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Want some new  ideas for Spring 2017?

Can ‘The Power of Labyrinths’ help?

The ‘Power of Labyrinths’ came out in December. Talking to people, book in hand, I have found out that a lot of folk don’t know what a labyrinth is (although they are familiar with the name). So this is your one stop, one minute pitch on why you need a labyrinth in your life (and a copy of my book).

What is a Labyrinth? It’s a path – only circular – and it twists and turns and goes back on itself.

Isn’t that a Maze? No. A maze gets you lost. Follow the labyrinth path and you always get to the goal. That’s the therapy. It’s a ‘right-brain’ experience.

Where are they? All over – schools, churches, colleges, hospices, parks. Try the ‘labyrinth locator’ on the Labyrinthos website.

Why should I be interested? They are fun to make and fun to use. They are great for physical and mental well-being. They help develop socialisation skills. Small children will run them until they fall over.

I have no money and no time… Labyrinths can be any size and made with almost any material (old tyres, harvest festival offerings, grass cuttings, sticks, barrier tape, rope, stones, bricks, sand, flour etc…) . A small 3 circuit labyrinth can be knocked up in pebbles by a posse of 7-year-olds in 20 minutes.

I still don’t see why… Kids (and adults) love the challenge of making them.  It becomes a special space for the time that it’s there. Small children don’t need to be told what to do in a labyrinth. They just get it. What’s more, you have a new skill to impress folk when you make a 7 circuit classical labyrinth on the beach or a penny donation labyrinth for your school fete.

What about Kate Mosse, Dan Brown and all that mystical stuff?  ‘Labyrinth’ also refers to something that traps and confuses – but it’s a different use of the word. My book explains all.

What’s in your book – ‘The Power of Labyrinths’? Everything you need to know about making labyrinths. There are 100 activities set out in detail with lots of diagrams and photos. How about 10 short plays for performance in a labyrinth? How about games, well-being activities, creative activities and much more. There are lots of books on labyrinths out there – there are very, very few that are practical manuals for school use. Get a copy while you can.

Some new freebies…. 

I recently got asked by someone starting up in Forest School about the kind of things I do with Reception and Year 1. So I have posted a term’s worth of activities on the blog page. In a school setting, an hour is often all I get with a group and these activities are designed for between one and two hours. In a wood, when there’s time for the kids to do their own thing, I still like to incorporate a structured activity to grow their practical skills.

I hope they are of use and watch out for the Year 2 offering coming next term.





Training Day outcomes – October 6th & 21st 2016 – Forest School & Labyrinths

October was a busy month for snla, involving training events with primary head teachers  and teachers looking for the magic bullet that will facilitate relevant, affordable and deliverable outdoor learning.

It has been insightful. After half-term I called in at a school where the headteacher had attended the labyrinth training and gone back to confront the question of of how to make it happen with tight budgets, hard-pressed staff and challenging school grounds. I also met with an NQT working at the school who is engaged in her Forest School training – who was having to back-peddle on her Forest School training because of the pressures of work. How, says the headteacher, can I make quality outdoor learning available to all my children with the limited resources available to me? I want to see how it can work in practice. See my autumn 2016 blog making Outdoor Learning work in your setting.


Heads and teachers try out their barrier tape labyrinth

The Labyrinth Training Day was sponsored by the Bath & Wells Diocesan Education Department. There were 30 places available and all were sold. The day was mainly about what labyrinths are for, how they can be cheaply and easily made (ideally by children) and some straightforward activities to do  in labyrinths.


Laying out a jam jar and tea-light labyrinth, Bath & Wells Diocesan labyrinth training day.

Perhaps the cheapest and easiest of the labyrinths to make is the ‘barrier tape labyrinth’. 500 metres of barrier tape can be bought for a few pounds and 100 steel pegs bought online for a tenner. Next on the cheap list was the cobble labyrinth – made with bags of water-worn cobbles bought from builders merchants . Delegates also learned how to make labyrinths out of jam jars and tea-lights (potentially free with a jar appeal!). Lastly, came the seven-circuit rope labyrinth – most expensive at £200 for the complete kit. Still less than a single laptop!

It is important to note that there’s as much fun (and learning) in making as using labyrinths and teachers recognised that costs and preparation aren’t that onerous. I’m a great fan of temporary labyrinths – there are many different designs to choose from and the challenges can be made appropriate for every age and ability. There are literally dozens of lesson activities in making labyrinths (of every shape and size) and they fit in nicely with your spiritual development needs as well. If you want tons of ideas for labyrinths see below for our new publication.


Teachers mastering the stick tower challenge. Masking tape is used to make the task accessible to children who struggle with knot-tying.

The snla Forest School training experience was sponsored by the Bath & Wells Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust and took place at Dillington House in Somerset. Our input was part of a general day of alternative and inspirational approaches to teaching and groups rotated through the course at 11/2 hour intervals. This was designed to be a short, snappy insight into accessible Forest School that required little more than bundles of sticks, string, masking tape, a few pegs and nothing sharper than a pair of safety scissors. The session began with stick-tower building – an activity I have done with children as young as six – but equally relevant as a problem-solving and team challenge activity (as well as those structures and forces issues) right into KS3 and beyond.


Will it take the weight or won’t it. Teachers watch nervously as there bridge supports 5 kilos of sand for the required 60 seconds.

Moving up the scale of challenge, teachers then went on to make bridges. These had to be suspension bridges with a span of two metres and capable of taking a load of 5 kilos. This was all fascinating stuff with the distribution of loading  apparent in the stressing and straining of the Heath-Robinson structures!

Finally teachers made travois –  a Native American structure made from poles and pulled by humans, horses or dogs. I used this activity at the top end of KS1, but it is ideally located at KS2 upwards. It is great with tipi building and as part of an insight into American history and the live-ways of plains Indians. The teachers had the same experience as the kids – with two teams racing each other up the lawn – safely apart on either side of the drive to avoid collisions!


Teachers take the strain in the travois race.

It remains my belief that all schools need a trained specialist who can co-ordinate this type of outdoor learning – but Forest School qualifications are not needed by every teacher who chooses to work outdoors. Each activity needs to have a tried and tested risk assessment and the school needs to exercise its usual checks and balances to ensure the competence of the staff concerned. And of course, staff need training to build their confidence!