Outdoor Learning: Bushcraft & Nature Studies
Our programme of Bushcraft & Nature Studies through years 7 8 and 9 provides the essential long term integral element of outdoor adventure learning that evidence shows is essential in order to maximise the benefits in terms of students personal social and emotional development.
Long term programmes such as ours have been shown to impact positively on young people's: attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions increasing independence, confidence, self-esteem, locus of control, self-efficacy, personal effectiveness and coping strategies. The programme also enhances students awareness and understanding of the natural environment, and their connection with nature.
What is Bushcraft?
Bushcraft is in essence, how to live in the world without being reliant on modern technology. It incorporates the study and practise of how to provide for essential human needs such as fire water and shelter as the first steps, but also encompasses much more. Learning is focused on using natural materials gathered in a responsible and sustainable way with minimal reliance on modern technology and equipment and an emphasis on working in harmony with, and with an understanding of nature. This may be as simple as how to light a fire or bake camp fire bread, but also includes other activities such as coppicing Hazel and making traditional woven hurdle walls for our roundhouse, making natural cordage, flint knapping, learning about plants and trees, and how they can be used, wildlife and how it effects the wider ecosystem, animal track interpretation, green woodworking, natural history and conservation.
Why do we teach Bushcraft?
Conventional Forest School programmes are a great first step on a child’s outdoor learning pathway, but are intended for early development, as children grow so the challenges provided by their outdoor learning also need to grow. This is necessary to maintain interest, introduce new skills, develop more complex ideas about the natural world and build confidence, self-reliance and self-belief, which is the essence of Bushcraft.
Studies in recent years in both Europe and the USA show a range of benefits to kids of outdoor learning and time in wild environments, both for child development generally, and particularly in managing stress and behaviour, and the Governments own White Paper from November 2015 identified a minimum of an hour a day of time spent engaged outdoors as essential to as child’s healthy development.
An increased understanding of the natural world and belief in their own ability to survive within it, increases children’s connection to, and appreciation of nature, builds confidence and enables them to conquer ever more new challenges and take pride in doing so.
How do we teach Bushcraft?
We have our own covered outdoor classroom complete with fire pit, and an Iron Age Roundhouse built with students where lessons are held covering a range of Bushcraft topics.
We teach the children a range of activities depending on age and ability, including: Fire lighting, camp cooking, shelter building, water sourcing and purification, green woodworking, plant and tree Id and use, animal tracking, stone age technology and much more. These lessons are delivered in the outdoors in our own woodland, and in a local 45 acre ancient forest, and are supported by field trips to learn about specific natural environments and wildlife.
We have been running an ever evolving Bushcraft & Nature Studies programme for 3 years now. We have developed a thin strip of woodland on the edge of our site which we use every week as an outdoor learning area with KS3 groups. Last year we finished building an Iron Age roundhouse on the site with help from the students. It is being used as an outdoor/indoor learning space for Bushcraft and Nature Studies and we are developing curriculum links for specific activities such as storytelling. We are partnered with a local woodland conservation group called FAB (Friends at Batchwood). We have participated in workshops and sourced coppiced hazel, oak shingles and clay as materials to build our roundhouse and students were involved from digging the footings to the final finishing of the building. This provided both historical learning and a fantastic all weather facility for outdoor learning lessons
John Muir Award.
In year 7 our students begin their outdoor learning with off site visits to a local Ancient Woodland which is particularly rich in wildlife and flora, where they take part in the John Muir Award.
The John Muir Award scheme is a conservation award run through the John Muir trust, an organization inspired by the Scottish conservationist whos travels and writing in America led to the inception of the world`s first National Parks. The scheme is inclusive for people of all backgrounds and abilities and requires participants to discover wild places, learn about them, take steps to conserve them and share their experiences with others. www.johnmuirtrust.org/john-muir-award