Call us on: 07876 794098

Young Rangers

forest school and outdoor education in wrexham, north wales

WOODLAND CLASSROOM LANDS IN WREXHAM!

We have some VERY exciting news! We are finally able to announce that we’ve gone into partnership with the National Trust at Erddig Hall & Gardens and Chirk Castle, both in the county of Wrexham. What this means is that James and Lea are moving Woodland Classroom up to Wrexham and from September we will be able to bring all our existing popular outdoor clubs, as well as some new ones, to children in the area and offer our outdoor education services to audiences in North Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Merseyside and beyond.

James explained his connection with the area; “I’m originally from this neck of the woods where I worked a lot with environmental organisations in Cheshire and North East Wales, so this feels like coming home and I’m really excited about this opportunity we have with the National Trust who have made us very welcome and have been totally onboard with all the ideas we have to offer our activities in the area.”

Our new base of operations will be Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre, which lies on the edge of the Erddig estate on the doorstep of Wrexham town. It’s a great location for locals to be able to access it easily and is currently also the home of the National Trust’s GAP (Green Academies Project) funded by the Lottery which has seen lots of new energy and restoration work go into Felin Puleston with a host of improvements to the venue which makes it perfect for visiting groups who want to learn more about nature.

felin puleston outdoor centre

Our new home at Felin Puleston, Wrexham. Kids building dens with us. The vegetable garden where kids can learn how to grow their own.

We feel incredibly lucky to have full access to this tailor-made venue. The Outdoor Centre includes an allotment for growing vegetables, a wildlife garden, orchard, den building area, indoor function room and kitchen for craft workshops and classroom sessions, and of course the beautiful 1,200 acre Erddig estate which lies on the other side of the gate for the children and groups to explore.

forest school in wrexham

Our Little rangers parent & toddler group. The entrance to Forest Wood at Erddig. Boys learning fire-lighting skills at our sessions.

We also have the River Clywedog on our doorstep along with a wildlife pond both home to a wealth of water life which means that activities like pond and river dipping are going to be very much on the menu.

Susan Jones is the Volunteer & Community Involvement Manager at Erddig;

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Woodland Classroom.  Providing enjoyable and meaningful experiences in the outdoors helps us to connect with nature, improve our mental and physical wellbeing and value the world around us so we can continue to care for special places like Chirk Castle and Erddig, forever for everyone.”

outdoor activities for children erddig wrexham

Erddig Hall & Gardens. This stunning National Trust property sits at the doorstep of Wrexham town.

In addition to making the most of the Outdoor Centre, we’re going to be able to welcome groups of all ages to Forest Wood, a beautiful forest school site based in the heart of Erddig’s ancient woodland. Think tall trees, wild garlic and woodland wildflowers. It’s a fantastic spot for woodland learning.

About Woodland Classroom

wildcraft adventureSo, who are we? Well… James and Lea have been running Woodland Classroom in Lampeter, Ceredigion since 2014 where they have hosted schools, organisations, adult learners, after-school clubs and kids birthday parties with a range of outdoor activities including; bushcraft, forest school, traditional woodland crafts, mindfulness and CPD training. All of this and more will now be offered at our new home.

They are also the creative minds behind the hugely popular Wildcraft Adventure™ which takes kids’ favourite video games like Minecraft and transforms them into outdoor adventures that engage children in a host of physical challenges and bushcraft skills which score them point along the way, just like a real video game. There’s even a monster to run away from! It’s been so popular that outdoor activity leaders across the world are nor running the game; from California to Scotland, from New Zealand to Canada. James and lea are planning many more Wildcraft Adventures at their new Wrexham home for the near future.

Woodland Classroom are members of the Institute for Outdoor Learning and Forest School Wales.

james kendall - profile picJames Kendall

James is a qualified Forest School Leader, Social Forester and experienced Woodland Skills Tutor. He has worked widely with children, young people and adults, leading on a variety of outdoor education and environmental projects. He has worked for several well-known environmental organisations and was also Project Manager for Long Wood Community Woodland, the largest community owned woodland in Wales, overseeing management of 300 acres of forest. He enjoys working with schools and communities to raise awareness of the environment, where his enthusiasm for spreading the message of learning through nature comes through. Lastly, but not least, he is currently undertaking a 2 year long course to become a bushcraft skills activity leader with the Bushcraft Competency Certificate scheme run through the Institute for Outdoor Learning.

“As a child, my Mum would bring me and my sister to Erddig and Chirk Castle where our imaginations could run wild with all sorts of play. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to actually work here and it seems fitting that I’ll now be able to offer outdoor adventures and learning for kids coming to these National Trust properties.”

lea kendall - counsellor and life coachLea Kendall

Lea has years of experience working with children and young people, including 4 years working in a primary school as a Learning Mentor focusing on the social and emotional aspects of learning and working one to one with vulnerable children and challenging behaviour. She shares her time leading activities for Woodland Classroom with my work as a qualified integrative Counsellor. Lea is also a qualified practitioner of Mindfulness in woodland settings.

“I am a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. I believe that play for all ages should be a large part of our lives. My training as a Counsellor worked toward my long-term goal to incorporate nature and play therapy into our future services. I am passionate about finding ways to increase the self-esteem of people and encouraging motivation through positive experience, shared enthusiasm and a nurturing environment.”

Lea is now offering the first of her planned nature therapy courses with two Mindfulness events for adult learners scheduled for this autumn. See our events page to find out more.

We Can Also Travel To You

Not every group who wants our services has been able to travel to us though, and for some schools such travel can be a costly or complicated business, so we’ve always offered the option for us to come to your school or venue and we have hosted many Forest School and bushcraft sessiosn on school grounds, at events, or anywhere that wants us really. Want to know more? Just get in touch.

outdoor kids club in wrexham, north wales, forest school

About our Outdoor Kids Clubs

Little Rangers is a weekly woodland parent and toddler group for children aged up to 5 years which follows the Forest School approach of child-led play and outdoor activities in a welcoming natural space. Activities are based around our central campfire and tots can get stuck into the mud kitchen, build a den, explore the wood or do some campfire cooking. Sessions are also a chance for like-minded parents to meet and share time together whilst their children are at play.

Young Rangers is our weekly after-school club for primary school aged children from 6 – 11 years. Parents drop their kids off with James and Lea where children will get the chance to play off steam after a day in school and take part in guided activities including bushcraft, outdoor games, crafts and campfire cooking.

Pathfinders is brand new to Woodland Classroom, a regular group for Home Educated children and their families. It’s something we’ve been wanting to offer for a long time, and we’ve been asked my Home Ed parents time and again if we could do this. Our move to Wrexham has offered the perfect opportunity for it to start. Sessions will be fortnightly and children from 0-16 will be able to join either our Forest School group where they can engage in child-led play and outdoor activities, or they can join our structured learning sessions where they will get quality tuition from James or Lea in environmental education, bushcraft and traditional woodland craft skills.

We’re hosting a taster session for Pathfinders on Tuesday 22nd August which is half-price for children and adults to come and see for themselves how this new club will work. If you’d like to find out more about the taster session, just CLICK HERE.

To find out more about our new kids clubs based at Erddig, and to take advantage of ‘early bird’ booking discounts just follow THIS LINK.

family fun day in the woods

Even More Opportunities at Chirk Castle

forest school circle at chirk castle

The ‘woodland classroom’ amongst the ancient trees of the Chirk Castle estate.

Wrexham county is quite unique in that it hosts two major National Trust venues just within 15 minutes drive of each other. Not only will be offering our services to groups at Erddig but just down the road is the equally amazing Chirk Castle with it’s 480 acres of gardens and estate including deer parkland and ancient woodland. It’s a perfect venue for outdoor learning and we’re looking forward to getting stuck in and welcoming groups to our sessions.

Jon Hignett is the Visitor Experience Manager at Chirk Castle for the National Trust;

“We first started working with Woodland Classroom in April 2015 when our estate was used as the venue for their very popular Wildcraft Adventure sessions, using the clever template of explorer/builder type video games to engage with children in the outdoors. We could see from the first meeting that it would be a popular activity, and it has been a very effective partnership allowing experienced professionals to use Chirk Castle’s estate to help to move, teach and inspire young visitors and connect them with the outdoors at a young age. We’ve collaborated on a few projects since then, and throughout James and Lea have been wonderful to work with, positive, engaging, and committed. We’re eagerly looking forward to what future collaborations might bring!”

outdoor activities at chirk castle

Chirk Castle & Gardens, hosts over 480 acres of parkland estate within which we will be running our outdoor events.

What the Future Holds

Not only will we be offering our tried and tested activities for children, our the plan is to expand our work with adult learners also, making Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre a real hub for environmental education for all ages. We plan to offer training to adult learners in the following subjects:

Bushcraft, Tree Identification, Greenwood Crafts, Woodland Management, Mindfulness, Eco Therapy, Nature Awareness, Foraging and Leathercraft.

outdoors home ed group in wrexham

So, it’s exciting times for Woodland Classroom and we can’t wait to meet all the new people we will be working with.

Right, that’s enough typing for now… we’ve got a whole house full of stuff to move.

If you’d like to find out what we could offer you or your group at Woodland Classroom, then please get in touch. You can email us at [email protected] or phone James and Lea on 07876 794098.

why kids should use axes

Why I would buy my kids an AXE

At a time when many children are being wrapped up in too much cotton wool (not literally) to keep them safe from the perceived hazards of modern life, I’ve become more and more a champion of allowing the children I look after (at Forest School sessions) to take risks and show they can be responsible for managing their own safety. So, with that in mind, we’ve been chopping firewood together, using a very sharp axe, and here’s a little video which shows you how I teach those basic axe skills to kids. I’d encourage you to try it for yourself.

Autumn has definitely arrived here in the UK and with the long, dark and cold nights closing in my mind’s turned to getting some firewood in. Yes, like many others I’ve left it late again. It’s always good to have some help with tasks like this and I’ve found that chopping firewood is an effective and simple activity for kids to get stuck into as well as a great introduction to the axe. Kids can understand the task and (most folks agree) splitting logs is very satisfying to do. So what about giving a razor sharp axe to a child? Well, here’s what the children’s author Roald Dahl had to say about risk;

“…the more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves. If you never let them take any risks, then I believe they become very prone to injury. Boys should be allowed to climb tall trees and walk along the tops of high walls and dive into the sea from high rocks… The same with girls. I like the type of child who takes risks. Better by far than the one who never does so.”

Mabli (one of our regular Young Rangers) is just six years old and it was really encouraging to see her progress recently from using the potato peeler (which we give to kids first to practice their knife technique) to using a proper whittling knife. She was confident, calm and sensible with the tool, which I like to think she learnt through clear mentoring, encouragement and close supervision. There’s a voice in my head which jostles for centre stage telling me that there’s going to be a terrible accident and that it would be better to just let kids like Mabli play at something safer. But of course, children are just like us, they don’t want to hurt themselves, so along with a good mentor (like any parent), they’re their own regulator.

teaching children to use an axe

Anyway, back to the axe and chopping wood. I think this is a great introductory activity for kids to sharp tools as with an axe you have a fair distance between the sharp edge and little fingers. Also, whoever heard of such a thing as an ugly piece of firewood? So, no fine craft skills are required. You could even follow wood chopping with learning fire-lighting so that they get to burn what they’ve chopped themselves. I’ll give the last word on ‘risk’ to Richard Louv, author of the fantastic book Last Child in the Woods;

“An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children; but other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to children’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger.”

So, would you use sharp tools with your own kids at home? Have you had success with whittling, wood chopping or using a saw with little ones? We’d love to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this video, we’ve got MORE videos on our YouTube channel giving you ideas for engaging kids in the great outdoors. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Our first Little Rangers!

Well yesterday was the first of our Little Rangers sessions.

The sun was shining, the air was warm and spirits were high. Fourteen adults and about fifteen children had a lovely afternoon relaxing and exploring in the wooded area at Denmark Farm in Lampeter.

There were a few items to play with, washing bowls of water with cups, baskets with stones in, a net hanging in the trees, some tubs of rice and pasta and a few musical percussion instruments. There was also a blanket with nature themed books available and some planted herbs to ignite the senses.

The children enjoyed a very relaxed learning environment that evolved round child-led play. It was also a wonderful opportunity for parents to get together and connect in a beautiful setting.

I was particularly struck with how peaceful it felt and I was reassured that there really was no need to provide a structured set of activities for the children to engage in. The natural environment was stimulus enough.

I am looking forward to our second group next week. I hope the weather will be as nice as it was yesterday and thank you to all who came and made it a special day.

Lea. x

Is competition healthy?

People have different views on competitive sports/games with children. I personally shy away from them all together.

When I run activities I will always adapt the game to make sure no child is ‘out’. I have lots of memories at school about sports or games where if you weren’t incredibly sporty or competitive then you would be ‘out’ of the game, what I remember most vividly is the feelings that went with it and they weren’t nice feelings, but does that mean I should exclude all competition in my activities?

There is one game I play with the Parachute and it’s called mushroom, basically if the parachute lands on you then you sit down. I feel ok with this because no-one is ‘out’ they still remain in the circle and it’s actually quite fun to have the parachute land on you.

Being ‘out’ always happened because you either weren’t fast enough, aggressive enough, agile or clever enough and I remember children purposely not trying and getting ‘out’ straight away and saying they couldn’t be bothered, but this was just a way of saving face and it became more a choice than lack of ability. Everyone knew though that it was a fear of ridicule and the feelings that went with loosing that influenced this self-sabatage.

So I prefer to play games where kids don’t loose. There is an exemption to this and that is when a child is part of a team and the experience is shared and even then I will encourage the ‘loosing’ team to reflect and come up with strategies to help them next time.

All in all I always try and loose the idea of loosing and failure, after all, failure is just a step toward success, right? It is nice to reward a child when they win at something but that implies that it is not good if they don’t win, for then they fail, and failing has negative connotations attached to it. So at Young Rangers I am trying to get into the habit of rewarding effort and giving praise when a child is trying at something. In terms of emotional intelligence it is the success formula, there is no right or wrong, fail or succeed, there is only effort and trying and that is all we can ask of our little people to help them feel good about themselves and strive for happiness.

Lea. x

March update

Our weekly Young Rangers after-school club sessions have been going well up in Denmark Farm’s woods, near Lampeter. We’ve had a guest tutor, Bernadette O’Grady (a professional musician) who has been showing the kids how to make music from nature. Thanks to Bernie, we’ve even got our own theme song.

It’s an exciting time for learning outside the classroom. Landmark books like Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods have brought attention to the increasing issue of what he calls nature deficit disorder. Louv campaigns for ‘no child left inside.’ He tells us; “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” Alongside this there is a growing movement in an approach to environmental education which began in the U.S. called the Art of Mentoring. This is by no means a new way of thinking, but rather a method which calls on the knowledge passed on by generations of indigenous peoples from across the world. In the U.S. this has been championed by Tom Brown Jr. (America’s answer to Ray Mears) who learnt his bushcraft skills and nature awareness from an Apache scout he called ‘Grandfather.’ Rather than to give learners the answers to each question, the Art of Mentoring encourages them to find the answers for themselves through trial and error. A child learning fire-lighting skills is going to have more success if they have discovered the best methods for themselves; this makes their learning experience more personal and valuable as they have strived for it rather than being handed the secret. It is important for the teacher to allow the student to fail. How does that old saying go? That; “there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities.” Their eventual triumph will be all the sweeter.

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New Tuesday Group Taster Day

The people have spoken and demanded it, so after the Easter holidays we will be running a second weekly after-school group on Tuesdays out in the woods at Denmark Farm. On Tues 17th March we hosted an introductory taster session for new children that wanted to try out this Forest School club before committing to the full term after Easter. The regular Thursday sessions are continuing as usual. This taster session included woodland games, a walk to spot the signs of spring and rounded out with marshmallows cooked over the open fire. Every child that attended signed up for the full term starting after Easter, so we’ll call that a resounding success.

If you’d like to find out more about booking a place for your child on the upcoming Tuesday after-school sessions then get in touch with us via our contact page.

 

School Easter Hols Activity Day: “Way of the Wilderness!”

wilderness day collage

On Thursday 2nd April. We’ll be hosting a full day of activities in the woods for kids, from 10am until 4pm entitled ‘Way of the Wilderness.’ Ever wanted to see like an owl or walk like a fox? We’ll be stepping into the wilds as we learn ancient tracking and stalking skills, how to observe wildlife and nature awareness. There will be a hot campfire lunch for all. To find out more, get in touch via or contact page.

February Update

With the darkest period of the year behind us, the Young Rangers popular after-school club (for 6-11 year olds) will be returning this month for a new year of Forest School activities, learning from nature, woodland games and arts & crafts in the outdoors with Lea and James. We are planning to return to our regular Thursday sessions beginning 5th Feb. Sessions run from 4pm-6pm. To find out more or book a place for your child, see the events listing.

Our Winter in the Woods event on Dec 22nd proved a big hit with a bright, crisp winter’s day where children built dens and made birdfeeders. It was also very rewarding to see them all succeed at basic fire-lighting skills, especially as the ground was damp and much of the kindling wet from the previous day’s rain. Well done to all for meeting the challenge.

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Going Twice Weekly?

Following such a positive response from children and parents, we are seriously looking into running a second weekly session. The previous term of Young Rangers was oversubscribed and we’ve had many requests for a second night. We’ve decided on Tuesdays being best and beginning after the school Easter holiday. Our first session would be on Tuesday 14th April, from 4pm to 6pm. If you would like to register your interest then please get in touch. If we get enough bookings, this will happen. The Thursday sessions will continue as normal.

February Half Term: The Vikings Are Coming!

viking day collage

On Monday 16th Feb, we’ll be hosting a full day of half term activities for local children where we’ll be taking them back to the Dark Ages. Beorn and Freya will be your hosts, giving children the chance to find out how the Vikings lived, try their hand at fire-lighting and axe skills and get close to props, clothes, armour and tools from the period. There’ll also be the usual woodland games, campfire cooked lunch and maybe… a troll hunt.

Going from Strength to Strength

Young Rangers is a weekly after-school club for 6-11 year olds which has been running at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre, Ceredigion since summer 2014 with great success. We’ve been welcoming local children to the group where they get the opportunity to learn about nature, gain new camp-craft skills and let off some steam in the woods.

Our motto is “play, explore and discover.” Sessions are inspired by the Forest School model, with the aim of learning through play. So far the group have done target archery, painting using colours from nature, splitting firewood with an axe, whittling skills, minibeast hunting and night-time awareness.

Having run an initial pilot scheme for 10 weeks, we’re pleased to say that the club has been a success with most sessions filling up and many children coming back to us week after week, which has been rewarding for us as leaders. We’d also like to make an honourable mention to Tracey Reynolds who has taken great photos of the sessions, some of which you can see across this website.

So what happens when it rains? Well, we do run sessions in wet weather, it’s all part of the outdoor experience and we don’t feel that children should be sheltered from the wetter side of outdoor life, but we are thankful for the roundhouse which we can dive into for relief from the rain when needed. Now that the days are shorter with the nights closing in, we’re having a campfire to bring some light and warmth to the woods, which the kids love gathering round.

The club will be running up to Christmas, including a special full day of festive fun on Monday 22nd Dec called Winter in the Woods. Then we’ll be taking a break through January (there’s only so many activities we can run in the dark) before returning as usual in February. Thanks to everyone who has supported us this far.

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