS, but it’s also the first ever time I’ve camped before.

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CAMHS Camp participant feedback…

CAMHS Camp May 2013

What have you enjoyed about the camp?

  • “The thing I’ve most enjoyed about the last two days in spending time with your friends and not your family, so you’re going out into the forest and having all this free space and free time and you don’t have to worry about any of the stress at home, or whatever it is going through your mind. You just come to the forest, open, new space, and be with your friends, be with people that you like and can enjoy time with and just have a good time.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed making fires. Thats what I really like. It’s nice to get together with people that I know and that I don’t know. It’s been a really nice experience. I’ve never camped out in the woods before! So I was quite nervous about when it got dark, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought!”
  • “Fire making, cooking the food, playing the games, going to see the badger sets and just hanging out with others!”

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The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery

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

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

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