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Reforesting Scotland Journal reviews Creative Place-Based Environmental Education and The Children’s Forest

These reviews appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue (Issue 61) of the Reforesting Scotland Journal. For more information on these titles, please visit the books’ pages on our website: Creative Place-Based Environmental Education: Children and Schools as Ecopreneurs for Change and The Children’s Forest

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The Children’s Forest

Now is the time of Lughnasa and the Rowan berries are ripe on the trees just waiting to be made into treasures such as the ones here. This is an extract from our new classic, The Children’s Forest, offering stories, songs, wild food, crafts and celebrations for all year round.

The Children’s Forest is a marvellous collection of practices and activities that will surely connect people, their places, wild neighbours, friends and families. The elements of this book are woven to produce a tapestry of belonging – any one of these threads can produce amazing results, together something magical emerges.  Jon Young, author of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature

Rowan Berries
  • The Children’s Forest engages children with nature through play and imagination in the forest.
  • Forest know-how through eight seasons for Forest School leaders, teachers and parents of pre-school and primary aged children.
  • Identify trees, plants and animals including tracking, foraging, wild plant recipes and crafts to make in the woods.
  • Gaelic stories, folklore, songs and imaginary journeys to share.

A rich and abundant treasury in celebration of the forest, this book encourages children’s natural fascination with woodlands and their inhabitants. The authors have produced an enchanting book where imagination, story and play bring alive the world of the forest. Full of games, facts, celebrations, craft activities, recipes, foraging, stories and Forest School skills, The Children’s Forest is much more than a manual: it is an invitation.
Ideal for ages 5-12 it will also be enjoyed by adults, families and younger children.

The Children's Forest

The book is organised into the eight Celtic seasons of Imbolc, Spring, Beltane, Summer, Lughnasa, Autumn, Samhain and Winter. Within each chapter are the following sections: The life of the forest; Plant lore; Imaginary journey; Tree Lore; Activities, crafts and games; Animals; Celebration.
The appendices at the end of the book cover skills, safety, the Ogham alphabet, story sources and further resources.

Available to pre-order now. Sign up to our newsletter to receive 20% off.

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Learning outdoors

Learning outdoors

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week (4-10 Feb) and time to start thinking about getting outdoors more. Learning outside the classroom, actually embedded in the environment, is an antidote to the digital stress overload that can be so compulsive and distressing for young people.

planting out lettuce

This book is an essential practical guide to anyone wishing to free education from its meaningless role as a political and social tool, and to think about what kind of educational experience we will need for the uncertain future facing young people today.”

Roger Duncan is a Systemic Family Psychotherapist and author who has been involved in nature-based practice for 30 years.

A new review of Creative Place-Based Environmental Education has appeared in the AHPB Magazine for Self & Society (published by the Association for Humanistic Psychology in Britain).

Read the whole review here (PDF).


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What is home?

The current political climate is encouraging people to retreat into their comfort zones, to reject the foreign or unknown, so it may seem odd to be promoting an ideology that looks to the local. However, being connected to our own place can make us more mindful of land in general and the wider community of life of which we are part. Rather than putting up social and mental walls it can help us to orientate ourselves in the world and give us the courage and insight to change it.

Creative Place-Based Environmental Education, published this November, shows how schools can create spaces for students to grow into the world, engaging them through curiosity and work, interest and participation, resistance and enjoyment. In so doing, schools become creative hubs enriching the community, caring for nature, the landscape and place. The book draws on over twenty years of action-research by educators in Aurland, Sognafjord, Norway, and with the University of Life Sciences, Norway.

This hands-on approach embraces the whole locality as an inspiring educational resource. Design tools for developing place-based educational curricula are made globally relevant, with case studies from Norway, Ruskin Mill, Britain and Tanzania, and demonstrates that anchoring school curricula in place fosters creativity, co-operation, environmental awareness and integrity, while using the resources of place promotes learning, change and creativity between school and community.

In his foreword, Douglas Forell Hulmes speaks movingly about his experience of meeting the authors of Creative Place-Based Environmental Education. 

The book is written with engaging stories, clear examples, interlaced with educational theory and practical suggestions and questions of what to consider when planning a program that may occur in drastically different settings and circumstances. Examples of other place-based programs are described that occur in National Parks in Great Britain, and in the traditional Maasai regions of Tanzania.

Throughout the world there is a growing trend towards nationalism and a reluctance to think globally. Due to climatic change, sea level will rise, displacing large populations of people who will need to be relocated. At the same time, education is focusing on national and global standards that may or may not focus on what needs to be learned and understood if we are to work towards a more sustainable future and a people who also have learned what it means to belong. I believe this book can provide a common ground between educational standards coming from the top, to information, experience, wisdom and creativity that comes from the local and regional environments.

I have visited Aurland and the Sogn Jord Haggebruksskule many times with my students. I consider their project to be one of the most exciting and comprehensive place-based programs that I have encountered. I can visualize the thematic gardens raised by the children, the farm where the older students milk the goats and learn how to care for the animals, the local school, community and landscape, which no doubt influences a biased perspective. One of my challenges in writing the foreword is how I can possibly capture in words the emotions I have experienced with the landscape and cultural connection that I have experienced by being there. I deeply understand what the authors are attempting to explain, and I personally enjoyed the dance between theory, curriculum, and story. I believe the uniqueness of this book is the interface and intertwining of theory, practice and place that involves asking significant questions related to place-based sustainability, agriculture and education. For me, it also focuses on:

1.  What is Home?
2.  How can learning how local foods are grown and produced help people discover what does it mean to belong?
3.  How do teachers get students to care?

Creative Place-based Environmental Education: Children and Schools as Ecopreneurs for Change, by Jorunn Barane, Aksel Hugo, Morten Clemetsen, foreword by Douglas Forell Hulmes.

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Review: The Natural Storyteller by Georgiana Keable

Image shows children and animals around a tree, and book title The Natural Storyteller

This is another review from the brilliant Imelda Almqvist, written for Pagan Pages. Many thanks to both of them for spreading the love.

 The Natural Storyteller is a gorgeous heart-warming book full of stories that children (and people any age!) can relate to. It is a collection of stories, carefully gathered over a period of years, from all over the world (different sources, locations, periods in history). Some are based on myths, others on legendary figures or even saints (e.g. St Francis of Assisi makes an appearance  – but in the story we meet his child self!) or extraordinary things that happened in the lives of ordinary people.

What steals my heart about this book is that it unflinchingly addresses the turmoil and realities of life in the 21st century. The author does not shy away from tackling themes such as deforestation, war or corporate greed.

My favourite story is the King of the Deer (perhaps because I live in the forest in Sweden for part of the year where see deer daily and observe them very closely). I had a rather traumatic encounter with deer hunters only two weeks ago and this story (about the King of the Deer putting a stop of the hunting of all animal species) really pulled at my heart strings.

I live in London for the larger part of the year and there is a  lovely story about a London woman who finds a wounded baby sparrow on her doorstep during World War II. She takes him in and he becomes her companion, eventually bringing comfort to people who lost their homes in air raids. The woman was called Clare Kipps and I am under the impression that this story is based on a real life person.

The author describes herself as going on hikes and actively asking strangers to tell her stories. Predictably many people first say they don’t know any stories before proceeding to tell a very unique story indeed. Many of those stories are about friendships between humans and animals.

I love the scope of subjects, characters and locations.  I also love the fact that she does not shy away from the difficult aspects of life. When children hear about characters in stories surviving such things and even finding courage or beauty under challenging circumstances – then that same resilience is reinforced and inspired in the audience.

Many stories end with a Q&A section where the storyteller can ask questions to test if the children have understood the storyline correctly. There is also a Myths from the Land of You section where children are encouraged to connect the story to their own lives and experiences.

This book is that rare thing: it unlocks emotions, ideas and a wild surge of creativity. Even I now want to take myself off on hikes around London and ask complete strangers to tell me stories about sparrows and crows (and may just do that for a day!) Stories about other subjects would be welcome too…

(Full disclosure: I was asked by HawthornPress to review this book as a teacher and author of a book about innovative work with children myself).

Imelda Almqvist, 9 November  2017, London UK

About the author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred Art.

Buy the book here…

More about Georgiana Keable here…

More about Imelda Almqvist here…

More about Pagan Pages here…