Have you missed face to face CPD? Meeting Forest School colleagues? Having time to reflect on and celebrate the amazing work that the Forest School community does?
The FSA National Conference offers all of this – a bonanza of excellent speakers, inspiring workshops and thought-provoking discussions around the theme of sustainable Forest School – along with some fabulous entertainment and opportunities to chill and chat with colleagues new and old. After a gap of two years, the whole weekend offers an invaluable opportunity to connect, recharge and learn together.
Two influential speakers, Alison Kriel and Tony Juniper CBE will be joining us for our keynote speeches. Alison, a strong advocate for Forest School, inspirational speaker, education consultant and highly acclaimed executive headteacher, who turned around a failing school through her commitment to building an empathic learning community, will be bringing her knowledge and experience of the importance of values-led leadership, compassion, nature connection and values-based education. She will help us address the perception gap in young people, where individuals feel isolated, thinking their peers do not care about global warming and biodiversity as much as they do.
Tony, current chair of Natural England who has held leading roles with Friends of the Earth; WWF UK; the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and the Society for the Environment, environmental campaigner and author of many books including the bestselling What has Nature ever done for us?, will bring his knowledge on the benefits of nature to empower young people to greater advocacy, and will share his vision of a sustainable UK landscape.
The Opening Session on Saturday, where we will be joined by an enthusiastic team from Children’s Forest, and climate change psychotherapist, Jo McAndrews, will help sow the seeds for our discussions. We will consider how we model sustainable practices at Forest School, incorporating the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how greater nature connection leads to greater well-being and care for the whole of nature. Join us to explore how our current and future Forest School practice can support participants positively as the world changes around us.
Several planned workshops will lead on from this Opening Session, allowing us time to explore some of these aspects in greater depth. The workshops have been split into thinking and doing sessions, but many will of course overlap. We welcome back many familiar faces, such as Jon Cree and Marina Robb sharing their deeper nature connections; Lily Horseman, on how reflecting on needs helps Forest School practitioners create more sustainability; Dawn Preston and Dawn O’Malley, whose discussion From Social Distancing to Social Connections will get us talking. Chris Holland will be delighting us with his storytelling; Natalie Ganpatsingh will be looking at creating effective funding partnerships, Elizabeth Swift will be getting us singing, and Mark Clarke brings us his practical and fun sessions on Simple Machines. Jo McAndrews will be focussing on understanding and supporting children (and yourself) as we experience climate change, and the Children’s Forest will kindly share their successful four-stage process for tree planting projects.
There will of course be foraging, cooking, fire skills and woodwork, including reuse of pallets to make ‘den homes’. Plus, we cannot forget our own self-care including forest bathing, outdoor yoga and mindfulness moments.
We hope you will also find out about all the exciting connections we’ve made through the creation of this conference with countless and varied projects, including a workshop with the Bee Conservation Trust and the story of ‘Phoebe’s Bee’, as well as the work of The National Forest, Earthwatch, Forest Education Network England, Harmony Project and the Dirt is Good campaign, all fantastic supporters of the event.
We are also excited to promote a living art installation, which Sara Knight, acclaimed academic and author of various Forest School books, is going to co-create and share with you. Through this contribution, she aims to prompt discussion on some of the theoretical underpinnings of Forest School and share her own insights, as she personally celebrates 25 years of being involved in Forest School – unmissable!
Between speakers, workshops and delicious meals, other delights on offer including stalls in the Marketplace; making your own sustainable merch; the Children’s Voice choir; Wild Tea Café, Vegan Cake Stall or maybe you will visit Professor Queen Bee for a tonic of laughter. The Play Zone will also be a great opportunity to share ideas and rejuvenate your inner child with familiar Forest School resources such as ropes, tarps, and slacklines – all of which will be raffled at the end of the weekend. Evening entertainment will include a Ceilidh, “pub quiz”, bat walk, night tree id and of course campfires to gather around.
The weekend will close with us coming together for a final discussion and connecting with those who live in your local area to discuss some of the burning sustainability questions from the weekend. Last but not least, the surprise finale will leave you with a smile on your face and joy in your heart as we all head home to spread some of the cheer and hope that Forest School brings.
It is time for the Forest School community to reconnect for a fantastic weekend of inspiration and enrichment.