Meet our new Community Gardeners
Christine – Hello. I’m the new community gardener. I’ve been in the community development field for 35 years and I’m now working as a freelance gardener as it’s been my life long passion. I’m here on a Wednesday from 11-1 and I’m looking for volunteers to help prepare the community garden for Spring. I can’t wait to get to everyone and cook a big pot of soup with our produce next year!
Christine, Community Gardener
Stacey – I’ll be working with the gardening project as part of my university placement. I am currently in my 3rd year studying Community Development at the University of Glasgow. I’ve been in the community development sector for 5 years and in the past 2 years I have been leading a gardening project for young people where they have the opportunity to learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables and cook yummy meals with their produce! I’m passionate about social change and equality. I can’t wait to get to stuck in and get my hands dirty! I hope to see you soon!
Community Development Worker
Stacey is also one of our youth workers at the G20 Youth Festival. More will be on here about that project soon.
Awesome Childhood Experiences
Earlier this year I attended an event with speakers discussing the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – the public health implications of early adversity on later development. At that talk childhood campaigner Sue Palmer said something that struck a chord with me. She used a phrase Awesome Childhood Experiences. I loved the play on words, but it also described to me what I, and my community, have been working towards for the last 7 years – a different childhood experience for children and families in our area. The Children’s Wood project began with the intention of making childhood (and adulthood) a more nurturing, tolerant and meaningful experience for people locally. To do this, we have facilitated regular outdoor community activities on our local wild space – The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow – and we now have a strong community feeling around the land.
You might wonder why we need an alternative, what’s wrong with the way we bring up children? Childhood is thought to be a time when children feel loved, supported, nurtured and are free of stress. However, sadly, this is not how many children feel growing up. For many children it’s a toxic, stressful or unsafe experience. Mental and physical health issues are impacting upon children as young as 5 . Because of this, there is a growing movement of people campaigning for a more nurturing, and developmentally appropriate, childhood. I think the Children’s Wood demonstrates two important ingredients which are missing from the lives of many children, but which can play an important role: community and nature.
Community has played a central role in the work we do at The Children’s Wood. It helps children to feel part of something bigger than themselves; part of a wider support network. Getting to know people of different ages, and from diverse backgrounds, builds empathy; children will learn about the struggles others have gone, or are going, through, and that we are ‘in it together’. It also builds trust in others since through our communities we will inevitably meet and get to know our neighbours. Being part of a community brings problems to be solved – we’ve experienced this many times through our campaign to stop a housing development and to get people outside into nature more. Collectively, more can be achieved since it’s easier to support the whole family as well as the child.
Community is needed more now than ever, it is far too easy to be connected to social media and electronic devices. These feed addiction and stop us from connecting with each other and feeling alive. It also breeds a kind of individualism that can undermine our healthy social, emotional and physical development. Relationships are key to making us happy and through community life we can develop these bonds with other people. Social Scientists have studied happiness levels and time and again they have found that our relationships are THE top factor in making us happy.
It is not surprising then that when relationships breakdown- and attachments are broken – children suffer. Attachments are central to us living a meaningful and healthy existence. The research into ACES highlights how toxic and long lasting the breakdown of relationships in childhood can be – this is because the attachment has been damaged in some way between the child and the adult(s). This then impacts on seemingly unrelated outcomes such as crime, physical health, mental health and even life expectancy.
The great news from this research is that there is hope. Relationships can be repaired and the wider community can help with this. Attachments can be forged with people out with family: teachers, police, youth workers, shop keepers, neighbours, community workers, volunteers and so one. These figures – YOU – in the community have the power to transform children’s lives and build resilience. All it takes is small acts of kindness or unconditional love.
YOU in the community have the power to transform children’s lives and build resilience. All it takes is small acts of kindness or unconditional love
This is where nature comes in. We have an in built connection with nature that is primitive and hardwired. Biologist E.O. Wilson describes this as ‘ the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’. Wilson developed a theory around this called Biophilia which supports the idea that we are biologically hardwired to respond to nature. We need it, just like we need social interactions. Being in greenspace for even 10 minutes can help us focus better, a walk in the park can reduce symptoms of ADHD and depression, playing in wild spaces increases resilience and the list goes on. Nature will always be there. A child can climb a tree and feel relaxed when life gets stressful or there is trauma at home. The tree, and nature in general, will provide some level of nurture and relief to that child.
Sadly, children are becoming more disconnected from the natural world than ever before, and they are suffering because of it. Children need to have contact with nature and until fairly recently they have always had a relationship with the natural world. If you go back in time you will find that children would have either played or worked on the land; we are now seeing the virtual disappearance of this type of childhood activity. Environmental writer Richard Louv has brought this to our attention in his book Last Child in the Wood. Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder to explain the unhelpful behaviours associated with a lack of nature. Being in nature can reduce these symptoms and build resilience, happiness and well-being. This makes it important for us to look at how we can structure our communities so as to increase children’s access to greenspaces and reconnecting childhood to the natural world. This can happen locally in the heart of communities by cleaning up and utilising local wild and greenspaces.
Even more powerful though, is when both nature and relationships coexist like they do in the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. When the two factors – community and nature – come together we have something very special. When this happens the child is being nurtured by two of the strongest influences in their environment; both of which build attachments and resilience. Facilitated community activities bring these two elements together and can build a more nurturing and rich environment for children and the wider community. I believe this is a great model for creating Awesome Childhood Experiences and I hope that more people take on their local wild spaces for changing childhood for the better.
by Emily Cutts
Take Me Out
I went along to the Take Me Out training a couple of weeks ago at the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park after being invited by Heather Douglas the Early Years Lead at Glasgow City Council . The course was led by Matt Robinson from Grounds for Learning (in England it’s known as Learning Through Landscapes) and the aim of Take Me Out is to promote a much more proactive approach to getting children outdoors into nature in the early years. They hope to do this by sharing good practice from across Europe and providing resources for people to use.
The Take Me Out project has run for two years, sharing the best practice in outdoor play in Slovakia, Estonia, Denmark and the UK. Developed by Outdoor leaders and practitioners in all partner nations. Through this project they have developed a range of resources and ideas for play and learning outdoors as well as training. Here is a video summarising the learning from this international collaboration.
For those of us who have been immersed in the research and practice for many years a lot of what came out of the day was not new, however what was different was the commitment and passion to really make change. It was brilliant to see the useful and supportive work that came out of the Take Me Out collaboration. The training day allowed us to take a step back and be playful outdoors as well as reflect on good practice, misconceptions about risk and how to get our children playing outdoors in all weathers.
Through my previous work as a Psychology Researcher at The Centre for Confidence and Well-being and my background in working in the early years, I remember learning and writing about the problems of the lack of time outside in nature for children and how they were suffering as a consequence. Back then, over 10 years ago, it was definitely a counter cultural argument and it was difficult to get people to take the issue seriously. This has changed. There is now a much more focused effort to make practical changes to how we think about the outdoors in the early years. This change is thanks to the many people working to spread the word as well as the training and development happening across Scotland and also further afield.
Inspiring Scotland who are a major player in the move to get Scotland’s children outdoors have been collaborating with eight local authorities, thanks to Scottish Government Funding. They are developing outdoor learning as a way to meet the Scottish government’s commitment to a near-doubling of funded childcare. The government has committed to providing 1,140 hours a year for all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds by 2020
Inspiring Scotland in collaboration with Glasgow city council are already implementing this idea in three of its most deprived areas – Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Tollcross . Go2Play, the Jelly Piece Club and Peek are collaborating with the council on these exciting projects to make outdoor learning. It’s so exciting to see real change taking place and that this could make a real and positive difference to the future of many children in Scotland.
At the Children’s Wood we are already supporting local nurseries (and primary schools) to get outside more and we hope that we too will continue to support those local nurseries through this initiative so that more children, especially those who really need it, get this opportunity.
If you are looking to get your children outside more then The Take Me Out handbook is really useful for teachers and educators working in the Early Years, you can download a FREE copy from here
We’re looking forward to disseminating some of the research and ideas to share with you. Keep an eye out on our Facebook Page for more information
Benefits of Nature for Children with Autism
We have noticed how much autistic children can benefit from spending time outside in The Children’s Wood and Meadow and how this impacts on their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to support the National Theatre for Scotland’s performance of The Reason I Jump this June. We hope it will raise awareness about the value of the outdoors to the life of children and young people with autism.
There is an ever increasing number of restrictions being placed on children’s opportunities to play outside in nature and, as a consequence, they are suffering. This disconnect with the natural world can be linked to higher levels of anxiety, obesity and can impact on children’s learning process as well as their social and emotional development. We believe this same disconnect is happening for children with autism.
During the last decade or more the research has been developing to highlight the impact of nature on the healthy development of children and young people. This research has shown us that symptoms associated with childhood challenges such as ADHD can be reduced through spending time in nature; for example, less anxiety and improved concentration. One area that is less well researched is the impact of nature on children with autism, despite autism being the fastest growing neurodevelopment disorder facing children. However, this is slowly changing and we are now seeing studies emerging which demonstrate the impact of greenspace on children with autism.
This research builds on a previous body of work which demonstrated that autistic children who have interactions with animals have more focused attention, social interaction, positive emotion and speech (O’Haire, 2013). This has led researchers to focus on the benefits of the outdoors more generally and we are seeing that nature is relevant for children with special educational needs (SEN)
For example, Wu and Jackson ,2017, found that children who live in areas with less greenspace show a higher prevalence of autism. The authors say that having access to greenspace may influence autism rates, saying that
“Our study suggests that green space, specifically tree cover in areas with high road density, may influence autism prevalence in elementary school children beneficially.”
Another study (Chang &Chang, 2018) found that outdoor activities provide 7 main benefits to children with autism, including promoting communication, emotion, cognition, interaction, physical activity, and decreasing autistic sensitivity. This is a small but encouraging study and supports anecdotal observations of the impact of nature on children and young people with autism. This also fits with our observations at the Children’s Wood where we notice quite obvious positive changes in behaviour, stress levels, communication and sociability of children with autism.
Taking learning outdoors is very important for children with autism who, along with other groups, can struggle with classroom-based learning (Rickinson et al., 2012). It can help to make learning meaningful and enjoyable for the learner and we notice this in the wood, children are happy and engaged when they come to use the land for outdoor learning.
Natural England Report (2013) has studied school perceptions of access to and the benefit of nature. What they found was that there are three main benefits of outdoor learning: supporting the curriculum (bringing the curriculum to life); skill development (social skills and well-being); and personal, social and health education. The report provides “strong recognition of the importance of varied learning environments and the need for more creativity in the curriculum.” and the outdoors can play a vital role.
When the Children’s Wood first began we noticed the impact of nature on children with autism, in fact the change was so noticeable and motivating that we have continued to support these groups coming to the land for outdoor learning since the first sessions in 2012. Having spaces nearby is vitally important to families, and can encourage people who live locally to return to the land with their child out with school. We’ve had positive feedback from parents and families that the land has been very important to their family life. For example, one local parent (who has more than one child with autism) told us that this is the only place her children like to come where they feel happy and relaxed.
We hope that the upcoming National Theatre for Scotland production of The Reason I Jump will raise awareness of the benefit of being outdoors in nature for children and adults with autism and will encourage people outside more. It is an important issue which needs more public awareness and so we were delighted to be the venue for this performance.
- Chang, Yuan-Yu & Chang, Chun-Yen. (2018). The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Children with Autism.
- Hart, R. A. (1995a). Affection for Nature and the Promotion of Earth Stewardship in Childhood. The NAMTA Journal, 2, 20, 59-68.
- Natural England Report, 2013. Engaging children on the autistic spectrum with the natural environment: Teacher insight study and evidence review
- O’Haire, M, E. (2013) Animal-Assisted Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal Autism Dev Disorder, 43:1606–1622
- Rickinson, M., Hunt, A., Rogers, J. & Dillon, J. (2012) School Leader and Teacher Insights into Learning Outside the Classroom in Natural Environments. Natural England: London.
Reclaiming Wild Spaces for Children to Play
Sunday 3 June
We’re organising an event around the idea of utilising derelict and vacant land for children to play. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Scottish Derelict and Vacant Land Survey and we want to celebrate this by encouraging people to utilise their local spaces for children to play We believe that children playing outside in their community will make local spaces safe and this will bring the wider community together.
Children (and adults) are not spending enough time outside in nature and as a result they are suffering. Mental and physical health problems are at an all time high, while time spent outside in wild spaces is declining. This is where we believe derelict and vacant land can play a role in helping facilitate community use of local wild spaces.
This event is in collaboration with both the RSPB Glasgow Wildfest and the West-end Festival 2018.
We’ll be posting more information soon. For now, this is what you can expect.
- Practical activities for children to participate in e.g. seedbombing, planting, outdoor play, loose parts play
- Talks and workshops around utilising derelict and vacant land for children to play. This is aimed at anyone interested in doing something similar to the Children’s Wood or those working with children. Talks include Emily Cutts from The Children’s Wood, Sue Palmer from Upstart, Alan Sinclair author of Right from the Start a Postcard from Scotland book
- Opening of the beedookit – Kathy Friend’s innovative project to bring honey bees to community spaces
- A performance of the Man Who Planted Trees by Puppet State Theatre production at Shakespeare Youth Club. 1pm.
Children’s Wood Easter Outdoor Holiday Club
The Children’s Wood Outdoor Holiday Club
Join us in the woods this Spring for outdoor adventures and play !
Booking for each session will close at 3pm the day before, please book in advance to avoid disappointment. Spaces are limited BOOK NOW
WHAT IS IT?
A week-long programme of outdoor activities!
• Throughout the week your childcare will be covered and your children will spend their holiday playing outdoors and connecting with the natural world. There will be plenty of time for children to play and explore the woodland and meadow and also take part in organised activities if they choose. Please note that we may also go for walks to other local parks and wild spaces in the area.
• Using the booking form you can book your child on for individual days or for the full week.
• The final plan for the week will be confirmed nearer the time but will include a variety of activities to suit all age ranges, including:
o Lots of child led outdoor play.
o Woodland games.
o Natural arts and crafts.
o Nature awareness and walks.
o Fire making and cooking.
o Whittling and tool use.
o Bush craft skills.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
• Each day that your child attends the club they should bring with them
o Warm and waterproof clothes.
o Sturdy boots or wellies.
o A full change of clothes.
o A packed lunch, snacks and drinks for the day.
• We will be outdoors all day, whatever the weather and we will definitely get mucky while we are playing. Please do not wear or bring anything valuable in case it gets lost, broken or weather damaged!
WHERE IS IT?
• The Outdoor Holiday Club will take place in The Children’s Wood and on North Kelvin Meadow – we may also go for walks to other parks and wild spaces in the area.
• The drop off and collection point will be the entrance to North Kelvin Meadow on Kelbourne Street, across from the Scout Hall.
WHEN IS IT?
• The Outdoor Club will run every day from Monday 9th April to Friday 13th April.
• Drop off at 9am and collect your child again at 5pm
WHO IS IT FOR?
• This is a drop off session for children aged 6 – 12 years old. Parents can drop their children off at 9am and collect them again at 5pm.
Our team of experienced and qualified adults will lead the Outdoor Holiday Club. Joni will meet you as you drop off your children and confirm all the contact and emergency information you have provided is up to date. Joni is an experienced Forest School Leader, who holds full insurance for leading outdoor activities as well as an outdoor first aid certificate and up to date PVG.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE THE OUTDOOR HOLIDAY CLUB?
• The Children’s Wood Holiday Club provides an opportunity for children to play outdoors in nature and take part in activities that are perceived to have an element of risk. Following the Forest School ethos we will support your children to follow their interests, develop their understanding and respect for the natural world and have the opportunity to try new activities. Staff will supervise risky activities closely – such as tool use, tree climbing and fire lighting – and also encourage children to understand and assess the risk attached to an activity themselves. Being involved in activities of this nature helps children to develop self – esteem, gain confidence in their own ability and assess elements of risk in their day-to-day life.
Building Mental Health
Over the last several decades the rise in mental illness has increased both locally in Scotland and the UK, as well as globally across the world. The World Health Organisation now recognises that depression is the leading cause of disability world wide. The evidence suggests that there are different things we can do to help prevent, minimise and manage these depression levels – especially for mild to moderate depression.
The Children’s Wood has been focusing on the prevention of mental illness through working with schools and the community to get children outside and to help support good mental health. We have a strong belief that by starting as early as possible to promote healthy lifestyle habits then we can make a bigger impact on the child’s later life. There is so much more that we could be doing to support adult mental health and this is something we want to focus on. Though we have been working on this obliquely through our community events and bringing people to the land, we do recognise that there is so much more that could be done, especially to support the local health services.
This is why when we came across The Conservation Volunteers Five Ways to Well being (5WW) Programme we were very keen for them to lead the 6 week programme on the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. The 5WW programme is an evidenced based course which focuses around 5 different ways to build mental well-being: Learning, Giving, Noticing, Connecting and Being active. Anyone is welcome to come along to these sessions. If you are a doctor, health centre or a community organisation then you can let patients/clients know about this course. You can find out more through the flyers below. We have applied for funding so that hopefully we can continue this programme over the next year and a half. The course begins on Friday 16th February, 1-3pm and is on for 6 weeks.
We’ve had a busy two weeks back to work, and play, on the land. The playgroups are back on (Wednesday 10-12pm and Friday 11-1pm) and the Saturday Outdoor Play sessions, (10-12pm) Also the schools sessions are back on and Andrea has been busy. Thanks to all the schools for coming to the land and helping the community to get outside more. It’s great to see so many groups coming to the land out with our sessions. Its been lovely snowy and frosty weather. Despite the conditions lots of people have come out to play. Forest School will be starting next week with Dunard Primary school and we have a new volunteer Lynn who will be supporting Andrea in leading the Forest School. Lynn is also Level 3 Forest School trained. School children will be coming to work with Kathleen Friend on the beedookit project – they will be building a periscope so that the bees can be safely observed. We’ll be posting more information about this on the website soon.
We’ve welcomed a group of students from Strathclyde University teacher training department who will be leading some sessions for schools over the next few Mondays. We also have a group of 28 Canadian Academics coming to visit the land – through an inspiring Scotland and Glasgow City Council collaboration on showcasing outdoor learning in Scotland. They will be coming to see what we are doing for supporting and creating opportunities for outdoor play and learning.
Strathclyde University Teacher Training students
Our focus this year is going to be on Mental Health and we hope to do more to support adult mental health in our community. We know that one in four people in Scotland will experience a significant mental health problem and that the financial cost of mental health in Scotland is in excess of £10 billion per year. We hope to play a small part in our community to support the other services already making a difference. We believe that no matter who you are you will benefit from time outside in nature and lots of evidence supports this – getting outside makes you feel good. Also, the great thing about nature is that it has no adverse side effects, apart from the cold!! We’ve already welcomed a group from the Restart project in Maryhill and had a fire together on the land and we hope to do more on for supporting mental health and well-being. The Conservation Volunteers will be leading a 5 Ways to Well-being group on the land starting on Friday 16th February (time TBC) for 4 – 6 weeks. We’ve applied for a joint funding application to continue this project for at least another year. If successful, we will be able to do more for mental health in the area as the TCV will train up people within our community to help to continue to deliver the programme long into the future. We’re continuing our collaboration with Glasgow University and some of the Masters students will be researching various aspects of both community and nature on mental health. We met with them on the land this week. Please get in touch if you are a local doctor or work with groups who could benefit from the targeted sessions. childrenswood@ gmail.com We’ll keep you posted.
Riikka, will be continuing the after school healthy eating programme. The Afterschool Food Club returns on Wednesday 24th January! Sessions will be held at the Kelbourne Street Scouthall from 3.30-4.30. We would love to know how many families are interested in attending, so if you are planning on coming please email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also an opportunity to volunteer and gain some experience/knowledge in healthy eating; if you are interested, please email us!
Joni is on annual leave so the Wednesday gardening sessions won’t be returning until February. Daniel is around on a Friday and will be working on various jobs including the sensory garden and in the community garden building raised beds. The next Volunteer Action Weekend is the first weekend of February 12-4pm. Come and join us. The more people involved the better
Burns for Bairns – 27th January
Our lovely pal, Children’s Wood supporter and Patron, and all round talented guy Tam Dean Burn will be coming to the Children’s Wood next Saturday 27th of January to perform Burns for Bairns. Bring your lunch and stay on after the Sat am Outdoor Play session for Tam’s 12pm performance. Have a look at Tam’s previous Rabbie Burns reading in the wood from 4 years ago. https://vimeo.com/85288731
Other upcoming information
There are two larger projects happening on the land this year, the beedookit and the the National Theatre for Scotland production of the Play The Reason I Jump a play based on the book by Autistic 13 year old boy who has Autism. The performance will be happening during the last 2 weeks of June. We know how powerful the land can be for people who are on the Autistic Spectrum, we have seen the benefits in terms of language, emotions and behaviour so we are excited to support this project. Do get in touch if you are interested to know more. The Beedookit will be built over the next few months and the bees will be going into the beedookit at the end of March/April.
We are also applying for a building warrant to do up the shed, Alex MacGregor is currently drawing up plans. This means we will have running water a small kitchen and a toilet Yay! We’ll keep you posted as we will have to fundraise to make this happen. Do let us know if you’d like to help raise money by raising for the Children’s wood when doing any charity fundraising events.
There will be the usual community events and other activities happening so we’ll keep you posted.