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Connection: To connect to the natural world, self, and others

Connection: “a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else.” Oxford Dictionary

Our first overriding value at Canopy Forest School is connection (appendix 1). This is our first primary value because the act of forming and building connections is the most crucial component of our work. It is from this value that all our other values can emerge and be addressed.

Connecting as a group and forming a Forest school community is where our story always begins. Establishing a new Forest School class, at Canopy, always starts with a focus on connecting our students with each other and us their leaders. This allows us to develop a new unique group identity as a Forest School.

Human connection is the sense of closeness and belonging and it can only be established when we have supportive relationships with the people around us. Having a sense of belonging is a need that all humans have because we are a social species. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows this explicitly as it appears at the bottom of his famous pyramid (appendix 2). Numerous evidence, papers and studies that have been conducted on our human need to connect and all conclude that finding a place of belonging is essential to wellbeing. In today’s world which can be full of more virtual interactions than physical one’s human connections are more important than ever.

Being a part of something and experiencing a real connection with others is what Forest School is all about. At Canopy we want our students not to just fit in but to know they are accepted for being themselves. Brene Brown has written extensively about this in her book “Braving the Wilderness” (Brown, 2017), and she writes:

“Connection to a larger humanity gives people more freedom to express their individuality without fear of jeopardizing belonging. I can be myself when I know that I’m with people who recognise the inextricable, unnameable, spiritual connection that is shared humanity, because belonging is not in jeopardy. True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are;it requires us to be who we are.” (p158, Brown, 2021)

Connections at Canopy Forest school go beyond just belonging to a group as we aid students to connect to themselves. This is achieved through the learner-initiated Forest School approach where each student is actively involved in planning and directing each session. We follow each pupil's interests and fascinations, and they have a deep sense of ownership over their personal discoveries and achievements.

“The opportunity and freedom for a child or learner to choose, experience, and learn from the natural surroundings sits at the heart and centre of the Archimedes Forest School ethos, principles and process and is balanced around the needs of the individual, group and development of a ‘capable learner’.” (Blackwell, c1988-2020, section1:3)

Connecting to the natural world physically and psychologically is also an essential part of any Forest School Programme. Connecting to any natural environment is good for us and evidence shows that physiological changes take place in the body as Sarah Blackwell writes:

“Evidence has shown that the woodland environment affects physiological changes in the body, which reduce tension and anxiety and increase body’s capacity to fight against infections and free radicals. If the reduction of stress creates favourable conditions for concentration and absorption, this will in turn support the formulation of neural connections. In Forest Schools the various techniques employed for providing learning opportunities in the woodland environment is based on evidence generated through research. Repeated and frequent exposure to Forest Schools during the year covering all seasons promotes the formation of neural connection and helps learning.” (Blackwell Sarah, (c 1988-2020), Archimedes Forest School, Archimedes Earth, p3.2)

Connecting with nature is a sensory experience that enriches our lives with colour scent and sight as well as respect, reverence and responsibility for ourselves, the world, and others.

“As we become protectors and nurturers of ourselves, our souls, spirits and bodies, our health and wellbeing will flourish; in becoming well at an individual level we are able to reach out to others and to the community and society in which we live, and further afield. Enriching the lives of others and giving to the natural environment brings personal hope and joy, not only to us, but also to those that we care for, and is indeed this very action that is identified by the New Economics Foundation as a basic necessity for wellness and wellbeing. (Blackwell Sarah, (c 1988-2020)Forward, Archimedes Forest School)

Our attraction to the natural world is in our genes and connecting to nature goes far beyond improving our psyches and well-being as Marc Bekoff states in "The Biophilia Effect" (Arvay, 2018, pix) it also influences our organs and cells and this is known as the biophilia effect. Humans and nature have a healing bond with each other. At Canopy Forest School we feel honoured to be able to reconnect our students to nature, themselves and to others and we firmly believe that this value is the main foundation of our company and all the work that we do.

This post has only lightly touched upon the importance of connections and in the future, I will write in more depth about our interconnection with nature known as “Biophilia”.

Appendix 1:

Appendix 2:


Arvay Clemens, (2017) "The Biophilia Effect", Sounds True, Boulder Colorado

Brown Brene, (2017) “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” Random House, New York

Brown Brene, (2021), “Atlas to the heart” Random House, New York, p158

Blackwell Sarah, (c 1988-2020), Archimedes Forest School, Archimedes Earth, p3.2

Blackwell Sarah, c1988-2020, Archimedes Forest School, Archimedes Earth section1:3

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