An Introduction and Review of this resource that can support Forest School practise
For many years I have held the question, ‘What motivates people to care about the natural world?’ In the end this ‘valuing’ of nature comes about by having the opportunity to access nature and benefit directly from this experience. My hope is that schools and the health services – two of our largest systems expand nature-centred training to their staff so that they can bring nature into their practice making it part of an everyday education and health choice. In many ways, it’s already beginning with Forest Schools and green prescriptions, but there is a long way to go. I have developed ‘The Outdoor Teacher’ as an accessible online training resource so that this work can reach a wider audience. I have shelves of great books, but a video brings an activity alive and is much easier to follow. Increasingly I have been asked to travel, even to places like China, with huge populations that want to learn how to bring the benefits of nature into their practices. Although direct teaching is always preferable, it is not always realistic or sustainable. Our courses offer affordable, high quality training that provide you with the ‘know how’ to safely bring inspirational ideas and activities to your practice throughout the year.
Review from Jon Cree – Director of FSA
This is truly a comprehensive ‘professionally produced’ resource, that is easy to follow and is framed around Forest School. It covers many of the practical aspects of Forest School and the generic principles that can be applied to other areas of outdoor learning – not just Forest School. This is truly about ‘practice’, as Marina states it is a matter of practise practise practise for these experiences to become routine and effective practice that gets into our body’s and bones and becomes part of our own ‘self’. Whenever I am looking at resources I find the quality is reflected by the care and attention to details that really enable a ‘flow’ to the learning, include the reasons (especially safe practice reasons!) for following certain approaches which does include safe flexibility of approaches, and the stamp of the passion and soothing ‘balm’ a leader/designer brings to the resource. Marina Robb, managing director for Circle of Life Rediscovery and a nature educator with 30 years experience has brought her vast experience and attention to detail to this resource. She has provided a ‘safe’ container in which to allow learners to spring from in order to discover their own self and creativity.
If you are a practitioner or teacher just starting out on this outdoor learning journey you will find this resource is absolutely packed with ‘activities’ and details that enable yourself and your own learners to explore the natural world in a safe and yet challenging way. If you have already started practicing it is good to go back to some of the important details regarding making the experiences applicable to certain groups and reminding yourself of some of the key details and rationale that sometimes we forget at our peril! In each module, there are many of the ‘practical aspects’ of leading and facilitating experiences and connection to the natural world and each other which are communicated through many short films that take you through small achievable steps. There is a clear commentary of why we do what we do. Many of the films show Marina working with groups of children and young people demonstrating the ‘reality’ of working with the ‘activities. These are then backed with downloadable resources such as risk benefit assessments and descriptions of the activities. The modules cover the following topics;
Fire and Pedagogy
Ropes and knots
Cooking on a fire
Shelters and Play
Natural Crafts and Play
Wild Plants and Foraging
Nature Awareness Games
There are so many practical tips all the way through the modules from how to set up a fire circle through to ways of working with different needs and stages of human development with different forms of ‘game play’, from early years through to early teens. At the end of each module there is self checking questionnaire to review the learning which is aimed at those starting out on their journey. While I see the value in this it is the one part of the resource that doesn’t quite chime with the forest school ethos of minimizing the pressure of judgement and do wander if there is a more creative way of reflecting on the learning using this online technology – modelling how reflective processes can happen in the outdoors. To extend the resource further it would be great to have some content or reference to content that demonstrates how we dialogue with learners in order to motivate and work with their own interests and needs. This is a resource that has legs and will develop further as it is used, the organization will be adding more modules helpful to any outdoor educator.
Supporting these modules there are primary school and early years resource bundles and case studies that cover topics from well being and working with mental health through to how Forest School supports self-esteem. These add to our advocacy toolkit when trying to persuade organizations and others of the value of this work in these changing times. We highly commend the resource as excellent value for the amount of information and detail that you can keep going back to and is very supportive to any practitioner and teacher. To that end there is a 25% discount for Forest School Association members.
FSA Member discount code: 15% reduction