Seed Gathering Season

The first four weeks of autumn is seed gathering season and whether you are collecting flower, vegetable or tree seeds, many can be planted now, while others can be stored and labelled for planting next year.

Flower and vegetable seeds
Most seeds are ready to collect when they have turned from green to brown and would naturally be about to fall or spread. Shake small flower seeds directly into envelopes or paper bags. Dry out vegetable seeds completely before storing in a dry, cool place for spring. It’s always worth trying the seeds from your favourite apple of the season, the best pumpkin in the crop and the tallest sunflower of the summer.

Tree seeds
Tree seeds like acorns, conkers and beech masts, that may otherwise be eaten or land in the wrong conditions to germinate, can be planted and given some protection. Check which ones are most likely to grow by putting them in water first; the seeds that sink are the good ones, and the ones that float can be discarded. They can usually be planted straight away, giving a chance to get roots started in the still warm soil, before the winter and frosts set in. Pop a pinecone into soil, give a little water and the seeds snuggly tucked inside will begin to take root and sprout. A great start to growing your own future forest.

Harvesting with care
Collect seeds with your natural neighbours in mind; the birds, mice and other mammals that rely on gathering their own harvest every autumn will need enough to see them through the winter months. Jays and squirrels will be busy hiding tree seeds, some of which will be forgotten and start blooming in the spring alongside your own.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is easy to make, free to forage and provides a boost to the immune system to ward of winter flu. There’s still just enough time to collect an autumn harvest.

2 cups berries
¼ cup water
 ½ cup honey
add spices to taste: 2tbs ginger, cinnamon stick, 5 cloves

Elderberry syrup

The elder tree is a native summer beauty with a long rich history of sharing its beneficial blooms and berries. The flower’s full blooms mark the beginning of summer and by the end of the season a harvest of berries are ripe and ready to collect.

Elderflower blossom collected in early summer can be sweetened and boiled for elderflower cordial, or if you have the patience, wait for the fruits to make a centuries old flu syrup to boost your immune system for winter.

Harvest the berries when they are all deep purple and hanging heavily from the branch.
Old English and Danish lore will tell you to be sure to ask the elder and give thanks for any harvests to keep on the good side of the Elder Mother. O Elder Mother, if I may, I must take a bite of your forest.

Cook or freeze the berries within 12 hours, dipping and rinsing first. The easiest way to remove the berries from the stems is to freeze them in a bag and bang them free when frozen. Boil the ingredients together, allow to cool and strain the juice, before bottling and storing. Elderberry syrup is rich in antioxidants and makes a perfect flu remedy for winter. Add winter spices and honey to your own taste for an extra-tasty natural medicine.

Early summer elderflowers in bloom make tasty cordial.

Butterflies and Nettles

connect

When a patch of nettles is left to flourish butterflies and moths can safely lay their eggs amongst the stingers, allowing summer life in the garden to blossom. The humble Urtica dioica has many uses – fantastic fertiliser for the garden, nutritious soup for the family, vitamin rich tea and an opportunity for some natural crafting. In summer when the nettles are long and the butterflies have already flown, choose the longest stems to cut for cord, leaving plenty for next year’s caterpillars.

Harvesting nettle bark

Wear gloves to protect your hands from the stings, pulling off all the leaves in one motion down the stem. Keep the leaves in a bucket to make garden feed later. The stings will have been removed with the leaves but use your gloves to wipe over the stems to be sure. For cord you need the ‘bark’ of the stem. To remove the bark, split the stem down the middle with a knife (or a strong fingernail), breaking the stem open. Peel the inside of the stem away from the outside, trying to keep the outside bark in strips as long as possible. (Any inside stem, or pith, is not needed and can be added to your bucket and covered with water to soak for a liquid fertiliser.)

Twisting or plaiting into cord

If the harvested bark has dried out, dip it in water to rehydrate. Strands can be plaited together to create a strong length of cord. Or for a thinner, longer length, twist the cord by holding the end of one long strip of bark and twisting the cord between thumb and forefingers. Some cord makers prefer to lay the bark on their leg and twist by pressing down and pushing the bark away. Allow the bark to twist into its own curves, making a strong doubled cord. Overlap the next piece with one side of the twisting cord by a few centimetres to allow the cord to be made longer. The cord is strong for garden jobs or more crafting projects.

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An ABC of Learning Naturally: X, Yawning and Zzzzzzz

Natural learning: following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.  

 

X
Also known as ‘what-not-to-do’.
Avoid getting annoyed, expect learning not to go to plan, step away from frustrating activities and leave them alone. There’s rarely anyone to blame when learning doesn’t happen – it might be the wrong time for this new piece of information, or more time may be needed for the penny to drop – but there is always another way to look at it next time.

Y is for Yawning
When learning is uninspiring, it’s time to turn your attention to something else. Ploughing on through a boring activity is a waste of time for everyone because the learning won’t stick in the mind, which will be drifting off, as minds do, looking for anything more interesting to keep it occupied. Follow that instead.

Z is for Zzzzzzz
Actually drifting off to sleep is over-tiredness rather than boredom, so it’s time to get some rest, or some fresh air if it’s a stuffy yawn (garden air, walking air and opening the window air are all good). Sleep well, eat well, drink water, be safe; these priorities come first. Then share simple and positive learning experiences and you can all sleep soundly knowing the best learning is the small stuff with the happy memories.

An ABC of Learning Naturally:
Active, Balanced, Creative

Discovery, everyone, Flexibility

Games, Happiness, Individual

Journey, Kindness, Listening

Moments, Nature, Opening the window

Play, Questions, Records

Storytelling and Thinking time

Understanding, Voice, Wonders

X, Yawning, Zzzzzzz

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Understanding, Voice and Wonders

Natural learning: following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us. 


U is for Understanding

It is impossible to teach something you do not understand, but it is possible to learn something new together. Asking for help, looking up answers and working as a team are all key skills in learning and are best shared. Working as a team eases the burden and reaps rewards for everyone.

V is for Voice
Talk is the foundation of writing and so if you are putting pen to paper, talk it through first. Sing, talk, discuss, read aloud, debate, deliberate.

97-256Set challenges that involve sharing and communicating; learn and perform a magic trick , design and play a new sport together, teach someone else a craft you know.

97-256Record or video yourself telling a short story and share it with a friend. Ask them to listen once and retell it back to you, looking at what changed and what was remembered. Continuing this with a group can begin a fun version of chinese whispers and an understanding of the ways spoken stories change as they are passed on.

W is for Wonders
Reflecting on the wonders of nature and people gives a positive perspective on the world, to build upon with joy in your heart and a skip in your step. Taking time to appreciate the awe and wonder of seeing something for the first time, opens the door to valuing curiosity, creativity and care in everything.

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Next time: X, Yawning and Zzzzzzz

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Story-telling and Thinking time

Natural learning -following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

S is for Story-telling
Stories are the greatest starting point for any learning adventure, and the most important end to a day. Share them, hear them, use them to inspire tomorrow’s activities, act them out, change them, draw them, map them, tell someone else about them, make them up and tell them. Every day. If this is your only achievement today, you will have done a great thing.

Seasonal stories to share on outdoor adventures are suggested at Muddy Tales on the Dragonfly Wood webpage, with more stories being added all the time. Bringing stories alive with outdoor activity keeps the joy of the pages alive for even longer.

97-256Make your own sailing boat by laying rope out in a boat shape, finding sticks for oars and waving a ships flag as you set off on Max’s adventure to Where the Wild Things Are. When you arrive you can dance and rumpus all the way to bedtime! More here from Making Learning Stick.

97-256Harry Potter’s wand is easy to create and offers a chance to look closely and find out about the different trees near you, their characteristics and uses.

97-256The wonderful Pancakes for Findus by Sven Nordqvist will have you whisking batter and lighting the campfire as soon as the last page has been turned.

 

T is for Thinking time
Thinking time is time well spent and lets new ideas to stick in the mind. Simply daydreaming can be enough for ideas to settle in and new thoughts to pop up unexpectedly.  One of the joys of keeping hands busy with crafts – knitting, colouring, clay modelling – is the space it provides in the mind for new learning to be unravelled, spun and rewound to deepen understanding and memory.

Next time: Understanding, Voice and Wonders

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Play, Questions, Records

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

P is for Playtime
Play is a natural activity. It is how children learn, their reason to be and their job. Children (and grown ups) of all ages learn through a playful approach. Freetime to play is the most important skill you can provide your child. Your presence and participation will make it all the better, for everyone.

97-256Use natural items for play, whether cones, sticks and stones create a play village, a stacking and wobbling game or a piece of creative artwork.
97-256Playing with a new material, like clay and paints, unlocks new ways of using them and works as a good introduction rather than planning and directing.
97-256A new piece of technology, an unknown object like a typewriter, a musical instrument can all be discovered in a playful way, finding out as you go along and try it out, rather than reading the step-by-step instructions.

 

Q is for Questions
Questions are the building blocks of learning, providing the gateways to checking understanding and communicating ideas, to following new curiosities and making sense of the world around us. Encourage questions to be asked, whether the answers can be found or not, and answer questions with ideas, whether correct or not.

97-256Come up with ten questions about nature you see during a walk, and even if you don’t know the science (especially if you don’t know the science) come up with an idea for an answer together. Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly?  Having answers is only one skill; having ideas, using imagination, building on possibilities, generating new questions, asking others, thinking hard are all good use of learning time.

 

R is for Records
It is not necessary to record your learning but keeping a simple bank of achievements will stack up quickly and give a boost to look back through. It must be easy to manage; a collection of photos stored as a folder on a device, a list of ‘I can’ statements recognising new skills and new understandings, a daily diary entry noting the best part of each day or, if you are looking for a special notebook yo use, make your own natural paper.

Next time: Story-telling and Thinking time

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Moments, Nature, Opening the window

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

M is for Moments
Mindful moments encourage calmness, a sense of wellbeing and build resilience. Quiet time for everyone might be together or separate, might be with a book or some colouring pencils, listening to gentle music, sitting under a tree. Have some every day. Some people simply can’t live without a little time to switch off and press reset, and everyone benefits.

97-256Practise stillness Find a space to sit  and be silent for a short period of time, closing eyes, listening to sounds. Be aware of breathing in and out, plants rustling, the wind and weather, birds and insects. Share your experiences and feelings by talking and drawing sound pictures of the nature you heard.
97-256Breathing tree Find a tree to put your arms comfortably round. Imagine the life forces within the tree: the sap moving, the roots drawing up the water, the leaves converting sunlight into food, the tree “breathing” – taking in carbon dioxide, giving out oxygen. Imagine listening to your tree drink – if you could put a powerful stethoscope on its bark, you might hear a crackling sound as the water moves up through the tubes beneath the bark. Talk to your tree and say thank you for its contribution to life on Earth. Take a deep breath of the air around you.
97-256Memory scents Breathing in a specific smell can invoke memories and instantly transport us back to important times or places. Smell scented herbs or flowers , breathe in and focussing on the scent of each. Can you describe the scent? Does it remind you of anything?


IMG_5435N is for Nature
Being outside is essential for wellbeing and whatever the weather take time outside every day. Notice bugs, hear birds, spot changes and use your daily walk as an inspiration for your learning. Bring small, natural treasures home or take photographs as you walk to use later to begin your story-telling and map-making adventures. Starting a nature table inside celebrates the time spent outside, and begins a museum of natural wonders to spark investigations, questions and discoveries.

 

pixabay in Visualise section and not a big map picture in Share section bird-638112__340
O is for Opening the window
Often. Look outside and up at the sky in daytime or night time to observe the clouds, the stars, the birds and the changing colours. Learn the constellations, spot patterns in the clouds, predict the weather, perform with the birds, paint what you see or what you can imagine – hot air balloons, dragons, shooting stars.

 

Next time: Play, Questions, Records

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Journey, Kindness and Listening

J is for Journey
Even when you can’t go anywhere, you can go anywhere with a map. An imaginary story map starts an adventure, a world map inspires a journey across borders, a local map can take you on a new walk. Plan your route, measure miles, learn about places, create symbols. Draw the map of a book you love or create a whole new world on a blank page.

Heading outside on a walk with a journey stick, to record your route with natural items found as you go will provide memory joggers to create a map when you get back to your starting point. Read more about making these ‘muddy maps‘ and making your own orienteering kit here.

K is for Kindness
Be kind to yourself and to each other. It’s the most important thing.

L is for Listen
Really listen to each other. Sometimes the questions and ideas being raised are more than they seem. Can’t see the sticks for the trees is as example of the importance of listening and understanding.

Next time: Mastery, Nature and Opening the window

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.pening the window

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Games, Happiness and Individuals

img_3979G is for Games
Get out the cards, the dice and the board games to share together. Teach each other the games you know and make up new ones. Check through the recycling pile for cereal boxes and bottle lids and a new game or two can be created while covering all the skills for the day from measuring squares on the board, writing the rules, developing co-operation and creating artistic decorations across your board. Natural materials make perfectly unique counters and starting materials.

This native American stick game uses twigs wrapped with raffia and walnut shells filled with wax and coloured beads . Roll the walnuts and win sticks according to how many land with the wax facing up and down. Simple changes to other traditional games like mancala and noughts and crosses are a great starting point for creating new games.

H is for a Happiness and health
Keep happiness and health as first priorities, especially when there are other challenges to consider. Relaxation is important every day for everyone (children, teenagers, parents: everyone). Weekend, holiday and downtimes are crucial, whether at home or elsewhere, these times feel different and give brains and bodies time to reboot. Learning time sticks better when we smile, so focussing on the joyful stuff is a win win all round.

I is for Individual
You, your children and your family have their own individual needs, quirks, skills and interests so play to your strengths and enjoy this time when you can follow your own path. There is no right way. Building learning around something you already love, whether it’s ballet, big cats, bridges or bumblebees, provides a motivation where other skills (like reading and writing) can be hidden. Go with what you love and share your enthusiasm.

Next time: Journeys, Kindness, Listening
Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos