‘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
As the seasons change our mornings have definitely turned a little crisper, so as we wrap up with extra socks and gloves and scarves it is time to think of ways to help the creatures with whom we share our woodlands during the winter months. Some animals such as badgers reduce their activity during the cold winter months, while foxes grow a heavier coat in Autumn to prepare them for the cold. Bats and hedgehogs are the only mammals in Ireland that hibernate, and while we may associate hedgehogs with hedgerows and gardens, they are also found in our woods. Read More
Getting back to the woods with my preschool group at Muddy Boots was something I’d been looking forward to since we finished up last June. I knew that it would mostly be new children, with just five children from last year staying on for another year. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to all those children who were moving onto primary school, but I knew they were ready to face their next challenge and that their year of outdoor preschool and forest school once a week had them well prepared for the task. Read More
As the weather starts to turn and autumn sets in, many people think that their beach days are over for another year. Too often we assume that it must be sunny and warm in order for us to pack our bags and head to the sea. But the seashore provides so much more than sunbathing and sunny swims. As the tide comes in and then recedes again, we are left with a blank canvas on which to be creative and a wealth of materials from which to choose to decorate it with. Read More
We are very lucky in Barna woods to have various streams running through the woods, although not all of them are running at all times. With the amount of rain that fell in August and continued into September, there has been an abundance of mud and running water, two things that fill any child’s heart with joy upon encountering them. If you are lucky enough to have water in your forest, or field, or any other green space that you have access to, make sure to take advantage of all the possibilities of endless fun that water holds. Read More