Blog: Forest School Ramblings

CLICK HERE to read more about Mud Pie Explorer’s manager and curator’s own personal journey into alternative education and forest school through her own Forest School Ramblings Blog.

Many parents feel as though their children are not quite being ‘heard’ or ‘seen’ in their ‘normal school’ environments; sadly today the fact stands that living costs and social pressures mean that people are becoming less likely to be in the position to homeschool or find alternative childcare choices.

What then can you do as a parent who recognises their child to have needs which simply are not being met?

Here at Mud Pie Explorers we try to offer as many new experiences to those who wouldn’t easily be able to access these without extra help. Take a look at the sessions you can book with us now weekly or in holidays.

July Article from the Downend Voice:

Forest School is good for you! We all know that spending time in nature has enormous health benefits. Research has shown that even looking at a picture of a plant can help people recover more quickly from illness. But Forest School is so much more than that. 

Firstly, Forest School is child led, so children have autonomy that they don’t often have in other environments such as the classroom. They can choose what they do and follow their own interests. The adults facilitate this rather than tell the children what to do. 

In Forest School children are free to move around however they want, and there is an intrinsic interest in exploring the area, climbing on trees or fallen logs, playing games involving running or hiding. The forest helps them to move in unusual ways, such as balancing on knobbly logs, slipping and sliding in mud, negotiating the forest floor. This helps develop children’s ability to take calculated risks and assess what is safe. After a few weeks of Forest School, children who start off with little or no confidence at tree climbing often become extremely confident and adept at finding their way up a tree. 

At Forest School, we help children develop their skills with tools, crafts, fire lighting and cooking. Adults support them to develop their interests by asking open questions and encouraging them. As children face challenges and develop new skills their confidence and self-esteem grows. This is especially important for children who find the classroom environment difficult. We’ve often observed dramatic changes in the children we work with, and schools often report that their confidence in the classroom grows massively too. 

Forest School is holistic, inclusive and experiential. Children learn by doing. There is often a lot of collaboration between children as they face challenges and develop their play together. Children are encouraged to explore and be curious. We do our best to enable children to resolve any conflicts that arise themselves without telling them what to do. When things are resolved in this way, children learn resilience, social skills and gain self esteem. 

Finally, Forest School can have a magical effect on children’s emotions. If things get stressful or difficult, it’s easy in the woods for children to take a minute, tune into their senses, maybe go on a little walk or have a go on a swing or a hammock until they get back on an even keel again. The forest environment itself really helps them to regulate their emotions. 

Mud Pie Explorers run a range of Forest School sessions in various different locations around Bristol, South Gloucestershire and now Newport too! 

June Article from the Downend Voice:

Why do we feel better when we are out in the woods?

It’s often said that spending time in nature makes us feel good. But why? Many studies have shown that nature connectedness helps us to relax, reduce stress, manage our emotions and feel happier. It increases our immune function, balances our moods and increases our resilience. This applies even if you can’t actually go outside, you can get the same effect simply by looking at an image of a tree or flower, or touching a piece of wood.

Research has shown that walking in nature increases short term memory, and even just a 15 minute walk or living near a green space reduces stress, decreases anxiety and helps stabilise moods. Being in nature reminds us that we are part of something bigger, that life on this planet is not just centred on humans.

Humans evolved outside. Modern life with its walls, concrete, traffic, alarms and screens is a very recent development in evolutionary terms, even if it seems completely normal to those who were born into it. Our brains were formed in relationship with the natural world, so of course our brains are hard-wired to react positively to natural environments. Our brains need time to process information, and spending some time outdoors in nature is an ideal way to do this.

There is a tangible feeling when we enter a natural space of relief, of stress lifting. Our minds are continually processing information from our senses, but when we are out in nature we can tune into the senses more easily. Sitting still in nature is a great way to focus on beauty. Sometimes creatures start popping out as the forest ‘gets used’ to us being around. As we remain still we notice more and more about what is going on around us and it’s easier to appreciate beauty, both large and small.

If you would like to, try taking some binoculars or a magnifying glass with you, to focus on things you might not normally be able to notice. Maybe take a notebook and write down the things you notice or the thoughts or emotions you experience. Focussing on taking photos, drawing or painting can be another good way to connect to natural spaces.

Spending time in nature, in whatever way suits you best will be very likely to help you balance your mood, stay positive and increase your powers of concentration and creativity. We invite you to make it a regular part of your routine to spend some time in nature. Remember to tune into all your senses, move slowly, appreciate the beauty, and breathe!

At Mud Pie Explorers we see first hand the benefits that the children we work with experience from spending time playing outdoors in nature; and in fact, the benefits that it brings to us as adults too!

May Article from the Downend Voice:

Celebrating the humble Dandelion!

Dandelions are in full flower this time of year, brightening up our verges, lawns and meadows with their sunny yellow blooms. Dandelions are often considered a weed, but they have a lot of good stuff going on!

Dandelions are an essential source of nectar for insects at this time of year. Each flower head consists of over 100 mini flowers, providing loads of pollen and nectar. Dandelions are also good for the soil because their roots go very deep, loosening it up and making nutrients available to other plants nearby.

Did you know that all parts of the dandelion are edible? The flowers can be made into syrup, brewed into a tea to drink hot or cold, or baked into biscuits or pancakes. The leaves can be made into a tea, or added to salads or sautéed. The roots can be roasted and ground to make a natural caffeine free coffee substitute. Dandelions are more nutritious than most vegetables, being particularly rich in Vitamins A, C and K. They also contain Vitamin E, folate, and small amounts of other B vitamins. Mineral-wise they are rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and calcium. Historically, they’ve been used to treat many ailments, many of which are likely to have been caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

Although it is a tonic for the liver, helping to flush out toxins, beware of drinking too much dandelion tea as it is a diuretic (makes you pee). The French word for dandelions is ‘pissenlit’ which literally translates as ‘wet the bed’. 

At different stages of their development, dandelions can be said to represent the sun, the moon and the stars. The seeds can travel up to 5 miles on the wind. 

But above all, dandelions are fun! Mud Pie Explorers have been having fun making dandelion prints, dandelion chains, eating dandelion pancakes and blowing dandelion clocks.