Tag Archives: Forest School

Learning at Westonbirt

Westonbirt arboretum has a series of learning activities led by its own staff, as well as facilities available to groups led by others.

The in-house activities cover Key Stage 2 , Secondary , FE & HE and Initial Teaching Training , running until November 2016.

Here are the frequently-asked questions for self-led groups.

Westonbirt’s activity packs are free and can be downloaded from these links:

There are also Explorer backpack which provide resources for a whole class to use and there are two of each backpack available.

Each explorer backpack costs £15 to hire for the day and needs to be booked in advance. If you have any further queries, or wish to book a backpack, please email the learning team.


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The 2016 Nature Connections conference

The 2016 Nature Connections conference in Derby on June 15th, with a focus on Getting Connected to Nature.  The conference themes are:

  • Improving links between research, policy and practice
  • Latest research and perspective on the benefits of a connection with nature, getting connected to nature, and engaging people

The keynote speaker is Tony Juniper.  Looking at the draft programme, there is much here that is relevant to anyone interested in trees and woodland, and to the work of the Forest of Avon Trust, more generally.

We noted the following:

  • The potential for connecting to nature through forest school
  • Making Local Woods Connect: Social enterprise as a mechanism for reconnecting people with woodlands
  • Investigating the effects of ‘forest school’ on the mental wellbeing and environmental connectedness of young people
  • The impact of walking environment on connectedness to nature, mindfulness and empathy: a comparison of natural and urban locations
  • 30 Days Wild


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Training with the Forest of Avon Trust

Scott shows his whittled spoon

Scott Burnett is an art psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with people creatively and therapeutically outdoors. Scott hopes to combine his Forest School training with his art therapy training to provide environmental arts therapy workshops. This is Scott’s blog post about his experiences of the Trust’s Level 1 Forest School training:

“I did my Level 1 training with the Forest of Avon Trust at Lawrence Weston Community Farm. I was hoping to develop a basic level of knowledge and skills to lead outdoor workshops with groups of children or adults. I also hoped that this would provide a good introduction to the Level 3 Forest School Leader training that I’m also planning to do.

“I really enjoyed the two days of training. Jon Attwood lead the sessions very well including a good mix of practical and creative activities in the woodland. This was combined with some ‘classroom’ learning about things such as: the Forest School approach, effective risk management, assessing Forest School sessions, and what Forest School can provide to groups in terms of learning and personal development.

“With my art therapy background, I particularly enjoyed learning new creative activities such as making leaf prints on cotton, using natural clay to make animals, mud painting, putting clay faces into tree trunks and writing poems/reflections about our experience of a particular tree. I also enjoyed learning the more practical woodland skills such as making fire with a fire-steel, camp cooking and putting up a tarp shelter.

“A big part of the experience was sharing activities with a diverse group of fellow trainees. It was a really good opportunity to build networks with like-minded people and I have kept in touch with a few of the people following the training.

“The Level 1 training helped me to build confidence in working with groups outdoors and provided me with new skills as well as potential outdoor activity ideas. I’ve already incorporated some of the creative ideas into my own environmental arts therapy workshops.”

Scott has now started his Level 3 Forest School training with the Forest of Avon Trust. If you are interested in Forest School Level 1 or Level 3 courses or other training with the Trust, please go to: http://forestofavontrust.org/training/

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Volunteering with Forest of Avon Trust

Portrait photo of Scott Burnett in the woodsScott Burnett is an art psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with people creatively and therapeutically outdoors in local woodlands. Scott has a written this blog post about his experiences as a volunteer with the Forest of Avon Trust:

“I wanted to volunteer at the Forest of Avon Trust because it’s a great opportunity to participate in the various activities that the charity provides to help build my skills, knowledge and experience of working with groups outdoors.

“I’ve really enjoyed volunteering on the Woodland Works workshops with adults with learning disabilities run by Rachel Tomlinson and Nicola Ramsden. I learned a great deal from Rachel and Nicola about leading workshops like these and enjoyed seeing how much the participants clearly get from activities such as coppicing, dry-hedge building, sawing, fire-making and camp-cooking.

“In a recent workshop we did a pond dip. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic and focused the participants were to identify pond wildlife. We were all impressed at how big and ‘mean’ the predator dragon-fly larvae looked!

“I was also fortunate to be able to help Jon Attwood when he led a Level 1 Forest School course  and workshops for teachers, play workers and other trainees. Whilst helping out I was able to learn from Jon’s long experience of providing Forest School activities and training.

I’ve already used one activity in my own environmental arts therapy workshops: the group make a circle of wood on the ground and divide it into segments, one for each person. Standing in a segment, each group member faces outwards and walks into the wood to spend time alone reflecting. They also bring back some natural objects that they find, which the group discusses. This activity may seem simple enough, but it offers so much in helping people to immerse themselves in the experience of being in a woodland and sharing this with others in the group.

“I look forward to continuing my association with the Forest of Avon Trust in the future to continue building my knowledge and experience.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Forest of Avon Trust, please get in touch with Jon Clark at: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

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An introduction to Forest School

Level 1 Forest School traineesForest School is well-established as a great way to engage groups in woodland activities and support personal development. The Forest of Avon Trust is committed to this inspirational approach and we run accredited training to support outdoor enthusiasts to lead their groups.

During March we ran level 1 Forest School training courses at Lawrence Weston Community Farm and the trust’s Retreat woodland, near Bitton. These two day courses are a great opportunity for people to find out what Forest School is and to take away lots of practical activities and ideas to use with their groups.

Those on the course were enthusiastic and couldn’t wait to get going leading their own groups. One participant commented: “Really amazing. Now I feel I can really do this”, another said: “This has re-lit my passion for learning outdoors”.

A combination of teaching staff, youth workers, parents and those wanting to develop outdoor businesses attended the training. Some of those doing the level 1 course will now go on to do the more demanding level 3 course so that they can become Forest School leaders.

Find out about the courses we run or book onto training at: http://forestofavontrust.org/training/

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Showcasing our Work

The Trust celebrated its third ‘birthday’ in December by taking on the lease of The Retreat and by filming three videos at the site, illustrating our work.  Trust patron and One Show regular Mike Dilger took time out of his busy schedule to help us with this, working with local media production company Constellation Media.

We were supported in the films by Forest School trainees; children and staff from Bradley Stoke Community School; and representatives from some of the organisations, businesses and Councils we have worked with.

Jon Clark, Trust Executive Director, said:

‘It was a cold and windy day, so huge thanks to everyone who took part. It was really heartening to hear everyone’s commitment to the cause. I am really pleased with three short films, which I hope speak for themselves.’

A mention has also got to go to Manor Farm Shop for an excellent warming lunch.

The videos are below: (also available on our YouTube Channel)

Tree Charity: the Forest of Avon Trust

Click here to play the video

 Tree Action in and Around Bristol

Forest School Leader Training

Click here to play the video


Posted in: Business Sponsors, Community Partners, Latest News, Our Projects, Outdoor Learning, Training activities, Videos, Volunteering, Woodland Management, Woodland Wellbeing | Tagged , , , , |

Exploring the benefits of the Forest School approach

Person wearing a willow crown decorated with leaves

Activities at Ashton Court

The Forest of Avon Trust has been using the Forest School approach with a number of groups of adults with learning disabilities over the last few years. Getting groups out in to local woodlands to explore and undertake a range of activities that has brought them in to close contact with nature has been fun and beneficial. Through talking to those involved we have picked up on some common themes that demonstrate how individuals and groups can benefit from this small group based experience in a natural setting over a period of time. The following link explores this in more detail – Outdoor Activities with Adults with Learning Disabilities.

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Inspiration for outdoor learning – Inset Day

Group under and around a willow tree

Creating a poem about a willow

We recently ran an Inservice training day with Charborough Road Primary School (whom we have worked with before to create a mini orchard) in North Bristol to explore a range of outdoor activities that would engage their pupils with the natural spaces in their grounds. The day focused on a range of creative and practical approaches to explore outdoor spaces, including – exploring colours and creating a natural mosaic and making natural perfumes. More »

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What are the benefits of Forest School?

Experiencing woodlands in Bath

Some quiet time to reflect.

Children playing outdoors and groups being taken in to natural spaces is nothing new. Forest School in the UK has been developed over the last 15 years through influences from Scandinavia but also from a long history in the UK of groups playing and learning outside.

What is starting to develop now is a wealth of both informal and formal observations and case studies of the benefits of supporting groups of all ages to access nature. Anyone who has come across Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods will be more than convinced by the need to get children out in to green spaces. Over the last 10 years Forest Research, which is part of the Forestry Commission, has expanded its research to explore in detail the ways in which trees benefit wider society. The breadth of evidence presented by Forest Research of spending time in woodlands along with books such as Sara Knight’s Forest School for All helps to establish the importance of these experiences for all of us.

Common themes emerge from Richard Louv’s overview of global research and of the work of Sara Knight and researchers at Forest Research. Experiences in nature, particularly but not exclusively for children, have the potential to provide the following key benefits: Increased confidence; Increased social skills; Improved language and communication; Improved motivation and concentration; Improved physical fitness and ability and increased levels of interest in and concern for nature. An important point as highlighted by Richard Louv is that if society does value the benefits of spending time in the natural world then it is important that children develop a lasting and caring relationship for it as they will be its future stewards.

Locally the work of the Natural Connections project, at the Forest of Avon Trust, and Rowena Kenny, of Forest Foundations, have explored these themes through case study projects in the Bristol area.

Rowena’s in depth Exploratory Case Study of Forest School in the Early Years Foundation Stage and her wider work can be found online here.

Jon Attwood’s case study project in partnership with Twerton First Steps Nursery in  B&NES can be downloaded here.

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Wood School- Learning, Naturally

Finding out about the many roles of trees

This is being delivered alongside Goblin Combe Environment Centre’s Climate Change Barometer in 8 schools in the Worle area of Weston super Mare. Wood School is working with Reception and Year 1 children to engage them in the importance of trees and the wider natural environment. Activities have included finding the strongest tree in the school grounds; leaf rubbings; making bird feeders of fat and seed, around a cone; and collecting palates of natural colour from school grounds.

Wood School is available free of charge where we can secure grants and donations, £200/ day on a cost covering basis. To find out more, email: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

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