• Nature creations during art in the woods

Posts by: "mhakiwa"

Our Forest Of Frogs summer camp ran from August 21st – 25th, 2017. With more than 50 children coming each day, we had a busy week. Younger children (aged 6-12) engaged in drama and music activities, forest school, and nature art and craft. Teenagers (12-19) put their minds to a production of Romeo and Juliet. In between the rehearsals, they still had time to enjoy some camp fires, wood caring, and learned the tango! By Friday afternoon they were presenting an amazing performance first to the younger children, and later to their friends and parents. Many thanks to Marking Rawlings and Elizabeth Keates who adapted the script, cast and directed the production so professionally.

The collaboration with Box of Frogs Theatre Academy (https://www.facebook.com/Box-of-Frogs-Theatre-Academy-109053859244862/) will continue.

W’ll be up and running again next year – Dates provisionally set for Aug 20th-24th, 2018. As ever, in the beautiful gardens of St. Paul’s Walden Bury.

 

June 11th proved to have perfect weather for our Open Farm Sunday at East Hall Farm. Our even ran alongside a National Garden Open Scheme event at St. Paul’s Walden Bury, so that visitors to the gardens could stop by to learn about food production, farming and the countryside, and taste ice-cream made by a local dairy farmer, and our visitors could go onto enjoy the gardens, and tea and cakes offered by the local parish church.

Several farmers and organisations came together to provide an interesting range of displays. The Patemans  joined us from Burleigh Farm, Knebworth, with a fantastic display about soils, and also arranged that a John Deere tractor and no-till drill were on display.

Within the Walls, a care-farming project, was represented and provided nature art and craft activities for children to complete.

 

 

From East Hall Farm we had information about the nature conservation work we do as part of our higher level scheme agreement, and also the crops we grow, as well as a small tractor which lots of children enjoyed sitting on. We also had tractor-trailer rides around the farm, showing our mob-grazing of Hereford and Sussex cattle, crops, field margins and conservation work.

Learning about our crops, with children climbing on a small tractor in the background

Tom Chapman from Meadow Hay Dairies brought a mobile milking unit and talked about production of raw milk (unpasteurised), while Claire Daw from Dawlicious sold home-made ice-cream made at Daw’s farm at Hertford Heath

A steady flow of visitors enabled us to host about 250 people over the course of the afternoon, without there every being a queue for the tractor-trailer rides.

Many thanks to all those who completed visitor feedback forms, which allow us to plan for future years. The tractor-trailer rides proved the most popular offering. It would seem that most of our visitors had not been to an open farm Sunday before, and for some, it was their first visit to a farm.  We were pleased to hear that so many people rated the event good and excellent , and that almost all claimed they had learned something new about farming during their visit. Particularly pleasing was visitor’s growing appreciation of farmers’ role in managing the environment.

Open Farm Sunday 2018 will be on June 10th, so if you missed us this year, or would like to return again next year, note the date. Lots of farms open there doors at Open Farm Sunday, so you would always try another farm as well.

At East Hall Farm we also offer visits to school groups – so feel free to get in touch if you would like to book to bring a group or class on a farm tour or for Forest School, or contact Within the Walls for gardening activities. See our website Outdoor Learning Experiences

Last year we added a new feature to our Forest of Frogs summer camp. Working with Elizabeth Keates, we offered a week of more drama based activities for teenagers. The teenagers were cast in  a shortened version of “A midsummer night’s dream”, and during the week they chose a venue in the gardens to be their stage, practised their lines,  choreographed their movements, and made their costumes. Teenagers less interested in a full acting role played  a part too – developing props, composing music etc. On the final Friday afternoon, they were able to perform their play to an audience of parents and friends, who were treated to a tour of the garden as they followed the troupe through the acts of the play.

Of course, they still wanted to enjoy some of the traditional forest of frogs activities, so they were still able to enjoy campfires, build dens, and do some nature art as well.

Following the success of last year, we plan to do another drama workshop for teenagers. The play will depend on the number of people who enrol, as we want to be sure to take on something which suits those coming. Please see the poster  or contact Sarah Cash, sarahcashbofts@btinternet.com to find out more, and book your place.

 

Open Farm Sunday 2016

In 2008 I interviewed 34 about their motivations, and rewards, for hosting visits to their farms. As we approach the month of “Open farm schooldays” and the weekend of Open Farm Sunday, when more than 400 farmers will open their doors to the public, it’s worth revisiting the reasons why they do so.

  1. A belief that the wider public (children and parents alike) had lost touch with the knowledge about where food comes from. Famers are keen to explain how food is produced, and teach children about the source of the food they eat. “It’s important for the agricultural industry to engage with customers and future customers.”
  2. A belief that that children need to be taken out of the classroom to experience different learning opportunities.  “Education of children through hands-on visits to farms rather than books and academic work a better way”.
  3. A desire for children to learn about their local environment. “The school curriculum [comes from] far afield: Africa, S America… but local countryside should be included also”
  4. Many farmers feel privileged to have access to the countryside, and want to share this with others.  “Sharing countryside with people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be there.”
  5. “To show them why we do what we do.” Explaining complicated farming operations to those who might observe this from a distance, justifying the use of current farming practices, including methods of rearing livestock, use of pesticides and herbicides.  “Get people out, see what we do, grow.”
  6. A desire to justify the subsidies that farmers are given. Farmers were well aware that they receive a large amount from the public purse in the form of subsidies and grants, and felt they should show how the money was used, and why it was needed.  “Feel it is part of the social responsibility of farmers to educate the wider public.”
  7. Counteract the bad press of E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, Mad Cow disease. Farmers want to show counteract these fears by showing that they are farming responsibly.  “show how we make food safe and affordable.”
  8. Promote agricultural careers.  “The more we can interact with children it will affect their decisions about what they want to do and where they want to work.”
  9. Take pride in their work, their industry. “Overcomes “get off my land” perception.” “To promote the industry we spend our lives in.”
  10. In addition to these industry concerns, many farmers said they did it because of the personal rewards of seeing children really enjoying themselves, and discovering about food, farming and the countryside. “Pleasure out of seeing them enjoy themselves.”  This personal, heart-warming reward was, for many, justification in itself to do the visits. “I’m very lucky in what I do.” 

 

To see the full research report visit http://bit.ly/1XQgyso

#ofs2016; @francesharris00; @outdoorlearnin2

Open Farm Sunday 2016

Farming is the industry that produces much of our food, and the land on which food is produced is very visible to the public, as we drive by on roads or walk through the countryside. However, the opportunity to see or speak to the farmer, who is the manager of the food production business, is less common. Yet what comes from the farm impacts on our view of the countryside, what we eat, and the local ecology, land use and wider environment.

Open Farm Sunday provides the opportunity to speak to farmers. It is scheduled for the time of year when farms are full of arable crops and livestock (including calves and lambs) but before farmers are busy with harvesting. It’s a chance to meet farmers, hear from them, ask questions, and engage in discussion and debate about what they do and why they do it.

It’s also a chance for farmers to present a realistic view of what farming is all about these days. It’s not all about old men with straw in their hair: farmers can be women as well as men, and young too!

Modern farming is high tech, environmentally aware, caring about the soil, animal welfare and ecology, while also providing food for customers. Farmers are also custodians of miles of public access footpaths and bridleways which provide the opportunity for anyone to get out and take a walk in nature.

Open Farm Sunday has been running for more than 10 years now. On one Sunday, farmers across the country open their gates and invite the public in to find out more about what they do on a daily basis. Events vary, from farm walks to larger events with multiple activities. This year, there will be a range of activities to explain some of the science in farming.

For teachers and schools, Open Farm School days offers the opportunity for a farm visit for a whole class on a school day. If you are a teacher whole is wondering about farm visits, Open Farm Sunday can be a good opportunity to check out a farm visit yourself, prior to arranging to bring the children along.

To find a farm near you, go to https://farmsunday.org/  It promises to be a great day out!

FH3324The best season for farm visits and other outdoor learning is coming up. From May- early July, crops are well established, and it’s easy to distinguish between wheat, oats and barley. Livestock which have been over-wintered in barns are back out in field. And crucially for school trips – its warmer!

Research on outdoor learning indicates that it is stimulating and memorable. Children are inspired and excited by the new setting, the chance to touch, see, smell, hear –  and take part in – activities.

A field trip is more than a day out. It’s a chance to link all that hard work in the classroom with the deal world, to fit learning into its wider context, and to show its relevance to life beyond the books and school gates. The best outdoor fieldtrips are embedded within classroom learning, and this allows teachers and children to get the most out of the event.

Trips can provide an inspiring way to

-kick start a topic, which is then followed up in the classroom

-develop a topic. Some preparatory work prior to the trip builds up children’s knowledge, so they can get the most out of the learning opportunities offered by the trip, and learning is further developed back in the classroom after the trip

-celebrate the completion of a topic a trip can illustrate how all the theory and classroom learning can be put into practice.

Now is the time to start planning. Look on the Countryside Classroom, FACE, LEAF, or Natural England websites to search for farmers near you that host groups of school children. Book your date now before they get too busy.

Plan – while there is plenty to learn from a farm visit, it’s helpful if teachers can suggest to the farmer what topics or aspects of food, farming or the landscape will connect with what the children have been doing in the classroom. But don’t be too close-minded: be prepared to be inspired, to see links to learning in unexpected ways. The diagram on the Outdoor learning experiences home page of a tractor and curriculum links, from FACE, shows so many possibilities for learning on a farm.

 

nature of learning blog wordleWhat are children learning at forest school?

What are children learning at forest school?No one doubts that forest school is a fun experience, but how can we know what children are learning at forest school, what they get out of it?

Each child is different in terms of background, knowledge, experiences, skills, fears and enthusiasms. Yet so many seem to enjoy forest school, and teachers and parents often have stories about how the experience changed their child. How do we turn these stories into a body of compelling evidence for the benefits of forest school? There are a growing number of studies which have measured or assessed the impact of forest school on children often focussing on specific issues such as physical or mental health, or social and citizenship skills (e.g. Davis and Waite, 2005; Knight, 2009; Lovell and Roe, 2009; Maynard, 2007; O’Brien and Murray, 2007; Swarbrick et al., 2004,).

In order to contribute to this body of evidence, I started out by observing children at forest school, to begin to understand how it affects children. However, my own observations could not cover enough sessions and children to extrapolate the individual stories to develop a wider evidence base, so I had to approach this question in a different way.

I chose to draw on the community of forest school leaders who are engaged in leading sessions year after year, with a wider range of classes. They see many children experiencing forest school, and so for this research I chose to draw on their experience to be ‘conduits of evidence’ (Waite and Goodenough, 2010). Drawing on the existing network of Forest School leaders in cluster groups, I was able to recruit 20 forest school leaders who were each interviewed about what they believed children learn while at forest school. The interviews focussed on three broad themes: what children are learning at forest school, the significance of the outdoor space, and how children responded to forest school. This blog is confined to the first issue: what forest school leaders perceived children were learning at forest school.

Analysis of the interviews identified topics which came up in the discussions with forest school leaders, depicted in the figure.

Forest school leaders acknowledged that there were many potential links to the national curriculum, but these were not explicitly pursued. Instead, forest school practitioners highlighted other aspects of learning at forest school. The most commonly mentioned themes were development of relationships with others, and development of relationships with nature. In the interviews there was also discussion of kinaesthetic and sensory learning styles, as well as children learning to take responsibility and assess risk.

The forest school leaders perceived that children were learning about themselves: their capabilities, both physical and emotional, and how to respond to challenges. The challenge of a new setting affects children in different ways, with many interviews reporting examples of those children who are confident in a classroom setting taking time to gain confidence in an outdoor setting, and those who struggle in the classroom enjoying the space and different learning styles of the outdoor setting

Practitioners observed children developing relationships with others: learning to play together and to work together to achieve tasks. They also claimed children learned about themselves in terms of what activities they feel comfortable engaging in, and how to overcome fears and uncertainty when encouraged to try new things. Malone’s research (Malone, 2008) suggests such self-knowledge and team-working skills are transferable to the classroom and can increase the ability to pay attention and concentrate.

Forest school provides an environment in which children can learn about the natural environment. However, in interviews it became apparent that the forest school leaders do not see nature education as the primary goal of forest school, but incidental to the activity. Children engaged in nature through being outdoors, using natural materials to build dens, do nature art and craft, or just by balancing on logs and searching for minibeasts, and while doing all these activities, they were also learning about the natural environment.

Forest school leaders identified ways in which children’s experiences at forest school could progress year on year, so that it remains challenging as children grow older. Leaders felt children of different ages gain differently from forest school and claimed that as children grow they ‘take on’ different things, building their skills and knowledge. For example, social skills evolve as children get graduate from playing alongside each other to together, and communication and negotiation skills develop as group work becomes more complex. Physical boundaries are adjusted as children get older, allowing children to explore over a wider area and take on more challenging and risky tasks. Unlike many other activities for children, forest school leaders described how forest school teaches children to judge risks rather than attempting to make a risk-free environment.

It was apparent that the forest school practitioners interviewed did not appear to see forest school as an opportunity for delivery of the national curriculum, even though potential links were identified (especially in science, geography, but also language and writing), but they felt that informal learning at forest school could support and contribute to classroom teaching. Forest school sessions were often seen as quite separate from classroom teaching, often being led by different people. Learning styles at forest school were very different from the directive approach of the classroom: more play and peer-led, less directed by teachers. This suits some children more than others. The forest school leaders saw themselves as facilitators of learning, rather than instructors delivering knowledge.

Full details of the research are published in Harris, F. 2015 The nature of learning at forest school: Practitioners’ perspectives. Education 3-13. Online.  DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2015.1078833 or try http://tinyurl.com/z6wug69

 

References:

Davis, B. and S. Waite 2005. Forest school: opportunities and challenges in the early years. Plymouth: University of Plymouth.

Knight, S. 2009. Forest schools and outdoor learning the early years London: Sage

Lovell, R. and J. Roe 2009. Physical and mental health benefits of participation in forest school, Countryside recreation network, 17, no. 1: 20-23.

Malone, K. 2008. Every Experience Matters: An evidence based research report on the role of learning outside the classroom for children’s whole development from birth to eighteen years, Report commissioned by Farming and Countryside Education for UK Department Children, School and Families, Wollongong, Australia.

Maynard, T. 2007 O’Brien, L. and R. Murray 2007. Forest School and its impacts on young children: case studies in Britain, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 6, 249-265.

O’Brien, L. and Murray, R. 2007 Forest schools in Great Britain: an initial exploration, Contemporary issues in early childhood 8, no. 4: 320 – 331.

Swarbrick, N., G. Eastwood and K. Tutton 2004. Self –esteem and successful interaction as part of the Forest School project Support for Learning, 19, no. 3: 142-146.

 

 

 

I’ve just returned from Bhutan, the small Himalayan kingdom renowned for its pursuit of gross national happiness (GNH) instead of gross domestic product (GDP). While there, I attended the international conference on GNH, a meeting of hundreds of academics and practitioners all interested in different aspects of GNH, from economic models to promoting the values of GNH.

There are four central pillars of GNH:

-sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development

-conservation of the environment

-preservation and promotion of culture

-good governance

All policies are screened against these four pillars.

GNH is pursued through activities across 9 domains, relating to psychological wellbeing, health, living standards, ecological diversity and resilience, good governance, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, education, and time use.

Of course, my interest was in the educational sphere. My conference paper explored the potential of outdoor learning experiences to support teaching of the values of GNH. My research on learning at forest school shows that the greatest learning at forest school concerns children’s personal, social and emotional development. The impact on children’s engagement with nature  and their sense of valuing nature is also important, and learning in this area is greater than the more widely expected learning about nature itself (e.g. biology, geography).  (See Harris, F. 2015 The nature of learning at forest school, published by Education 3-13 and available online at their website.)

I argued that learning about personal and social development, and engagement and valuing nature, complement the GNH values which are to be embedded in teaching within Bhutanese schools. Outdoor learning will not, in itself, support teaching of all GNH values, but can go a significant way towards teaching in this area. Further, the move to outdoor learning could be an enjoyable change for schools which have taken a fairly formal, traditional approach to learning. The move outdoors can be stimulating as it releases children from the constraints of the 4 walls of the classroom, and the tules for behaviour in the classroom. Outdoor settings provide freedoms: to move, to be noisier, to interact more, which can be a real relief for students who find sitting still or have ADHD. (These ideas are explored further in a paper I am writing at the moment).

A new ‘Green schools for a green Bhutan’ programme is supporting a transition to new learning styles. I was fortunate to be able to visit several schools, and do some work with pupils. I made films for the ‘Royal Tutorial Project’ on plant growth, management of soil fertility and valuing biodiversity. These films, aimed at 13-16 year olds and the general public, are aired on a Sunday evenings on  TV, by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. A fourth film, showcasing some very successful examples of outdoor learning in schools will, I hope, encourage more teachers to take their children outside.

 

This week marks the launch of Countryside Classroom, a website which promotes learning about food, farming and the natural environment.

 

Countryside classroom is the result of the  enthusiasm of a group of organisations who are committed to ensuing that children and young people have the opportunity to experience and understand more about

Food: where it comes from, how it is grown and cooked

Farming: from the care and preparation of the soil through to harvesting crops

The Natural Environment: providing teachers and parents with ideas, knowledge and skills to get children outdoors to explore our natural environment whether it be through forest school or outdoor science lessons orienteering or just recognizing common plants and animals.

Outdoor Learning Experiences has been a part of the development of Countryside Classroom, as a member of the core committee of organisations which worked towards its development and launch. However countryside classroom has only been possible due to the many organisations that have offered learning materials, venues or expertise to ensure that wherever you are located in England, and whatever you want to do, Countryside Classroom has ideas and resources to support you.

Its free, its open to all. Have a look!

http://countrysideclassroom.org.uk/

As the school year comes to an end we have enjoyed a wide range of groups at Outdoor Learning Experiences. Reception and year one children have enjoyed a series of forest school sessions; older children have also enjoyed forest school, including some simple wood carving and campfire cooking. There have also been farm tours, and some orienteering and map reading session.

There will be a short lull for the school holidays, and then the summer camp will run from August 24th – 28th.

Our “forest of frogs summer camp” brings together forest school activities, nature art and craft, and the skills of box of frogs theatre school, to provide a fantastic week at the end of the school holidays. The whole takes place in the wonderful setting of the gardens at St. Paul’s Walden Bury (see stpaulswaldenbury.co.uk), where the children can run and play, develop characters and plot lines, and chose to stage their plays in different areas of the garden. They also go on treasure hunts and develop their map reading skills. Nature art and craft is a big part of it, as they make the most of the willow to weave and build, and use clay and leaves and flowers for lots of nature art and craft. Of course, there is also some forest for camp fires, den making, and toasting marshmallows.

There are still a few spaces left, so it you would like to book for the whole week or just a day or two, please contact sarahcashbofts@btinternet.com or call 07973818254. For further info see the “Forest of Frogs” web page under the  “Annual events” tab.