Tag Archives: Outdoor Learning & Play

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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Natural Connections launch for Somerset, Bristol & Wiltshire

Natural Connections, one of the largest outdoor learning initiatives in the country, is coming to Somerset, Bristol and Wiltshire. This new educational project aims to inspire and connect school children with the natural environment by supporting and promoting teaching outdoors. David Bond, the inspiration behind Project Wild Thing, will launch Natural Connections on 27 June at a conference at Ashton Court.

80 local primary and secondary schools will work together through Natural Connections to develop a culture of taking learning outdoors. The project hopes to inspire and engage teachers, pupils, parents and volunteers. Teachers can also benefit from specially tailored online resources and links to local partners as well as information on additional funding sources for outdoor projects. Schools in Somerset and Wiltshire are supported by the Forest of Avon Trust, and in Bristol by Lighting up Learning.

Natural Connections Project Manager Ian Blackwell said: ‘Parents, teachers, businesses, communities… Everyone has the same ambition over the coming years. We all want to see children enjoy learning, keep healthy, and achieve more in our schools. We hope that access to local outside spaces for lessons through the Natural Connections Project will help achieve this.’

Jim Burt, Principal Advisor for Outdoor Learning at Natural England said: ‘The Government wants to see every child in England given the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural environment… Feedback from teachers and schools participating in the trial to date has been overwhelmingly positive.’

The Natural Connections conference, on Friday June 27, is open to schools, partners, community groups and outdoor learning providers from across the area. You are welcome to attend the event to find out how to get involved in the project and to discuss partnerships. To book a place email telephone Sam Wilson: 07 90 77 53 100 or email: info@lightinguplearning

Natural Connections Hub Leaders manage the project at local level, in partnership with Plymouth University. The Forest of Avon Trust is hub leader for Somerset and Wiltshire. For more information please contact Jon Attwood on: (0117) 963 3383 or email: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org

Download the Natural Connections Conference flyer (pdf) for 27 June.

Posted in: Forest School, Latest News, Natural Connections Demonstration Project, Our Projects | Tagged , , |

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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Natural Connections Demonstration Project

The Trust has just embarked on an exciting new project, which is being trialled across the south-west by Plymouth University. The Natural Connections Demonstration Project is one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK.

As ‘hub leader’ for Somerset, the Forest of Avon Trust has recently recruited a new administrator – Bea Oliver – to work with Training Manager, Jon Attwood, to deliver the project. We will be supporting schools to forge links between each other, and with outdoor learning providers, to improve and extend learning in the natural environment.

We have now begun the process of recruiting up to five Beacon Schools in North Somerset(primary, secondary or special), which have experience of delivering Learning in the Natural Environment (LINE).  Each Beacon School will receive support, training and investment through the project to become LINE specialists and will in turn support up to seven schools new to LINE – ‘cluster schools’ – to improve their offer of learning outside the classroom.

If you would like further information on this project, please email Jon Attwood: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org and click here to read more about what’s on offer.

We are also seeking professional providers of outdoor learning to work with the schools taking part, and will be holding an information event for providers on Wed. 20th November at Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve. If you would like more details about getting involved, please email jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org.

For more information on learning outside the classroom, take a look at the Growing Schools website.

Posted in: Natural Connections Demonstration Project, Our Projects | Tagged , |

Why We Still Need a Community Forest

Street and garden trees integrate into woodlands

Street and garden trees integrate with existing woodland, grading to the Cotswold edge. Access links, play areas and open conservation sites extend through this. Farms and woodlands provide food and services for the urban market, with the ‘urban forest’ having the structure to accommodate any permitted development.

I worked for the first Community Forest: the Great North Forest from its beginning in 1990 and have worked in Community Forestry since. I remain strongly of the view that a shared, progressive and long- term strategy for the countryside around England’s largest urban areas is essential. This need not be prescriptive, but should be about a common will to spend time on improving the landscape and functionality of an area, in partnership with landowners, communities and many others.

The Forest of Avon Partnership ended in 2009 having achieved a great deal. Whilst 17 years is long-term in British planning terms, this charity was established to keep the momentum going. It is really heartening to hear Bristol Mayor: George Ferguson, refer to the need for more tree planting (one of our objectives) and cross boundary working.

If you want to help keep the Forest of Avon Community Forest vision and delivery going, email me here with your ideas and/or join us as a Friend (£3/ month).

Jon Clark.

Posted in: Future Woods, Join us as a Friend, Latest News | Tagged , , , |

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: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Business Sponsors, Community Partners, Forest School, Free Trees for Communities, Future Woods, Garden Forest, Join us as a Friend, Latest News, Natural Connections, Our Projects, Training activities | Tagged , , , , , |

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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