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..]

I’m working with a group of Forest School trainees who are reaching the end of their qualification process. They are sharing their reflective diaries with me which is such a wonderful insight to the learning and thought process.

Messaging Corinne about things I read in her diary she sent back another reflection;

“…the big, hulking Y6 boy who I’d been warned about ‘cos he was so disaffected and switched off and confrontational, nearly knocked me over in a big hug and said,
“Thank you thank you thank you for letting us do Forest School. I just LOVE it!!” This is a really big thing we’re giving these children isn’t it? Wish I’d been doing it 34 years ago when I first started teaching…”

There is something really powerful in that. It’s not the first time I have heard similar things expressed by participants on my Forest School Leader training programmes and it got me to thinking. What is it about the ‘right now’ that is so important? In an ideal world we would know everything we needed to know from the very first time we needed to know any of it but then when would we learn and how would we grow?

I wish I knew then what I do now, but I’m also looking forward to what I will learn today.


The second best time is now.

Do you want to come and find out what you could be learning? Check out our course dates here. 

The Wildlife Trusts are running a challenge for people to spend June connecting with nature. I’m keeping a diary of how I spend my wild days.

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The Forest School principles are a useful tool for Forest School Practitioners to check in with as part of their ongoing development. One of them states that “Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.”

After the last Forest School Association conference and a conversation about wonky wheels with Jo Philips of Essex Country Parks I developed a reflective tool for myself and for Forest School trainees that I work with.

Download the blank wood cookie wheel here [..

What draws on wood? Anyone who has had to bear witness to my love of stationary and art materials won’t be surprised by the fact that I’ve been asking myself this question. I’ve been rummaging through my supply cupboard to experiment. All of these pictures are on dry wood and I’ll explain some pros and cons I’ve come across.

Pro: You probably have some. Cheap. Lots of colours. Works OK on green wood too.
Cons: Not very crisp results.

What draws on wood Forest School

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“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

I was really inspired recently by a great whittling project. So much so I’ve been making these all week!

a skulk of foxes

six foxes

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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 [..

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 [..

Our story of the day. Reflective group poems from Forest School training;


Upon reflection, it’s small yet guiding.

This place, a calming release in the sunlight.

Identifying. Reflective and delicate.

We’re explaining, thinking and applying.

Facilitating challenge as well as calming.

Positively supporting. Making explicit. [..

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.

nature, play, spring, forest school

Have you been spending time in nature? What signs of spring have you seen?

mindful communication

An invitation to a two and a half day training retreat in the wild woods of the Lake District.

This course has now past. If you are interested in something similar please email mail@kindlingplayandtraining.co.uk.

Working with an inspiring trainer, Jayaraja, together we will explore the core principles of mindful communication.

We will look at the kinds of behaviour we find challenging in the children we teach, support or parent. We will seek to understand the causes of this behaviour – to see what children are deeply needing when they behave in ways we experience as ‘difficult’.

We will look at our own patterned responses to this behaviour and look at creative strategies we could use instead. [..read more..]

Pewter 1Here’s a lovely thing to do over the fire. I did a bit of metal casting when I studied metalwork in my teens and it feels like alchemy every time you cast metal. [..read more..]

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..]

Fear 1I didn’t know how much of this last week would be spent dealing with fear. Heights, the dark, spiders in the toilet, bigger kids. All normal parts of a week of play in a field on the edge of a wood. But what struck me again and again is the resilience and bravery of children who know they are afraid but refuse to let that get in the way of experience. [..read more..]

challenging behaviour outdoors

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour in the Outdoors

Level 3 OCN (3 credits) – with Jon Cree and Lily Horseman

When: 28th-30th September 2015
Where: Rookhow, Grizedale, Cumbria
Cost: £300 (includes basic accommodation in the bunk house)

Download a booking form to reserve a place on this course.
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