Early Childhood Outdoors: Being at Home Outside

With your involvement, this development day will be a shared opportunity to:
• Grow and strengthen the ‘meshwork’ of those sharing the mission of increasing the amount, time and quality of experiences outdoors for all young children;
• Hear how the work and action of Early Childhood Outdoors is developing;
• Consider how involvement in the ECO meshwork can support both your current work and what you want to achieve;
• Meet other outdoor champions from across the UK and spark possibilities for collaboration;
• Map out ways to grow the momentum for outdoor play in the UK.

Where?  The Showroom, a unique cultural hub situated in the heart of Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter and opposite the main train station
How can I get there? National links by rail to Sheffield Station are good and ample nearby parking by QPark is half price for conference delegates (Charles Street only but NOT the QPark at the station).
How much? We are very keen to have you join us, and as PlayGarden and Muddy Faces are once again generously supporting the event, we have been able to limit the cost per participant to £65.00 per person, including refreshments and a great locally sourced lunch.
To register, please return the Booking Form to Jayne at info@earlychildhoodoutdoors.org


Niki Buchan has developed a reputation as a strong advocate for children’s right to a high-quality childhood, with a deep concern about children’s mental health and trauma. Trusting children as being capable and competent, able to assess and take their own risks and face challenges, she believes all children have a right to regular access to nature and to have their voices heard in matters that affect them. A leading voice in promoting nature-based practice, Niki
works internationally as a conference keynote speaker, nature pedagogue and mentor, and has been invited to work in the UK, USA, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, SouthKorea, China, Norway, Denmark and South Africa. Also award-winning author of Children in wild nature: a practical guide to nature-based practice, Adventurous play and STEM Detectives, she is mother of four adult children, an adventurer, keen photographer and is usually surrounded by children!

Sue Stokoe is Headteacher of Boldon Outdoor Nursery School in South Tyneside, North East England. For the past 13 years she has had the pleasure of leading staff, parents and governors on a journey to develop the nursery from the traditional stand-alone maintained nursery school it was to the award-winning and internationally-renowned centre of excellence it is today. The nursery school operates outdoors for over 90% of each session, learning in and with nature through its seasons and elements.

Conference Programme

Conference programme includes two exciting keynotes plus plenty of time for networking and professional discussions

10.00 Arrival, registration and refreshments
10:30 Welcome and introduction: Jan White
10:45 Niki Buchan, international education consultant with Natural Learning Early Childhood
Consultancy in Australia. International perspectives on nature based provision and practice
11:45 Coffee break & exhibits
12.00 Meeting, sharing & networking discussions
12:45 Dandelion Award followed by lunch & exhibits
1.45 Sue Stokoe, Head of Boldon Outdoor Nursery School (TES School of the Year winner 2016). Becoming and being an outdoor-focused maintained nursery school: starting points, challenges, successes and aspirations
2:45 Early Childhood Outdoors coordinators – sharing developments in the ECO meshwork and our strands of activity
3:30 Moving onwards and upwards discussions
4:30 Summary and close.

Earthwalks with Jon Cree

Earth education is the process of helping people of all ages live more harmoniously and joyously with the natural world. One of the most commonly led earth education vehicles for encouraging people to connect to nature in a deeper way is an Earthwalk.

Earthwalks foster feelings of joy, kinship, reverence and love for the natural world – ‘a light, refreshing touch of nature that focuses on reawakening individual senses and sharpening perceptions in the natural world’.

“Earthwalks, an alternative nature experience” is the new Earthwalk book packed with old and NEW sensory based activities. The book works alongside the workshop to help with the ways of planning for and delivery of earthwalks.

This new publication is the culmination of many years work by the international organisation, the Institute for Earth Education, renowned for it’s earth education programmes and training workshops. This workshop will be delivered by one of the I.E.E.’s accredited trainers; Jon Cree.

What you will gain:

An introduction to earth education and where Earthwalks ‘fit’ in our programmes
A chance to plan and review your own Earthwalk
Experience two different Earthwalks
In-depth analysis on leadership, mechanics, and flow of an Earthwalk
Tools and confidence to lead earthwalks
An update on earth education developments

Date: 6th April 2020.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree.
Cost: £95.00.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex.
Time: 09.30 – 17.00

Nature Play & the Therapeutic Space (two-day training)

An experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces.’ No previous experience is necessary but would suit people working with children or young people. This two-day training has been created to help those working with groups of young people and children to understand why some children present difficult behaviours and are unable to participate in the group activities.

You will develop your facilitation skills and ability to work with children that present difficult behaviours and explore therapeutic nature-play skills (e.g. reflective communication and use of puppets & sand) which will engage the group of children and individuals building their emotional regulation, curiosity, imagination and well-being.

The course will include:

Therapeutic nature play.
The Forest School Continuum.
Exploring effective strategies for working with children displaying vulnerable and challenging needs.
Establishing Trust: understanding the fundamental importance of safe space/s and how to utilise it.
Psych-ed: Understanding difficult behaviours and the connection between sensory input, emotional response and behaviour (with the impact of ACE).
Explore your own triggers and inner landscape.
Play ideas: child-led and adult-directed e.g ropes and clay.
Key communication strategies: creative, reflective and empathetic skills.
Increase the tool kit to include more sensory-based games.
Develop understanding of Attachment Theory and how it relates to emotional insecurity.
Play skills include sand, puppet and music.
Day one

Theory: Child development and attachment; How to grow a brain, Psych-ed; Importance of nature in childhood; Sensory Play and Stress; Group Dynamic: Importance of connection to others; 7 basic emotions; Exploring your own triggers & inner landscape.
Activities: Role-play: The brain, baby to adult; group work to develop your skills and confidence. Group games and sensory experiences – forest school approach and the creative use of clay.
Day two

Builds on the outdoor skills of participants – e.g. using ropes, puppets, story making.
Setting up your space – tarps, shelters and safe dens.
Importance of risk and challenge. Focus on the need for individual therapeutic play when working with groups and developing skills.
Theory: The Axline principles; Toxic Stress; Eric Berne: Drama Triangle; Attunement; Principles of child-led play – nature play/therapeutic play; Communication skills – instruction/reflection; Safe boundaries & Health and Safety in the outdoors; Risk Assessment; Directive/non-directive.

Date: 22nd & 23rd April 2020
Lead Facilitator: Kate Macairt and Marina Robb
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP
Cost: £175.00
Time: 09.00 – 15.30

Mindfulness for Teacher’s own Wellbeing – EYFS, KS1, KS2 & above

Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at that moment — free from distraction or judgement, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.

That might seem easy, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future.

Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood, levels of happiness and well-being.

People that incorporate it into their lives also report higher levels of patience and compassion as well as lower levels of stress, frustration and sadness.

The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A natural environment reverses all of that.

Time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention – our ability to be more mindful.

This course takes place outdoors for the majority of the day, please dress in outdoor clothing and bring warm layers, waterproofs and both indoor and outdoor footwear.

Nature Connections 2020

The 6th interdisciplinary conference Nature Connections Conference will provide a platform for sharing the latest research evidence on the links between nature connectedness, wellbeing, climate change, and biodiversity and pro-nature behaviours.

Key themes will include:

  • Nature connection through the arts
  • How nature connection can help with social isolation and loneliness
  • Nature connection and wellbeing
  • Child and adolescent nature connection
  • Nature connection, biodiversity and pro-nature conservation behaviours
  • Nature connection, climate change and eco-anxiety

Keynote speakers

Dr Matthew White, European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter

Matthew White, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. An an environmental psychologist, his interests lie at the intersection of natural environmental, health, and wellbeing. Dr White is recognised as a global leader in this area of research. He has presented research findings to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. His work emphasises the importance of reconnecting with nature for sustainability and for the health and wellbeing of both humans and the greater-than-human natural world to which we belong.

Dr Elizabeth Nisbet, Trent University, Canada

Elizabeth Nisbet, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. She is one of the foremost early researchers and experts on individual differences in subjective connectedness with nature and environmentally sustainable behaviour. Among her contributions to this field, Dr Nisbet led the development of the widely used Nature Relatedness Scale. Her latest research interests include examining links between nature relatedness and particular aspects of nature.

Dr Nisbet will be joining us by video.

Professor John Zelenski, Carleton University, Canada

John Zelenski, PhD, is a Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and leading researcher in the area of nature relatedness. He has received over $1m in research funding and heads the Happiness Lab at Carleton. Professor Zelenski’s work includes examination of the psychological and social benefits of nature experiences for children and the emotional benefits of a close relationship with nature.

Together, Dr Nisbet and Professor Zelenski have examined the distinct role that nature relatedness contributes to our basic need to feel connected, how people underestimate the beneficial impact of nature on happiness, and how being mindful in nature enhances connectedness and mood.

Professor Zelenski will be joining us by video.

One-day conference registration fee for students is £50 (please send a copy of your student ID to conference@derby.ac.uk to validate the student rate).