Woodland Activity Leader Training (WALT)

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Do you have a passion for outdoor education and learning outside the classroom? Do you dream of learning how to lead your own outdoor sessions in a woodland environment?

If you are interested in enhancing your skills to lead groups in a woodland environment, training to become a Woodland Activity Leader will provide you with the learning and knowledge you require. Woodland Activity Leader Training is an accredited outdoor learning course and an alternative to forest school training.

This course is for anyone and everyone who wants to lead environmental education and outdoor learning sessions, or facilitate positive nature experiences for children, young people or adults. Whether this is as a parent, as an outdoor enthusiast or in a professional capacity.

OCN Level 1 Introduction to Forest School ethos & principles

The OCN Level 1 Introduction to Forest School Principles course is nationally recognised and is accredited through the Open College Network West Midland Region (OCNWMR). It is aimed at anyone over the age of 16 wanting to experience a taste of the Forest School ethos. It has helped practitioners to gain confidence in working outside with children and supported some to decide to go on with their training and become Forest School Leaders (Level 3).

Course Contents

During the two day training course we will be exploring key components of Forest School, including; the world of outdoor learning & where Forest School fits, knots and lashings, species identification, risk benefit, and a variety of hands on games and activities.

Introduction to Forest School Principles consists of 3 OCN credits contained in one unit of study: Introduction to Forest School Ethos & Principles.

The training equates to 30 hours of work and is a combination of training, a visit to an established Forest School and short written workbook.

Spring Celebrations – seasonal nature-based activities & crafts

This woodland workshop will explore ways to create simple seasonal celebrations outdoors. There will be lots of practical input and nature-based activities. Drawing on folklore, tree wisdom and the traditions of the Celtic festivals, we will also incorporate crafts using natural materials to make our own particular Spring celebration!

Please bring your own sunshine!

The course will include:
• An introduction to the celtic ‘wheel of the year’, associated folklore and festivals
• Ideas and inspiration for how nature and a range of natural resources can be used as a stimulus for exploring the seasons
• Creating & participating in our own spring celebration
• Deepen participants own connection to nature and the seasons.

This workshop is for anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of how the seasons can be used as a stimulus for learning and celebrating when working with all ages and abilities and/or for personal interest & understanding.

Suitable for: Teachers, Parents, Teaching Assistants, Early Years Practitioners, Outdoor Educators and Forest School Practitioners, Home School Educators, Play Workers.

Working with Challenging Behaviour in the Outdoors – OCN Level 3

A 3-day accredited CPD course with Jon Cree (unaccredited option available).

We will unpick theory, look at real life case studies, outdoor activities and have chats round the fire!

The days will be participatory and crammed full of tips, ideas, and activities that can be used in any natural setting. There will be time and space to consider specific issues that participants may be encountering with specific individuals in their care.

If you opt for the accredited option you have the opportunity of gaining a level 3 accreditation (worth 3 credits) from the OCNWMR (please note that this option requires some assessment via discussion participation and coursework to meet assessment criteria).

The course will include:

  • What do behaviours communicate and what is ‘challenging behaviour’?
  • The 3 C’s – models for working with behaviour
  • Why outdoors? – what needs does the natural world cater for?
  • Interventions & De-escalation – ways of working with behaviours
  • A ‘needs – based’ approach and what needs the outdoors satisfy
  • How to work with various ‘needs’ from neuro-typical through to various ‘attachment’ needs, including ASD, sensory attachments and more!
  • Self- care – Looking after ourselves
  • Working within Educational Settings, including policy & procedures.

This course is for anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of ‘challenging behaviour’ expressed by learners (of any age) and how working outdoors within a natural space can be a catalyst for change.

Suitable for: Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Early Years Practitioners, Outdoor Educators and Forest School Practitioners, Home School Educators, Play Workers.

Cost: £295 accredited or £235 unaccredited.

Lost Words – the art of nature connecting through words & pictures

This one-day CPD workshop with Jon Cree will explore our emotional and nature literacy through simple oral and wordsmithing, and sketching.

Through sensory activity and observation we will be looking at narrative of story, prose and poetry. When this is combined with simple sketch and painting techniques in the outdoors a deeper connection is made with the natural world.

The day will use Jackie Morris’s and Robert MacFarlene’s gorgeous book ‘The Lost Words’ to literally journal our way into nature. The day will be participatory and crammed full of tips, ideas and activities that can be used in any natural setting.

The workshop will include:

  • Ways of working outside through the seasons to build students observation and journaling abilities
  • Integrating a more holistic way of working outside combining literacy, art and science
  • Understanding how words and pictures can be used to support learning and nature connection
  • A range of outdoor, nature-based activities to start your repertoire to use with learners.

The course is for anyone wanting to enrich Literacy, Art, Nature Connection and Outdoor Learning opportunities through words, pictures and poetry in the outdoor environment.

Suitable for: Primary Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Early Years Practitioners, Outdoor Educators and Forest School Practitioners, Home School Educators.

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.