I recently spent a few days with my father, who lives next door to the house where I grew up. My brother and his family are living in the old family home now. Often when children grow up and parents move there can be a grief at losing the place where so many childhood memories were forged. I am incredibly lucky in that I am forging new memories with my niece and nephews while reliving memories past, in the house, garden and fields where I grew up. Read More
We are having an unseasonably sunny spell here in the west of Ireland at the moment, and if feels almost as though summer has decided to pop back for a brief visit, to remind us of the heady feeling of warm sun on our faces and walking bare ankled and bare foot. But this follows on from some very wet and windy weather and we are already past the letter C in our newly named storms. Read More
With the recent winds and the autumnal equinox just passed there are plenty of leaves freshly fallen to the forest floor ready to be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. Personally I love the sound of the crisp leaves underfoot as I meander through the woods, noting the different colours, depending on the tree and also during which stage of autumn the leaf fell.
This dry week means that those leaves will be crisp and rustly and in the perfect condition to make some autumnal noise. Not just by crunching them beneath your feet but by creating your own percussion instrument.
With the taste of autumn in the air, cooler and shorter days leave no doubt but that summer has passed for another year. There is something refreshing in observing the seasons and being reminded that there is a time for everything. The woods are a magical place to be during this time of year as we see the change in colour of the leaves and their eventual fall from the trees, allowing them to return to the earth, enriching the soil that feeds the trees in order for new leaves to appear next spring. Read More
The summer has been such a wonderful time of outdoor adventures both with adults and with little ones alike. More time was spent at the beach than in the woods, however I was lucky to spend time in a place where the woods would lead me to the beach and loved my jaunt each morning walking through the woods as I headed for my swim. Read More
One of the benefits of visiting the same woodland site each week over the whole school year is that we intimately get to know every part of that space. It is lovely to note when a child observes a fallen branch or some other slight change that would not register with someone who visits only once or twice. It also means that they are more in tune with the turning of the seasons as they recognise the changes to the woods as being seasonal rather than just thinking of new flora belonging to a new site. Read More
‘When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.’
I always dreamed of finding a way to work outside in nature, and after a long and circuitous route I found myself becoming a Forest School Leader. It incorporates many of my passions: the outdoors, nature, working with children and making time and space for stillness, awareness and nature connection. The stillness may be brief, but it is perfect in that moment, and I love to see young children happily engage in stopping and being, rather than rushing and doing. The ability to pause and be is innate in all of us, but it is in conflict with our culture that promotes busyness and accomplishment, and often people feel they must be doing something if they are to have any worth or contribute to society.
So how can we promote this notion of slowing down? Read More
“I wonder” is a powerful question, it opens up our curiosity, and from this comes exploration, experience, awareness and an opportunity to learn. I often feel that a perceived lack of knowledge of our natural world is preventing adults from taking children outdoors and spending time with them in nature, connecting to all that surrounds them. Children love to ask questions, hundreds if not thousands of them a day, and this is their way of figuring out the world around them. However, many adults are uncomfortable when they are unable to answer those questions, and this is often the case when it comes to naming trees, recognising birds or identifying creatures living in our woods. Read More
Going on a bug hunt is one of the most simple yet satisfying activities that can easily take place in the woods. No resources are needed, just turn over rocks and dead wood (ensuring to return it to its rightful place afterwards) and see what creatures you might find scurrying around. The Field Studies Council have an excellent bug id guide that can be ordered from their website online, or your local bookshop may stock, and children love to learn the names of the creatures they have spotted.
A really simple activity this time of year in the woods when sticks abound is to create giant nests. Everything you could need can be found on the forest floor, and great fun can be had finding the perfect spot, perched up on a height looking down if your woodland has any high terrain, or tucked in between trunks and rocks off the beaten track to avoid predators. Make sure to test it out for comfiness and cosiness once all your hard work is done. Read More
I love to celebrate the Winter Solstice, filled with the hope that light brings to our life, and look forward to watching the days lengthen over the coming months. While we may gain more daylight, our days will still be cold and our birds may continue to struggle to find enough food to keep them plump and warm through to spring.
I always thoroughly enjoy spending time with my Forest School family and have been blessed to once again join in supportive community, this time at the beautiful Crann Óg Eco Farm outside Gort, Co Galway. Twelve Forest School Leaders from all over Ireland gathered together to deepen our connection to our work in the woods and to explore Working with Challenging Behaviour in the Outdoors. Our facilitator, Jon Cree, chair of the UK Forest School Association, guided us expertly and carefully along the path of what was at times a challenging and thought provoking, but ultimately, fulfilling experience. Read More