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Episode 33:
Bringing the Outdoors into Mainstream Education

Guest: Linda Dupret


Marina Robb

Hosted by: Marina Robb

Linda Dupret standing by a tree

Linda Dupret

We're kicking off Season 5 with an inspiring interview featuring Linda Dupret, a former headteacher with extensive experience leading an urban-based primary school.

Linda's passion for the outdoors drove her to integrate nature into mainstream education. I believe it’s crucial to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible to connect with nature. Outdoor learning, including approaches like Forest School, not only boosts wellbeing but also creates engaging educational experiences.

In this episode, Linda shares how she incorporates elements like fire and tools into teaching and normalizes outdoor learning in everyday curriculum.

This conversation is packed with examples of offering a broad curriculum, enhancing emotional health, and fostering a sense of belonging through outdoor learning. 

In this episode, We dive into:

  • Reasons why teachers may be hesitant to take their classes outdoors for learning.
  • Whether a lot of green space is necessary to offer Forest School skills or outdoor learning.
  • How teachers can provide evidence of outdoor learning and its importance for Ofsted inspections.
  • The benefits of incorporating crafts, den-building, and fires into school activities.
  • How outdoor learning engages children, supporting multiple learning environments beyond the classroom.
  • The importance of teacher confidence in conducting outdoor activities safely and effectively.
  • Suggestions on how schools can fund equipment and basic resources needed for outdoor learning.

Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com 

Linda Dupret

Linda Dupret was born in Brighton and throughout her life, has lived near the South Downs and the sea, in East and West Sussex.

Her love of the outdoors started from a very young age, when she lived in the centre of Brighton with her grandparents until she was seven.  Their house had a huge garden and she would spend hours, often on her own playing in the wooded area at the far end of the garden and making dens and camps.

When she was seven, she moved onto a new estate at the edge of the South Downs.  It was here that she was first introduced to the wonderful world of Girl Guiding, becoming a Brownie in the local pack at the church hall and it was where she was first inspired by a leader. The Brownie Owl was wonderful, full of fun and adventures. 

She became a Guide, Sea Ranger, Young Leader, Assistant Brownie Leader, Ranger Leader, Guide Leader, District Commissioner, Division Commissioner, County Commissioner and County Camp Adviser and still does this role, training and supporting leaders to take their units away on camps and residentials.

Over the years she have been on amazing days out and camps/residentials, with a huge range of fantastic, committed leaders, both across Sussex, other counties and abroad.

Her love of camping and the outdoors came from her first camp at 11 years old at Tilgate Forest. They had a leader who was a teacher and used to take them into the forest for wonderful walks explaining all the fauna and flora, who later helped her become a Queen’s Guide.

Linda's first thoughts of becoming a teacher, came from helping, at the local Sunday School from the age of 12, with a class of three-year old’s, making them little books to colour and illustrate, after reading a simple bible story.

It was at about this time that she also became a pack leader, helping with 24 Brownies each week.

When she was 16, she went to work at Brighton Library, as she was always between being a librarian and a teacher, before applying for teacher training. 

She was not a great academic and only had 5 GCE’s which was the minimum entrance to train as a teacher at the time but in her interview, she talked at length about working with children at the Sunday School and with Brownies and feels this gave her the place at the teacher training college, in Eastbourne,  where she gained a Certificate of Education, with a Distinction for her final teaching practise and a Bachelor of Education Degree with Honours.

She qualified in 1978 and secured her first teaching post in Littlehampton at an infant’s school.

Linda always loved working with the Early Years age groups and her first class had 36 reception children, who all started on the same day, with no teaching assistant!

Over her career she has worked in seven schools, four in West Sussex, where she started her career, and three in Brighton and Hove.  All very different, in size and proximity to land and sea.  She has met and been inspired by many heads and deputies and some people whose style and interaction she would never copy!!!!

As an early years’ teacher, many of the skills and abilities she learnt in her guiding journey have supported and enhanced the children’s outdoor learning.  Reception classes always had outdoor and indoor areas, for independent play.  Play is a child’s work, and it is essential that they can move freely in and around the class with structured play opportunities.

In 2000 she became deputy and then acting head of an infant school and managed to improve the outdoor learning areas considerably.  It was a three-form entry school with large grounds and gardens. With the children and staff, they planned and improved the outdoor learning for the whole school and community.

In 2006 she gained her own headship of a one form entry primary school, in the heart of Brighton.   This was a church school with amazing grounds which had hardly been used.  Luckily, being left with a good budget to make improvements.

Over the years, they had two beautiful outdoor areas for reception and year one, canopied for all year use.  A wildlife garden with a pond and wooded area which they used for forest school activities and lessons.  A large back garden which was completely landscaped with a stage, assault course, tyre park, exercise machines etc. Tree seats for quiet reading etc.

The school was also very successful academically being in the top 200 and 500 schools, in the country, for key stage one and two standards, twice during her headship. They were consistently good and outstanding in Ofsted and SIAMS (church school) inspections.

At this time schools were given money for extended school activities.  So, a group of eight schools, in the city centre formed a partnership and combined this money, and decided to run a residential each year which Linda organised and attended entirely.  They gave urban children, many who had never been in a forest or wooded area the experience of a lifetime. Themed weeks with fire lighting, shelter building, stream walking, woodland crafts, scavenger hunts etc. She ran this and adventure days in local parks for other year groups for around 8 years before the money stopped and they had to fund it themselves.

Linda has always loved seeing children have fun and learn through experimenting in the outdoor world. These were some of her happiest teaching years!

She retired in December 2020 in the height of the pandemic and decided to develop a very small forest school business, running family days in the summer and at Christmas, in local campsites and small residential ‘s for schools, so she could use her guiding and teaching skills.

She still runs a guide unit and assists with a rainbow unit each week and still loves to see children achieve and gain new skills under her leadership. She have been blessed with amazing guiding and teaching colleagues over the years, who have helped create great teams to enhance the work.

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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)

Marina Robb: Hello, and welcome to the Wild Minds Podcast for people interested in health, nature based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Robb, I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programs for the health service in the UK.

Welcome back to the wild minds podcast, we're kicking off season five with Episode 33, bringing the outdoors into mainstream education. It's an inspiring interview featuring Linda Dupret, a former head teacher with extensive experience leading in urban based Primary School. Linda's passion for the outdoors drove her to integrate nature into mainstream education. I believe it's crucial to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible to connect with nature. outdoor learning, including approaches like Forest School, not only boosts well being but also creates engaging educational experiences.

In this episode, Linda shares how she incorporated elements like fire into teaching and normalizes outdoor learning and everyday curriculum. This conversation is packed with examples of offering a broad curriculum, enhancing emotional health and fostering a sense of belonging through outdoor learning.

Hi, Linda, I'm really excited to have you here on the wild minds podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. What we always start with is a bit of gratitude. And it seems that for me when I remember some gratitude, it settles me so I'm going to share something if you wouldn't mind, it'd be lovely to hear something from you afterward. Is that okay?

Linda Dupret: Absolutely.

Marina: So it seems obvious for me today to actually be grateful for teachers, and particularly the moments that I've had in my own life. And I've heard many, many times from other adults and young people that there was a special person at school or a couple of, you know, teachers at school that really made a difference. I remember being just spoken to in a particular way, just when I needed to buy a biology teacher. And I'm grateful for that. And I know that there are teachers out there that make a huge difference in young people's lives. And so that's my gratitude. How about you?

Linda: Right? I think it's about having people that believe in you isn't, you know, I mean, I was very lucky when I was, I think of my sort of later career when I was going for my headship. And it took me a while to get there if I'm honest, stem one, teacher, one. In fact, she was our school improvement partner really believed in me, and saw what I had to offer, and gave me the opportunity to work in other schools across the city. And she was the one who really helped me become a head teacher. So I've always been extremely grateful to her.

Marina: Well, that's lovely. It would be a good place to start really asking a little bit about your own journey, but in particular, why did you become a teacher? And then why did you decide to be a head teacher? What was it that compelled you or? Yeah, that pushed you to do that? Because it's not an easy job from what I've heard.

Linda: I've always loved being with children. I love to see them learn and succeed, even with the simplest tasks. And I think when I first started my teaching journey back in 1974, so it's a long time ago, but I was always a reception teacher. So I loved seeing the children just sort of light up in front of you, as they feel they did achieve things. And the early years children in particular, they'll sponges, aren't they do you know what I mean? They soak up everything you give them. So It's great to see the speed that they progress in that first year in school, and the magic of school, their reception teacher is always like a god in a sense, do you know that? They believe everything you say, and it's such a special relationship they have in the first year. And if you get that, right, that can set their attitude to education for the rest of their life. Really, it's such an important step when they first start school.

Marina: But how does that shift then being a reception class teacher, and then thinking, actually, you know, what I want to lead a school and in a way, you've already said, which is really interesting that, you know, we can be seen as gods, right? It being all powerful, and I wonder for you, why did you then decide to go on a leadership path.

Linda: I've always loved working with a range of people. And over my career, I've met some very inspirational head teachers, and some also lots of inspirational, you know, and, again, I sort of said at the beginning about people believing in you. And I think if you have a head teacher, that sees something in you, that gives you the opportunities as well, to go forward. And, you know, develop your skills, and take you out your comfort zone, because that's another thing. It's very different dealing with adults than it is for children. And I think some of the leadership skills that I developed and I know later on, we'll talk a little bit about my guiding and that journey, that gave me a lot of opportunity to work with a whole range of people both in and out of school, and a real inspirational leaders, you know, so I think, slowly, at first, I just wanted to be a class teacher. But once I'd done it for about, say, 12–15 years, I sort of thought, now I would like to go higher. And I was given an opportunity to be acting, acting deputies and acting head for a year before I got my main headship, which lasted 15 years. So I did meet an amazing array of people that that helped me along the way. And I think, you know, whatever walk of life you're in, you need those people that recognize the quality, that you can move forward. 

Marina: And it's amazing, because I am really well, I think it's really impressive that you've had so many years, both teaching and in a role of leadership. And I guess what I'm hearing at the moment is that it really matter to you, and please tell me if I've got this wrong, but it matters, that you know, being seen, you know, seen that children are seen and children are valued. And in a way, it gets me thinking that my experience as a primary school teacher, and as a teacher is, and I hear it all the time as the pressure of, you know, the curriculum and the subjects and all that kind of delivery. And yet what you've started to talk about before anything is seeing the individual seeing the person in front of you and seeing the potential of that person. And I guess it makes me curious about education, then, you know, what are these places schools? Are they to value and see the opportunities? And, you know, bring that out of a child? Or is it you know, about succeeding in subjects? Or is it both, I mean, you know, nothing is ever either or, from your perspective. You know, what's important in schools.

Linda: To me, it's about a broad and balanced curriculum, I think, sadly, now due to targets and Ofsted and SIDS, COVID, where children miss quite a bit of their education, the pressure has been on hip teachers to get results. And so the focus is gone. Although I say this sort of lightly in a way the focus has gone from, you know, having a more broad and balanced curriculum, to just achieving those targets. And children aren't machines, you can't keep putting things into them all the time. They've got to have that balance. You know, it's really important in their education, that they have a range of subjects, they have that chance to get outside. And not all children are academic. Some children shine at many different qualities and different talents. And we have to nurture all those. It's about getting to know your class, getting to know your children, getting to know your school, I think I always wanted to work in a one form entry school as ahead. And I think because every child knows you, you know, every child, you know, their families, you know, their backgrounds. You have, I was always on the playground every day talking to the parents, you know, and as were my deputies, you know, we took it in 10. So if they, you could get a flavor of what was going on and how you could help those children. And I think that's the joy of a small school. I think it is it and it's like a proper community and you get to know everybody. So you can tailor your curriculum, to nurture the talents that you see in those children. And my staff always worked very hard in creating a curriculum. That was to me, fun. It's got to be fun. If children have fun, they want to learn, that is the key thing. It has, you know, and nurture and always being positive. The best teachers I see, give, you know, so much praise for the littlest thing. And it's so important, we all need that even head teachers or whatever role you're in school, you need to feel valued, and nurtured and worked with that might sound a funny term, but you need to work together and make it happen, not just a head teacher can't just sit in their room, they have to lead by example. And I hope I always tried to do, yeah, not every day, but it was always tough on my priorities, you know, if I wanted them to do something, I'd find the evidence. So find the right opportunity, the right training as best as I could, within restricted budgets to make things happen. So I think, you know, each school, although you have the national curriculum can decide how that's delivered. And the topics and the various things, you know, stunning starts fabulous finishes we used to do. So you've everything that you've learned to real conclusion, and hopefully those children had enjoyed those opportunities they've been given.

Marina: I think the fact that you said that you stayed in, in headship for in one school for 15 years in an urban place, is testament to, for me that you've been doing things in a connected and a healthy way? Because you stayed you were there. And I mean, everything you're saying feels really familiar to me in terms of the importance of relationships, community, feeling that you belong, valued, and everything else but and yet, you also said, No, we are in schools being asked to almost farm children to have these results. And I'm always interested in this dynamic between external results, you know, being able to achieve X, Y, Z, and that actually, not necessarily meaning that much to a lot of children who have a lot of other stuff going on in their lives, who like to say may not be academic, and may be seen, as a result end up feeling that they are less than, and not able to, because they're being measured and evaluated all the time. So I'm wondering how, how you know how it sounds like you really worked with that. And really sort of circa here, I have the curriculum, and I know I need to do X, Y, Z, but I can actually change and develop it in a way that that feels more balanced, as you said, how did you do that? And you know, I know that we're going to start talking about the outdoors, because I know that we both share this love of the outdoors and nature. And to be able to give that to children. But how do you do this balance and broad curriculum? I mean, where do you start as a head teacher with that,

Linda: I think you had to be very creative. That's the first thing, because you've got all these areas you've got to cover. So I can remember when the national curriculum came in, I won't talk about the first one, because that's quite a long time ago, but the one that they use now, we literally pulled it apart, and looked how we could do history and geography, which things linked together. So that we put together a curriculum that was topic based. And then we looked at how we could have different activities to deliver that curriculum. So one thing you've already mentioned is my passion for the outdoors. When I went to that school, the outdoors wasn't being used. We looked at ways that we could get funding. So Sussex Wildlife Trust helps initially, and we did a fantastic wildlife garden. So some of the science could be done out there. We had a big pond, or you know, and they could do pond and all that sort of thing. Looking at nature within that environment. It had trees. So it was it was a beautiful little area that you could get a whole class out there. Around in the reception area. We looked at how we could encourage outdoor so that we had a canopy area so that children could go outside regardless of the weather. And we did the same in year one. We also had a big garden space at the back. So we looked at ways in fact that was used all the time. For reading. We put reading benches around the trees, you know so children could go out there we put a stage so And children could act out their stories in English or drama or poetry. You know, we had a sort of wooden castle built and a little trim trail things on it. So we looked at ways we could use our small environment because we're right in the middle of city center, to be used to help deliver the curriculum. And you know, so every time we could get the children outside, we would. And I think that made a difference both to their emotional health. And as my headship went on, we started to gain children with a lot of special needs, and especially autistic children. And that outdoor space was absolutely vital for them to have downtime to things that they could use, we had a few managed to get some funding for some exercise bikes, and they'd be out there, you know, using burning off the energy that they needed to. So it's about looking what you've got, also, this came down to money, when I first got money, it was a little more readily available, but also, we got a lot of grants from different organizations that help fund some of those areas. So, you know, I was very proud, by the time I left of all the things that we'd set up, that could include outdoor play, within the WeMo play, outdoor learning, is what I'd like to call it, you know, and making sure that children had some access to that every day. Now, I do appreciate that it's much easier in a smaller school, because you haven't got so many classes that need to access it. So you we would have timetables for different children to choose different table. But we always had, during lunch times, we always had children in the wildlife garden, yeah, with a teaching assistant, so that they could, you know, just play out their pick up sticks, make a pile Do you know, look at the bug hotel and things like this, all these different things could go on?

Marina: It's really amazing to me, because I'm, as you know, I've been involved in outdoor learning for a long, long time. And I often hear that staff lack confidence that they don't know what to do. And I've realized over particularly over the last few years that you know, that term that we're often our little silos that that actually, we I think that lots of schools are doing it, and then you find out what actually, I think there's a percentage that's only sort of 20% of schools in the UK or something like that actually go outside. So it's really, it's federal, it's fantastic to hear the examples that you've already shared. But it also concerns me that, and I probably got the percentages wrong. But you know, certainly there's a lot more schools out there, and had teachers that aren't feeling that they can, you know, bring those children outdoors. And it has something to do with the things I hear because I do a bit of research around this, I hear things like I said, confidence, resources is often a barrier. The other thing that comes up quite a lot, actually, which I've talked to Deputy heads around and head teachers for evidence. Like there's this the half to evidence learning. And I've often thought well, what do you mean, because for me, I've got loads of examples of how you could play with a tarpaulin, and that could be the maths in that. Right. But what do you think about some of these barriers? And as I said, this kind of evidence of learning because you must be interested in that because you're a head teacher?

Linda: Yeah, I think one of the things just talk about deception that they use, which could be used in other areas as well, is we used to use tapestry, which is a system that you use on the iPad. And so when children did a certain activity, and you realize they'd achieved that goal for the early learning goal, photographs would be taken off them, those can be shared with the parents. And you know, now, my granddaughter daughter's just started school. And I know, in her reception, they do that, but I think they do it in other years as well. They can take photographs, specific things that children have achieved. So they can praise that and parents can see it as well. So I think the evidence is much easier to keep now than it used to be much easier to keep. And also, you know, it's some with the digital age, we can do it so quickly. Obviously, there is the sort of safety and the data aspect of that, but with something like tapestry that's all included in it. Yeah, they have an access code to look at the photographs, and it's only if their child's and things like that. But it seems as though that's happening now in other year groups from what I can gather so I think, you know, to be able to have some of those and also when Ofsted come you've got photographs of the children, you can see I'm a governor at my granddaughters school and I was amazed. I went to work with the three the other day and they had these beautiful memory books on the floor because you know, and they, the children were showing me their learning journey. It was incredible. And they all had posted to where they started on a project, and then posts again, where they ended to show what they learn. And I felt that was very powerful. So I think it's much easier to keep evidence now than it was were much, much easier, right?

Marina: Because that is a comment I get, you know, because I feel. And of course, this is individual, and it's individual to schools. But there's this sense from teachers the pressure of the curriculum, that actually if they go outside and do an activity that they would see this as not being able to evidence that they've done maths or something or evidence science, although you've already given a wonderful example of, you know, being in a wildlife garden, thinking about sites, like how do plants grow, and having a conversation that you might have around that plant that they can then link? But it sounds to me that you think it isn't that difficult to evidence?

Linda: No, yeah, at all? Not at all. But then

Marina: I guess I wonder if it is coming from, you know, an idea then, or a head teacher or a teacher thinking? Well, I don't know that they can't do it? Because there seems to be this. Why are there so few schools able to integrate the outdoors into their curriculum? Do you think

Linda: I was thinking about this, and I think there can be various reasons, one can be lack of space, the size of school, and the spaces that they have, can really restrict what they can do. And for some, you know, small schools, that can be a bit of a problem. And curriculum pressures can be another thing, you know, if they're a school that's in requires improvement, or something like that, they are so focused on reaching those targets, and moving on. So that can be a reason why a lack of training. Unfortunately, you know, the training budget in most schools now is very low. Most things have to be done in house, they can't have external providers. So it's important that you know, your staff that when you want something new to happen, I said earlier on about evidence based, and making sure that they get the best opportunities to trial those things, because that's the thing, when you first start doing more outdoor learning, you've got to train your staff in your expectations, you also have to have when you're doing something outdoors, you have to have more involved risk assessments and things like this. So that you're, you're keeping the children safe. And when you set up an outdoor learning area, you've got to think of the spaces in between and things like that. So it doesn't get too cluttered, and you know, and also having a go, but some things, just starting off with a small group. When I did highlighting, I never had more than 10. And I'd always have two other people with me and the rest of the class, I'd give them an independent tasks to do. And then we'd rotate every 20 minutes, something like that. So it's about thinking how you organize that the activity that you want to do, and then you can get through everybody and everybody has equal share of the fun and learning. Yeah, I think that's what's so important.

Marina: I feel very I'm smiling here, because I can visualize exactly what you're saying, because that is obviously well, it's very similar. That's how I would suggest that you that you've got a big class, you say you've got an independent task going on. And then you might decide because this is almost where the guides come in for me, because the guides aspect in the sense that we both have trained and learned and enjoyed lots of what you could call for a school skills or physical activities or bushcraft basically in a fire. And again, this image of how could you do that with a whole class? Well, no, you wouldn't necessarily exactly as described, you might do that with a small group. Using tools, you might do that with a small group well as an independent task. And then at the same time, I'm smiling, because I really love that image of you saying in the year three group, how that there would you call them memory journals or something like that, like a memory book and I love what I love about that, for me is that participation again, it's like so the young people are participating in their own learning and journeys and you know, how they're creating those documents. And I often feel that that's missing a lot again, is this participation with children and hearing what they think and what they might want to do or how would that link to science or, you know, so here you are a head teacher who's been doing Hang fire making in their school. So tell me a bit more about that because I think that's quite unusual.

Linda: Right we use it. For example, one of the things we used at the end of year six was a survival day. So we'd have a classroom session first. And we think about all the things that we would need, you know, to survive. And if we were then in the jungle, or wherever, so we'd make it fun scenario, right, you've got to make your shelter, you know, these are the things you've got, you've got to pose a tarpaulin and a piece of rope. So you've got how you're going to do it. So we have discussion, I teach them how to do we use broom poles, teach them how to do some simple knots, things like this, you know, so I'd give them the skills before they go outside. Okay, so through the morning, they will build, build shelters, and then me being a cruel head teacher would go around with the watering can see. We're waterproof and things. So we just have, you know, just have a fun day. And I think for me, as well, it was so important to get out the office sometimes. So I loved doing those days, you know, and then in the afternoon, we would maybe do a scavenger hunt, we would do some fire lighting, all the children would have a chance to use the fire strikers and be taught to do properly, you know, and have the bucket of water nearby and making sure we're all safe. And we wouldn't make massive fires, we would make them in a calendar and make a calendar cost nothing. Little tiny fire toasts are marshmallows, or made or popcorn in the same things like this. So you were teaching them some skills, some already had a bit of an idea, quite a few. Were already maybe in guides or scouts or whatever. But it was such a fun day. And so that was one way I did it. Also in year one, we used to have special Outdoor Days. So we used to, I used to teach them fire lighting, we used to do as a cluster of schools out of 10 Park wood, we would do adventure days, and we'd have four or five, depending on how many schools wanted to come, we would have huge days, where we would do, again, fire lighting in small groups, I would have another Forest School lead that would come in and help me and we will do client making, we would do scavenger hunt all sorts of things size or trails, using their senses, you know, blindfolded going through trees holding around. So it's about using some extra days as well, just taking them away from the curriculum. And I'm giving them those opportunities, you know, and to me, that was important. And we used to run residentials as well, for the city center schools, we would go to a big center, not far from Horsham, that had the most amazing woods. And you could go stream walking. So I would take a whole week out. And I would organize it completely and take four schools at the beginning of the week, this year for us. Right? And then we'd swap over I use the Wednesday was a mad day. Because we had all of them there. Eight schools a class, you know, and then we'd swap over and have the other at the end of the week.

Marina: I mean, I just gotta say you just said stream walking. I love it. Just to kind of clarify because, you know, that's well, that's, I mean, for me, I would love to do that.

Linda: I would love to go I mean I can it's amazing. Yeah, absolutely loved one thing that they always remember. Yeah. And also it was a little tiny stream, where logs and trees have just fallen in. And so then it's not too deep. Although one year it was so we didn't have to stop. You climbed over, you climbed under. And we worked out various ways of doing it safely. And I always lead it because I always felt it was my responsibility as head to take the children through. And so but they love to have the giggles and the laughs and what was the one thing they remembered the most more than anything else was a stream walking and they still do to this day, I still run a residential for a local small and that's the one thing are we doing stream walking?

Marina: Yeah, they all hear about it's amazing. And I think there's like you say the senses that stimulated in that environment. Absolutely. I mean, it's so exciting. It's already like the sensors but also like so you can move things around to watch the way the water moves. There's like damn, what's living in there everything that's on your feet. Oh, yeah, it's just sounds wonderful. And it sounds risky as well. And I again, I'm just so I'm enjoying this combination of fun and risk and learning. You know,

Linda: I mean, if they fell in to be honest, they could just stand up again. It wasn't very deep. You know? So you do. As I say, there was only one year where we had in fact, I'm a little worried this year because we've had so much rain, that it could be a river rather than a stream. But, you know, by the time we go in June time, a lot of it is dried away. So you but then you do dynamic risk assessment, don't you? You look at something you see. It's a bit too deep. Okay. You know, you won't do it. Yeah. That's common sense. To me, you know, and you always have somebody on the side, somebody walking alongside a kid, he doesn't like it. I never force a child to do anything. You know, if you don't fancy it, you know, or you can stay by your teacher at the back because there's usually one of us in the front. 30 children, one in the middle one at the back. You've got all avenues, you know, yeah, they get a bit excited. Sometimes you do have to say, no splashing, because obviously there is no everything's nice in a stream. Let's put it that way. So you have to think about amor as soon as we get out. So just we get them out their hands or sanitize. They've used a rope to get out like a rope. Bridge. Ladder, a rope ladder. A ladder. Yeah. So they climb up there. Yeah. And, but it is memorable. And it's about making memorable learning. I think that's a thing to me.

Marina: It's lovely. I really feel. You know, I've heard of work with all ages. And I've remember a teenager, I may have said this before in a podcast, but I just remember her going. Like, I didn't realize adults have fun. And she was really shocked, kind of shocked. Like she hadn't seen adults laughing and giggling as well. And I think, you know, I see in you know, despite, I mean, you've probably got 30 years teaching behind you know, you feel your face is alive with when you're talking about these things. And I think they said memorable learning and memorable experiences. And you are modeling to them for kind of a sense of freedom, I think that they can have those experiences. And you know, started about, you know, well being really you mentioned that at the beginning and the whey protein nightly? Yeah, it seems so important. And it seems, you know, I want to be and I know, you feel similarly that we want young people to have access to these kinds of experiences, outdoor experiences, yeah, of course, music, all kinds of other things as well. But it feels like, for some reason, and I wonder if you have a view on this, you know, why? Why do you think education has dominated results and mass learning delivery, you know, phonics. I mean, I keep hearing about phonics takes hours in a curriculum, what do you think's going on? You know, you're an elder, you're getting there anyway. You know, I hope we all I think that's okay to say, you know, I think we need to listen to people like you, who have been doing this for a long time. But what would you say?

Linda: I think the thing is, it just comes from the government, doesn't it? And you've got people. I mean, I did go to the DfE, once. And this was to do with languages, but I met schools minister, and I could not believe what I was hearing. And I sat there and listened and listened. And I thought I can't stand this any longer. And I actually had to say, what I felt. And I was sort of angry, because they have such a, what's the word I would use? They have one target, they want to get to, you know, that they want all schools to get to. And this is offset driven as well, you know, because it comes down from them, although that's slightly different, because I think that does depend on the inspector, that come as well. But it's all government driven. They want results that they that's the thing, and they're not thinking of the children as children, but they're all different, that they can't all achieve these goals, you know, and it's about creating a curriculum that's right for them. We talked right at the beginning about a balance, and it's too far on literacy and numeracy now. Yeah, but you can get outside and teach those things as well, can't you? You know,

Marina: well, you can I mean, I think there's lots of research that supports that did

Linda: watch and when I went to my granddaughter school the other week, I watched a wonderful year six lesson, that was maths that they were doing outside. So they were doing coordinates and so she'd set the playground out like a map and they were having great fun but do you know they're remember that? Because it's much better than sitting in a classroom looking at a whiteboard? Because they were working together and Team, Team making and team players. And to me that's a fundamental of outdoor education as well, is that when you're making that den, you're working as a team, aren't you? You know, you've got six or seven children, or maybe more than that 10 Maybe depends on the dynamics of your class. And, you know, it's about giving opportunities for the whole child. And I think this has come so strongly through since COVID, since the pandemic, and was why when I retired, I started up my little forest school. It's only I don't do a huge amount. I'm retired now, so. But I try and give back to the youngest. I've always loved being reception aged children, and I love doing family days. So you also teach the parents how to do those activities with the children. And some of them are like terrified when you get fire lighters out with three year olds. Do you know what I mean? No, you teach them how to do it safely? That so thing? Yeah. And they're not frightened? And they're not?

Marina: Yes, I mean, I've heard I mean, we could we could talk. There's so many things. Yeah, but yeah, I feel like though, there's like teacher training I've understood, you know, increasingly, they're getting trained, and they don't get any outdoor experience. So you've got a whole generation that say, under 30 year olds, I'm told, yeah, that just don't have this risky experience of the outdoors. So we're kind of and that's concerning. But I also wanted to say that, you know, we've said that government has this kind of vision of results, and yet, isn't it? Well, gosh, there's so many things in that. And yet, we know, like what's coming in to the curriculum, next year is a mandate on climate curriculum, education, there's also mental health targets. And I'm just going to throw in there that a lot of these people empowering government, whereas we know have had access to an education that would have would have really valued cultural things would have valued going outdoors and playing sports and would have valued, you know, the arts. And so there's something I get, I do get as kind of like down there, down the ladder, I kind of get a bit like, well, what does that mean that we're just focusing on results? When we all know as you've so wonderfully said, we need a balanced and broad curriculum, we also need a balanced person who don't worry, we can't always be thinking all the time we need to be experiencing so how does it How does it head teacher? Or how does the school do that? And I'm not asking for I know, there's not one solution. But you know, we do need to think about what's coming up is things like climate change, and the way we're treating the earth. And my sense is that children, before we tell them about all the devastation, it's like, let's allow them to feel this experience of the wonder of the natural world. Right?

Linda: Right. And when I didn't know about the climate change aspects, I'm really pleased to hear about that. Because it's about teaching children to value their natural world, isn't it, you know, and not destroy us, we have done it for many years, unfortunately, everything comes from the head. So the way your school is run, and the opportunities that they give the children and their staff comes from the head, and the senior leadership team. So if they have had very positive experiences themselves, bath in the outdoor world, they're more than likely to give those opportunities in the school where they are. And as I said, when we modeled our curriculum at the beginning, looking for ways we can play some of these opportunities as well. So the children could get outdoors, you know, many things were every day outdoors as well, regardless of the weather. And I think it's creating that culture, that's the word I would use the culture in the school, so that it becomes the norm, that the children go outside NSA heads have to walk the talk, if they see you outside, if they see you enjoying it, because teaching is a bit like acting, I always say as well. You have to know 1000 ways to engage the children and the staff. I've had many staff said, Well, we've done that before. No, not necessarily in this way you haven't. Try new experiences. And it's about offering those experiences isn't it? It really is and letting people have a go. Because we all make mistakes. That's how we learn, isn't it, you know, the first session you ran as a forest school thing, or activity isn't necessarily going to go right. But then you adapt what you do, don't you, and you learn from your mistakes just as children do. And so it's about creating that culture, that it's alright, if it doesn't go completely, you know? And, you know, I know one of the questions you had put words about, teachers may be taking that risk and being nervous if they're being in an accident or something like that. And I think that's where you have to model what you want to do. And, you know, you model how you finalize, so that your staff see you do it, and then they can develop their skills, we did have in our partnership with schools, we actually paid for one of our teachers to do the full forest school training. And watching her confidence develop, and I got her to work with six children with autism, with their ins, their individual needs assistance, and just watching that confidence grow over the weeks as she did more and more. And I watched him as like a mentor to her, you know, so it really did improve. And the difference in those children, you know, was phenomenal. And I always remember one little boy coming up to be able to say, that's been the best day of my life, it took me a long time to light that fire on my little cotton wool ball on my shell. But I did it. And he she said he was like 100 times before it did. And it's about success as well. So, and the sense that gives you as a teacher, when you see that light bulb go on, there's no better feeling in the world, there really isn't. You know, it's, especially when you as a reception teacher, as I said earlier on, you do 1000 ways to teach the same thing that you and the day I was used to love the day the conservation of number came through, and they could do their number bonds to 10. It was like, wonderful. That's just one example. But you know, yes, we've got it, you know, or the day a child, suddenly, all the things that you've taught, they can suddenly read it suddenly there. And, and that's the joy of being a teacher, it really is to see those little, those little light bulb moments. And it's great fun.

Marina: So lovely to hear you speak so warmly about your profession, you know, that you've dedicated your life to, because I really do think teachers make a huge difference to children's lives. And I also think they can be problematic for some children, but I've seen so many examples where a child has, you know, been saved by a teacher, so I feel like I really want to support the teaching profession, you know, in what I do, as well. And you've said about training, and you've mentioned for a school so I just wondered a little bit about that. Because you know, as a as a trainer for a school trainer, which I am, you know, that model is obviously a model that is based on the six principles, which is very much about long term immersion, and about self esteem and self confidence of young people. Whereas I feel today, we've been talking more about, you know, outdoor learning and skills and being able to bring them in and out and the teachers to choose what they do. And I'm aware that you, by coincidence, actually did do the outdoor teacher training the online training and I wonder, do you think that is a fit, be honest, do you think that is a feasible support to teachers to kind of learn at their own pace? Do you think that is a useful thing,

Linda: what I found really good about that training was you could come in and out of it. So you could do it at your convenience. And I felt that gave me time, I liked the fact that you could reflect on each module. So you could go back and think, but it also made me aware of other opportunities, I could offer the children because, you know, we've all been doing the fire lighting in the den building and things like that for years. And I want to beginning the forest school, I wanted to have new ideas and new ideas of safely doing it. And I really liked some of the games that were on there as well, to get them started and get them engrossed in what they're learning, you know, and I found it incredibly useful. I did and I also had the I love craft. You know, so I there were some extra modules at the end which were just craft based. So to me that gave me some lovely ideas, you know, and I really enjoyed it. I found and Even now, because you can keep them. I go back, because you know, sometimes you just need your memory jogged a bit, you know, especially as you get older. I could go back, oh, yeah, remember that bit, you know, and think

Marina: the reason why I'm interested in asking is because, you know, before COVID, there is, even though these kind of online learning was there, I wouldn't, I would vote and I still think, you know, being in your body, being outdoors physically doing it, is what works. And but I'm really interested, as I said earlier, and I think we both are is how you get more children having these experiences, and I something about how so the online availability, it makes me think that could be a way of supporting with smaller budgets, people learning these skills and being able to offer them and I don't think that would ever replace, actually doing and I guess guides is the same, you know, you could go you could volunteer at guides and taking children now it's really me trying to think how do we get more children outside? And how can we give the tools to teachers or practitioners to do that, so that then the children can benefit? And it's a great, it's a big question for me, because it's so many children don't have that opportunity.

Linda: I think that's a really difficult one, because teachers and you know, we've talked about targets and things. So a lot of the training is round, literacy and numeracy things, it's around safeguarding it's the, you know, the emphasis has changed a little bit. So, but I think with the, you know, when Ofsted come now they're looking at the Broad and balanced curriculum. So they will be looking to see how you use your outdoor spaces and opportunities that the children are given. And, you know, even it's great to be able to do courses, and they are a reasonable price. But schools are really strapped for cash. And so their priorities for their training will be set over the year as to what they've got to achieve. And so but I think, with the infant, you know, the emphasis on mindfulness, mental health, I think, and the climate change, as you said earlier on, I think more and more people will be looking to this, to give the opportunities to children. So we might find that there is a rise in this, you know, all the, you know, children's mental health is key at the moment, isn't it, you hear about it on the television, and Facebook and, you know, on social media all the time, and children need to be outside, they need to let off steam. You know, and I think that the poor teachers over the last few weeks, with all this rain is not being able to go outside, especially the boys, they used to be like caged lions, they need to be outside, they need to go outside with the rain, absolutely. With the rain. It's the right clothes, not the wrong weather, you know. And, you know, a lot of these things you can do with forest school can be done very cheaply. You don't have to have mess of equipment, you can ask for it. You can ask your parents and friends, would you know, we'll know we'd love to send somebody on this course, we'll use you know, and so there are other avenues for funding for training. And the benefit for one person having that training could be massive to the school because you've got to choose somebody that's got the confidence to stop the enthusiasm to deliver it. Because when it's delivered, well, there's nothing better. And you know, children enjoy it so much that I've watched, you know, especially thinking of some of my autistic children at school, I've watched them just blossom is the word I would use because they can get outside there's not the restriction that they feel when they got sick lessons in a class. They can they learn more, they learn more when they're outside and they feel relaxed. That's that was one good thing that came out the pandemic, when we worked with the vulnerable children, all our autistic children had to come into school. So we had the time to give them one to one. And we could take them in the spaces in the garden. And those children actually thrived quite a bit through because they didn't have this. They weren't in a in a one class fits all scenario. You know, they had the space to go out and have one to one. And we timetabled their work right? You do 15 minutes outside then we do half an hour of this, you know? And so it was we had that flexibility And so it made a difference to the children.

Marina: Linda, you've inspired me. And actually, I feel incredibly hopeful because of the things you've shared because I just feel this is also a question of leadership and heartfelt leadership in a way that saying, you know, we can do this and it is possible. And I'm grateful for all those years that you've put in to these schools and these young people that I'm sure out there with these amazing memories. So thank you so much. Thank you so much, Linda for sharing your invaluable insights. Today, you provided countless practical examples of how to connect learning with tangible evidence, and innovative ways schools can integrate outdoor learning. building meaningful relationships with the natural world is crucial for appreciating its value, and fostering future citizens who understand and respect our environment. Join us next week for Episode 34, where I'll explore more examples of good practices in nature pedagogy, and begin a discussion around the upcoming Climate Education mandate in the UK. Thank you all for tuning in. And see you next time.

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild Minds Podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show. To stay updated with the wild mines podcast and get all the behind the scenes content. You can visit theoutdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at the outdoor teacher UK and LinkedIn. Marina Robb,

The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb.

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