We were thrilled to host Professor Steve Van Matre (SVM) for a couple of days in Oxfordshire to lead his Introduction to Earth Education workshop.

Earth Trust gave us use of their beautiful Fison Barn.

SVM shared the history of Earth Education, the thinking behind his inspirational approach to nature connection and the pressing need for worldwide engagement in sustainability issues, before leading us on an Earth Walk in the Broad Arboretum.

Steve’s message was pretty stark, that the planet is dying. He questioned us about how we demonstrate to others that we value our earth and what do we intend to do to save it. This was a rallying cry to the Environmental Educators, teachers and Forest School leaders attending.

I felt immensely proud of the work that has been carried out over the past 15 years or so in Oxfordshire; by the Oxfordshire Forest School Project, latterly the Oxfordshire Forest School Service team and Forest School practitioners throughout the county. I was delighted to share with him the story of the OBBFSA Local Group and to be able to tell him about the growing number of schools and settings using Forest School for long term programmes with children.

This photo captures only a tiny amount of the joy I felt to be in the company of SVM

We were also able to reassure him that the inspiration he gave to so many of us through his Earth Education programmes and his writing is a huge part of why we are committed to a different kind of environmental education today. Quality Forest School programmes advocated by the Forest School Association foster the deep nature connection Steve has been ‘teaching’ for so many years. His ideas have permeated our environmental centres, trickled into schools often without the context that he knew they needed. Forest School for me is a way of valuing Earth Education ideas and experiences, putting them into practice, in long term learner led programmes.

This photo captures only a tiny amount of the joy I felt to be in the company of SVM, Bob Sherren and Ian Duckworth, both instrumental in Earth Education in the UK and both qualified Forest School Leaders.

Read more on this Woodland Trust guest blog post.

I was doubly lucky to hear SVM giving the keynote speech at this year’s Forest School conference, ‘Belong in this Place’. His question ‘What am I doing with my energy to make the Earth happy?’, still resonates with me today. His message to ‘light up a room’ and ‘be enlightenment’ is surely at the heart of what so many of us are seeking to do as we share the joy of Forest School with others.

It was good to hear Jon Cree and Steve reminiscing and sharing thoughts about the future of Earth Education in the UK; we await with bated breath the promised new Earth Walks publication which is at the printers. Lots of us have asked Steve to return to the UK next year and launch it in person.

Watch this space!

If you haven’t yet got a copy (why not!) heres a link to Steve’s book: Earth Education a New Beginning

And to check in on all things Earth Education…  Earth Education UK 

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