A nature school for teenagers.

This year has been full of really inspiring and positive things. I am currently 9mths away from completing a Masters in Education. This experience and course has been incredibly tough but as I have said before I have never felt so ALIVE!

Teaching through nature and natural spaces is something I have always wanted to do, but something I have been naturally doing my whole life. Attending forest school leadership training, Wilderness First Aid training and Coillte compass training this year, as well as holding down the MA and teaching in several schools (Geography and Science) has been a real juggling act. The opportunity to run a regular forest school was something I had always planned to do, and when the chance was present I jumped straight in.

Teenagers are so much fun, and to be honest, I fear they do not have the same level of natural interaction and constructive, non sporty “play time” outside than children of younger ages. This is why I just love to get them outside and have some fun. At the forest school last week, we spent almost 20 minutes rolling down a grassy embankment! This week the students spent over an hour constructing a trapeze swing and learned all about Calisthenics. One keen bird watcher heard a Woodpecker and lots of other birds and was able to teach the other students of her discoveries.

We have a very small group and we take start the session off really slowly with a few planned activities but the learning happens always by the interest of the students, and at their pace and involvement. It is inspiring for me as a teacher to have the interaction of students who allow me put into practice experiential, place based and relevant learning. I am able to pass on life skills and study skills in a very holistic way. My experience as a dyslexic student is invaluable to me now as an educator. I am able to teach mindfulness in a way that teenagers can enjoy and experience the benefits, without me even telling them that this is good for your mental health!

Anytime we light a fire we practice a mound fire and follow the Leave No Trace Ireland principles. We also only light a fire when on private grounds and permission has been granted. Below are two pictures of different types of fires, a Swedish Log fire and the mound fire. A mount fire is the best and most practical type of fire to set, it does not destroy the underlying ground, grass or damage tree roots or vegetation.

Simple palm drills are made using the holly tree and drill bits. Students love the responsibility of using tools and the task of creating something together to decorate the base camp area. Also when teenagers are around be sure and have a sure supply of food. We made baked bananas with chocolate buttons, s’mores and the staple hot ribena drink.

For me, I look forward to the two hour break away from my studies, the time spent outdoors is good for my head too.