Field Notes: Drumming up an appetite for nature

Our John Muir Award Scotland Education Manager Rebecca Logsdon reports on a collaboration helping teachers and pupils engage with nature

Lost words fw workshop   nathan 2 detail

Listening to 30 teachers bash stones on a dead tree trunk on a chilly afternoon in the woods sounded like a large collection of woodpeckers at work (how apt that the collective noun is a drumming of woodpeckers). Everyone was engaged in the ancient Japanese art of ‘Hapa Zome’ – creating natural leaf prints on a cloth by pounding it with a stone – just one of many creative activities that took place during the Literacy & Nature sessions we supported across the Highlands in March.

Over 100 participants – including early years practitioners, primary and secondary school teachers, additional support needs staff, rangers and partners – had been invited through the Highland Council’s RAiSE (Raising Aspirations in Science Education) programme.

The Trust was asked to collaborate in delivering Literacy & Nature training based on Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ illustrated collection of nature poems The Lost Words and The Lost Words Explorer’s Guide. Our aim was to support outdoor learning, science and literacy in Highland schools - with the ultimate goal of reconnecting children with nature.

We held the first session at the wonderful Abriachan Forest Classroom, where we were delighted to be joined by Jane Beaton, who was responsible for getting a copy The Lost Words to every school in Scotland. Jane’s vision was realised through a public crowdfunder and she has personally driven around each local authority distributing the books. No mean feat with eight pallet loads of books.

The sessions started with discussions about how you can develop literacy skills outdoors using nature as an inspiration. Activities included: participants reading The Lost Words poems out loud and creating their own conversation between two wild animals (mostly native Scottish species); writing descriptive words about wild places on pebbles and making them into a poem; creating artwork through Hapa Zome and bringing in writing skills with feathers and ink.

Practitioners really appreciated being introduced to a range of resources and having a hands-on experience outdoors. An added bonus was being given a copy of The Lost Words at the end, so that they could put what they had learned into practice.

Further information

Find out more about the John Muir Trust’s  The Lost Words collaboration and Highland RAiSE. Plus hear about two outdoor reading journeys with The Lost Words.

Photo collage by Nathan Berrie shows participants at the Literacy & Nature sessions at Abriachan Forest Classroom and An Drochit, Glen Nevis – run by the Trust’s Rebecca Logsdon (John Muir Award Scotland Education Manager), Alison Austin ( Nevis Property Manager), Nathan Berrie (Nevis Conservation Officer) and Highland Council Primary Science Development Officers Emily Brown and Kathryn Thomas.