Theory and Ideas

Browse the Theory in Practice database for concepts and theories that are explored in the context of experiences in outdoors with children and young people.

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I had a lovely couple of days exploring the Northumbrian coast recently. I’ve been taking part in the pilot of Archimedes Beach School OCN qualification. There has for a long time been a debate over whether there are other environments in which Forest Schools can take place. One of the particular strengths of the woodland environment for play and learning is what the environment affords spontaneously. There is only really one other environment that is as rich in flexible resources that occur naturally and spontaneously, and that is the beach. [..read more..]

“Play is a biological necessity that puts the child in the driving seat.”
The play theorist Bob Hughes inspired the recent Forest School Association conference with his words about play. There were challenges in that speech for us all too. He talked about when children’s play becomes sexualised and violent.  Play which makes us, the adult uncomfortable. He said that if we truly support the play process then we should allow it to ‘play’ out. That a child needs to have a range of experiences for their healthy development and the adult should not intervene with this process.  For me and for others at the conference this conundrum is manifested regularly in the woods when we see a child’s interaction with living things and when those thing are killed or harmed because of the interaction.

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brain connections

com·mon·sense \?kä-m?n-?sen(t)s\ adjective  : sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts

People often say that effective risk assessments are the application of common sense. I tend to agree, but, different people have different perceptions based on their differing experience. The questions are then; how do we collect all that sense?  How do we hold it in common so that everyone in a team, organisation or partnership shares the wealth of experience on offer? This is the role, to my mind, of the risk assessment.  The process of collecting all that experience and judgment together to give us a ‘common sense’ of what is possible and how we make it work for the benefit for the participants.

But when children are given the opportunity to direct their own play and learning, then what they are doing could go beyond the collective experience which is recorded in those risk assessments. How do we make judgements then? [..read more..]

When I walk into the woods it’s nice to try and see what invitations there are for the senses; a whiff of wild garlic, dappled light, a splash of yellow woodland flowers, birdsong,  an uncurling frond of bracken, you know, the things that really invite your senses to come alive.

invitations to the woods [..read more..]

I love listening to the birds. For many years I’ve not know who I was listening too although I can know pick out more than I used to. Last year I was introduced to Jon Young’s introduction to the five voices of the birds. Rather than focus on who it is he asks ‘What are they saying?’  This is so much more fun to try and work out by yourself especially if you don’t have an expert on hand. What sort of mood are they in? It will be different depending on whose voice you can hear, but the question is what are they saying?

For the little song birds there are in general five voices. As I listened to Jon Young explaining them I tried to remember by counting them off on my fingers. That’s when I realised my fingers held the key to my memory;

Voices of Birds 6 [..read more..]

Your brain on nature; neuroscience and the woods

Your Brain on Nature ~ Eva. M. Selhub and Alan.C.Logan

Notes from my sketch book as I read “Your brain on nature” by Eva.M. Selhub and Alan.C.Logan.

If you are interested in finding out more about how nature supports and affects people emotionally and physically our Level 3 Forest School practitioner course explores the ideas.

Compound Flexibility 1During my years as a Forest School leader one if the attributes that I find myself drawing on is flexibility. Being able to change plans, put aside my agenda because of the weather, a really interesting discovery in the woods, because of something a child needs or wants to do –my flexibility is core. [..read more..]

Badge of honour 1Many years ago I talked with my friend Martin about the idea of the badges of honour of outdoor play. Martin wrote about this in www.playengland.org.uk/media/130593/play-naturally.pdf, that dirt, stains and smells can be treated like ‘badges of honour’, ‘evidence of successful outdoor play’ and learning. Like all good ideas I’m still mining it. [..read more..]

Look After Yourself 1There are many ways that I have used over the years to set ground rules with children. It always boils down to this though… [..read more..]

Walking Alongside 1Sitting around the fire at a recent Forest School conference a fascinating discussion developed about the nature of the pedagogy we employ. My friend Annie, of Get Out More, remembered a conversation she and I had had a few years ago. [..read more..]

Tree Climbing Risk 2Risk taking is widely understood to be a natural part of a child’s development. Adults who work with children are moving on from thinking of risk only in the context of ‘the risk assessment’ which decides those things are too dangerous to allow. [..read more..]

Maslow's Hierarchy 1I was just repacking and checking through the safety bag that I take into the woods with me and I felt like something was missing. There had been a lot more space in the bag over the summer but as the weather changes so does the contents of my safety bag. [..read more..]

Child Led Learning 2Giving control over content and intent of play and learning to children. [..read more..]

forest school, outdoor play, nature, children, doodleI thought I’d share with you a little doodle I had in the last edition of the Forest School Association newsletter. This is based on something that happened with a group I was working with a few years ago.

When you follow the children’s ideas you end up in very interesting places!

There are some projects that really stay with you. I worked with Brudenell Primary School in Leeds for over two years, helping them embed Forest School into their curriculum, and providing training and support. [..read more..]

Did you play in the mud today?There are certain elements that regularly feature in my work life; fire, tools, cooking outdoors, climbing, bows and arrows and mud! [..read more..]

Playing in mud“When the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” E. E. Cummings [..read more..]

Comfort Zone 2

Challenge: moving out of your comfort zone but still being able to function

“So, what makes you feel comfortable?” This was the question I asked a group of seven to nine year olds this week. [..read more..]

Yes andSometimes I feel like describing ‘play’ is like drawing the wind. You can recognise it, you know what it looks and feels like, but it is somehow nebulous and hard to pin down. [..read more..]