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.

I haven’t been here in a while!

I haven’t been here in a while, this is true. I have missed the interaction and the way in which I could get thoughts on paper and express myself through my blog. In truth, I have sourced another way of expressing myself – Teaching. I am nearly half way through a Masters in Education. I could not be happier. I have found a skill that suits all of my positives and challenges all of my negatives. I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone and constantly testing myself – and I have never felt so ALIVE!

Education should never stop, and I can honestly say if you want to feel alive get testing yourself. Your brain will thank you.

What I am currently reading, for those interested:

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An inspiring read. Will review shortly!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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We are all on a journey in life, sometimes it is bumpy sometimes smooth but it has a destination! So what we all do with the precious time our journey takes is SO important. We have no idea how long our journey will take so enjoying each and every moment, not just the big moments, is key. The reason why it is KEY is because all these little moments make up the journey!!!!

You can probably tell that I have unlocked some home truths. I haven’t been blogging in a while either. I have instead been securing some exciting career moves that is my focus to become a secondary school teacher. I only just confirmed my place to do a masters in education and also a forest school leaders course, all starting in March 2015! I can honestly say the last two years have not been the most enjoyable for me. I was a little bit lost, unfocused. The things I was focused on were not giving me anything back to maintain positivity. A big shift was needed and a little realisation that there is no point going through life not enjoying all the amazing positives already present. This my friends is a complete waste of time and using the journey metaphor for our life it is a complete waste of energy, energy that can take you anywhere.

Leading me onto the title of this blog Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I just finished it last night and I was so sad for the journey to be over. It was more that just a book for me, it came into my life at just the right time. At 26 years of age, Cheryl walked – by her self – 1100 miles along a trail known as the Pacific Crest Trail!!!!! Cheryl showed me that it is OK to have a shit year but it is how you get your ass in gear and move on through those times, that is the empowerment. She is an AMAZING lady and a worthy Queen of the Pacific Crest Trial.

I have also attacked my house removing anything, and I mean anything that I have held onto for too long, that doesn’t have any need or just needs to go. Yes all because of my new best friend Cheryl, who carried all she needed on her back for her entire journey. Inspired me to really crank my becoming minimalist approach to my life and the life of my daughter – my husband already takes this approach so he is always the one to ask why do we have so much stuff!! Clearing the clutter really does free up space practically in your home but also it frees up your mind and your time. Time to plan my hike somewhere, anywhere to relish my new found enthusiasm for LIFE.

It has been a while!!

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It has been a while since my blog has occupied that space in my brain that it used to burst out of. I put it down to a little bit of life take over….you know that thing that happens when you are to busy making plans!! First day at school for Eabha, weddings/holiday in magical Italy, starting a new job etc. and now it is nearly Christmas!!

Since my last blog post back in September, I have given myself all the time needed to figure out the direction of my future. I have struggled to figure out where my talents lie and how I can best use them, how I can stay true to myself and my beliefs as well as bring home the bacon. It is a difficult one but I think I have figured it out. I am currently enrolling in two different courses that I am excited about and will fill my new year with education and focus.

I had a hope that some of my other ventures would succeed but sometimes behind every cloud is a silver lining and failures give way to new beginnings. My mind can also take a break for the constant thinking and my body can take a rest from the waisted drain on my energy levels. I do know that my new path will open new doors and some of my ideas will grow organically without that constant energy drain.

So for now to coincide with my new beginnings I am getting rid of the old and yes buying some things new, the picture above was taken during a recent shopping trip. You can check out my go to website to help with clutter – Becoming Minimalist and see for yourself the power of a good clear out.

It is nearly a new year and I am gearing up to hit the ground running (as well as relaxing) and keep all my balls juggling in 2015!!!

Finding the right Pre-School can be a hard task!

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Children are so amazing they deserve the best environment to learn, play and above all grow. My daughter, Eabha is four years old and is due to graduate from pre-school next Thursday, sniff sniff!! I can’t believe myself that she is this old already, and starting school at the end of August….!

I have been extremely lucky with both experiences relating to Eabha’s needs. And as part of the free ECCE scheme I chose to send Eabha to  Smiley Sunflowers Pre-SchoolAs an earth scientist I practice a lot of outdoor nature based activities at home and recognise the enormous, and sometimes overlooked, benefits to child development nature can bring. Outdoor activities would be something I would look for in a well run pre-school, and Smiley Sunflowers are super at getting out and about to experience nature, gardening and the environments around us all.

Art and crafts are another major part in early child development and are quite high on the agenda at Smiley Sunflowers and some of Eabha’s work was pretty cool and we have a super scrap-book to look back on. The teachers are so sweet and so eager to assist in helping the children accomplish any personal goals they might have. The visible bonds shown from all the children towards Shanna, Mary, Erica & Mel makes you smile at the fact that you as a parent have got it right.

When a child is happy it shows and when they smile it makes the first leg of the journey (on the long and sometimes “winding” road of education) a really good one.

Hear is to my little one – Eabha Lewis, you are the bee’s knees and the cats pajamas. And to all of the Smiley Sunflower’s Class of 2014 you were a fab bunch and wish you all the very best. May the wind be always at your back – on that long and winding road of education 🙂



Making your office a little GREENER.

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Work takes up SOOOO much of our daily lives. The 9-5 routine is, for most, the back bone of our lifestyle. It funds our homes & hobbies and allows our brains to go for a daily walk and keep active – for most of us anyway ;)!! So shouldn’t the place of work be inspiring, fresh, healthy and of course GREEN – not only in colour but in the environmental sense too!

Studies have shown that when you introduce green plants into the work space they absorb pollution and any radiation from all those computers, but they also give out OXYGEN – boosting your brian cells!! Just putting some green plants on or near your desk actually has been proven to boost productivity and positivity amongst office staff! If your office isn’t keen on supplying plants than maybe ask if you can bring your own? It doesn’t need to be a tropical rain forest with you hiding within – just one or two green leafy plants will do the job.

Check out if the Office Supply Company you deal with have green alternatives for the items you regularly order. For example Viking Direct offer a large selection of green, eco alternatives down to the Post-it you use on a regular basis. It should be discussed with the person in charge of if some products could be swapped for an eco alternative, it makes a lot of sense.

The office kitchen, if you are lucky to have one, should have a recycling bin to maximise recycling. It is very easy to let recycling slip in the work place, remember it all builds up! Viking direct also offer The Green Sack a plastic refuse sac made from 100% recyclable materials. Use metal cutlery and ceramic cups to save on the HUGE waste generated from the plastic alternative!

For office cleaning try and purchase eco friendly cleaning products such as Lilly’s Eco Clean – Chemical based cleaning products are toxic and bad for everyone, so when cleaning the office it is wise to use products that will not cause harm to anyone.

Light bulbs are a huge cost factor within large offices and should be changed to the most environmentally friendly options. When leaving for the day do the obvious and turn off the lights, and also turning off lights when not needed is something when noticed is not done often within offices.

PC’s – screen savers do not save energy they use almost as much energy as when it is turned on! Use a extension cord to plug in all of your computer devices then switch it off at the mains when not in use.

Printing – set double sided printing as default. Only use paper with a high quantity of recycled content or paper that is certified as sourced using sustainably forested wood. There are lots of paper products to choose from like Xerox recycled supreme paper, made using 75% post consumer waste.

For the ultimate in Green office’s check out TerraCycle for some inspiration – those guys & girls take things to a whole new level!! Post about the revamp of the TerraCycle Jersey office here by Inhabitat.

DIY Coleslaw

So I had a half head of white cabbage in the fridge and I was looking to use it up. Hey presto less than 7mins later I created the yummiest, freshest and cost effective coleslaw EVER!

It’s all about the crunch of the cabbage and the sweet wetness of the carrot, also the key for me is seasoning, plenty of pepper and salt.

To make;
First finely shred a half head of white cabbage – I used sweetheart cabbage and add as much as you want but the ratio of cabbage to carrot is about 3:1

Peel and grate one carrot.

Finely cut a red onion. Add a good dollop of mayonnaise and season to taste.

You will never have a boring sandwich again with this baby! And get in the last of the BBQ’s as summer is slipping away fast.