Not that sort of wind! 

It is universally accepted that it is unsafe to take groups into the woods in high wind. This leads to one of the most asked questions for people who take groups into woodlands. How high a windspeed is too dangerous to be in the woods? 

As with any question of risk there is not a simple answer. Having spoken to insurance companies about this the response was to follow your risk assessment and use common sense. This doesn’t mean choosing an arbitrary number because someone has that as their cut off point. 

This begs the question what should be in the risk assessment and what should we consider? 

The Beaufort scale for land is a really useful starting point for judging when you need to start managing the risk. Here’s a woodland version which should give you a good sense of what will be going on at various predicted wind speeds. Download a copy here.

Remember the predicted windspeed and the actual windspeed could be higher or lower. Look at predicted gusts too. Gusts of 50mph will bring down branches as surely as steady winds of the same speed. 

The Met Office have an alert system for the UK which can send you weather warnings for specific locations or regions. 

To understand the risk you will also need to consider the geography and state of the woodland. Here are some factors to think about when deciding what windspeed can be tolerated in your wood and if you have to cancel or move site: 

  • Age of trees, young trees are likely to be more resilient to the effect of wind.
  • Health of trees including the amount of deadwood in the canopy. Look for fungi or damage. Even if the fungi is close to or at the base of a beech or other tree it could indicate root plate damage. 
  • Species of tree; Is it for example crack willow or aspen which are particularly brittle?
  • Shape of the trees; as a general rule the more branches there are on a tree the better the wind is diffused throughout it to keep it upright. Are the trees top heavy? Are there ‘wolf’ trees that extend above the rest of the canopy? Are there lots of horizontal branches which sway more in winds? 
  • Woodland management; have trees been removed that may have protected existing trees from wind? Trees acclimate themselves to what they have experienced. 
  • Underlying ground conditions; are they wet which could make trees less stable? is the ground rocky or has thin soil which may create shallow root systems? 
  • Direction of the wind; are you protected by hills or exposed to the elements?
  • Direction of the wind; is it different from the usual South Westerly winds we get in the UK? Trees will be more capable of bearing up in these conditions. 
  • Season; are the trees covered in leaves creating a sail effect? Is this the first storm of the season? 
  • Proximity of other areas that would be safe e.g. playing fields, meadows or beaches.
  • Size of the group and age of the children, could you move quickly if conditions changed? 
  • Access in and out of the woodland including travel and transport.
  • Other weather conditions that might increase the risks. Wind chill can make a cold day feel colder and high winds mixed with snow and ice can be challenging. 

Having a plan B up your sleeve is important if you do go ahead. I love making kites, wind socks and streamers when I have to move out of the woods because of wind. I also love leaning against the wind with my coat above my head.

Checking the site after a storm event is important to make sure there is no new hanging dead wood up with the trees. 

If it feels unsafe when you are in the woods, then trust your instinct.  If you do have to cancel or there are high winds predicted and you can safely get to your site then this would be a good opportunity to assess how the wood responds to different wind speeds. You can get Anemometers to help you measure actual wind speed compared with predicted winds in your location.

 I probably wouldn’t go as far as that great American naturalist John Muir and climb to the top of a big tree in a wind storm to truly experience the power of nature. His essay ‘A wind storm in the Forests’ is an amazing piece of writing. 

In a previous post I shared a template I use for planning. One of the elements that was felt to be missing was space to write down what happened and think about next steps. For me this is the most important part of the planning cycle when I’m delivering Forest School.

With this in mind I have created the second part of this planning tool. I have been printing them double sided and it’s really helped me order my thoughts. 

 

The section for the practitioners learning has become increasingly important for me. it’s the space where I can reflect on things that have challenged me and think about how my behaviours impacted on the flow of the session. 

The small boxes are where i start jotting ideas for the following session. It may be based on requests from the children, observations I have made and things I think might extend the behaviours I have seen or will meet needs I have seen expressed. 

You can download the template here and as ever, I’m always keen to hear feedback. Let me know if you have used it! 

I recently asked my friends on social media to suggest creative and playful ways to walk. I know some very creative and playful people. 

Here’s a summary of some of the many many ways to walk; 

  • At night with shadows
  • Collecting colours
  • Like an ant on a micro scale 
  • Through an open space on a north south then east west route
  • Same route through the seasons
  • In silence with eyes truly open (a noticing walk)
  • Phenology walk
  • Without being seen by a squirrel (nicked from Mission:Explore)
  • Journey towards; pick a spot on the horizon and slowly mindfully pootle towards it with no intention of getting there

[..read more..]

I’ve been working on a planning template for my own sessions and for participants on my courses. I’m enjoying it as a way to think through my sessions whilst taking a lead from the children and young people.

I call my starting points ‘springboards’. I’ve written about springboards before. That previous post was from 2010! 

Feel free to download this template and let me know if you use it. 

I have completed the evaluation template to capture reflections and observations and the two documents work well printed back to back. 

 

A video tutorial how to make a rope ladder. I love this way of tying knots. The left hand side and right hand side of the body working together.

 

You can use the same knots with different lengths of stick or twig to make Christmas tree shapes. The large one is made using fishing wire to make the lines invisible. 

 

Let us know if you try it. 

I’m one of life’s enthusiasts. A cheerleader by nature. Recently however I’ve been trying to curb my natural instinct. Holding the idea in my mind that I always need to be thinking “who is doing the learning?” This reflective question has helped me notice what happens when I don’t ask a question, when I don’t intervene. *

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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..]

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.

image

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.
wonky-wheel

Download the blank wood cookie wheel here [..read more..]

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.

Crayons 
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 [..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..]

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. [..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.

nature, play, spring, forest school

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