Have you ever tried to catch leaves as they fall from a tree? It’s not as easy as it seems, particularly if the leaves are dropping from tall oak trees on a breezy day in the Wyre Forest! Catching falling leaves was one of the simple but hugely enjoyable activities we indulged in with our grandchildren when they visited us at Ruskin Land during half term last week. Using the leaves, their varying forms and colours, to make beautiful patterns was another pleasant pastime.
Getting more children into the forest, to experience its simple seasonal pleasures, participate in play and learning, and be inspired by the beauty of nature, is one of the objectives we want to achieve here in the future. Educational activities are already an important part of the purpose of the Wyre Community Land Trust and there have been a number of successful events in recent years. Open Farm Sunday which takes place in June is reliably popular with families, I’m told, and last week the CLT hosted a lively Halloween event with activities ranging from apple bobbing, juicing, face painting and a display by the local group of bat enthusiasts.
Nature Deficit Disorder
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion in environmental and educational circles about the importance of enabling children to experience the natural world. ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is the catchy term used by the American Richard Louv to describe the effects of a growing detachment of children from nature in the modern world. His inspirational book The Last Child in the Woods, published 10 years ago, explores how this has happened and what we can do about it. His work I’m sure influenced the excellent initiative promoted by the National Trust recently, ’50 things to do before you are 11 3/4′. Louv also helped establish the children and nature network whose vision is for ‘a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives.’ The network’s website is a useful source of information on how to enable children to experience and enjoy nature.
These initiatives will inform our approach to providing new opportunities for children to experience and learn about the natural world at Ruskin Land in the Wyre Forest. There is a lot we can learn from the Forest School Association and the work of the Sylva Foundation which was set up to help revive Britain’s wood culture. Their online resource One Oak has been used extensively by primary schools across the country.
Learning through doing
Most importantly, our approach will be informed by John Ruskin’s thinking, particularly his emphasis on learning through doing and on the links between nature and creativity. Ruskin believed all children should be taught to look and draw in the same way as they are taught to read. He also believed strongly in equality in education. We want to enable children from all communities, including those with physical disabilities, to come to the forest so that everyone can have the chance to catch falling leaves and use them to make beautiful patterns.