Our Easter Scheme is back – with a difference! It will be held at the magnificent Crawfordsburn Country Park which means we will have a beach school as well!
Three days of fresh air, forest skills, outdoor play and nature education. Outdoor cooking, fire skills and sand play are also included on this incredibly therapeutic list created with well-being and sensory integration in mind.
Make the most of the Easter with us! Sign up here.
We have had a most busy 2023 to date. We started with a return to our After School at the Hol;ywood Steiner School, the first of our Goddess workshops as well as a session with the Fostering Network, promoting our Easter Holiday Scheme for 2023 and developing a Forest School training day with GROW NI.
Here is a snapshot of how we’ve got on.
After School – Holywood Steiner School
Our After School sessions are full with a waiting list. Children engage in deep play while developing their bushcraft skills. Running around is essential to stay warm while cooking over an open fire keeps our spirits up.
If you are interested in starting an After School with us, why not give us a call on 07540075991 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fostering Network – Belfast
We spent a remarkably unseasonal warm three days in February at Belvoir Park Forest doing not just forest skills, but history, plant ID, bird song and geography. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful forest in the middle of Belfast and for a few of the participants, it was the first time they had been there!
It was a beautiful return to the Quarries where we held our first birthday party of the year! We had 11 children and a very happy birthday boy. Party games were played and we celebrated another year around the sun.
If you are interested in booking a party with us email us on email@example.com. Each child is £12 with a minimum of 10 children. The party games are an hour with another hour at the Quarries in their traditional Tea Barn.
Sometimes dream do come true! We held our first goddess workshop at the Navan Centre which worked with the Goddess Brigid and looked at the Maiden in ourselves. The day was bright and beautiful and the moon guided us back to amazing dreams! Our next one is on 14 May when we work with Macha. You can sign up for it here!
New year new things!
We spent nearly £400 on new equipment, including a slackline, target, arrows and lots and lots and lots of rope and tarp – AND a kelly kettle!!!! We are a REAL forest school now 🙂
Well that’s us all caught up for 2023! With our next outing which is the Fostering Network in Antrim, Easter Holiday Scheme, GROW NI workshop and more goddess workshops, it looks to be a very very busy year!
To register for the course, please click here. Please take note of the different closing dates in the form for each session.
The idea for this series of workshops began with a conversation between Siuban O’Hare and Stephanie Sim around tree journeys, the Goddess, mythic time and consciousness.
Over the course of the year, frequented the hills of Craigantlet and forests of North Down, to explore putting together something which would draw on the wealth of Irish mythology to enable participants to develop their connection with the unseen consciousness. A consciousness which, because it is quiet, almost forgotten and unspoken, has had little currency in our culture and soul life, and flown under our collective radars.
We spoke about the importance of thresholds and the Divine Feminine, her beauty and sublimity as Maiden, Mother and Crone, and wondered how we could work with her blessings and bounty through a mythic narrative which would simultaneously strengthen the Sacred Feminine presence in our lives as well as root it in nature, the land making the experience an earthy, practical one.
Jemma Weymss then joined the conversation and over several sessions we discussed the phases of womanhood, as well as the importance of the feminine consciousness in the lives of not just the women we knew, or the women we were, but men who were part of the picture.
The topics were wide ranging and covered everything: from the experience of girlhood, periods to the blossoming potential and perils of teenagehood, the triumphs and challenges faced by young women, mothers, and single women, as well as society’s impoverished and debilitating attitudes to the riches of the menopause and elderhood. We covered what wisdoms the ancient myths held for us as we reconnected with a renewed spiritual consciousness in the 21st century. It spiraled out into social constructs, economic systems, religion, the media, including social media, as well as the historic suppression and abuse of the feminine and how impoverished we were because of this. Yes, it did feel like we were setting the world to rights a bit.
In late June, we began to speak with the Navan Centre. This was very exciting. As the home of the Goddess Macha herself and the ancient spiritual centre of Ireland, the Navan Centre’s unique location would be the perfect place to explore these ideas and renew our connection to the land, through a series of workshops which worked with the Triple Goddess.
The workshop is called Because I Have a Voice – The Heroine’s Journey as we were reclaiming and reframing that forgotten and long abandoned space through story, song, poetry and art. Of great importance as well was reestablishing a connection with the land through blessing as well as working with the trees as a medium for journeying into mythic time.
The three sessions can be attended as stand alone workshops, or as a full set.
The idea is to take the participant on a journey through the threefold incarnation of the Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother and Crone.
During each workshop we will work with an aspect of the Goddess and very closely with a tree.
This will be done through various media, including sand play, poetry, art, woodland skills, music and storytelling. Each workshop will explore what that aspect of the Goddess means, and how it has informed and continues to inform the participant’s own journey.
Lunch will be held outdoors, as we cook over a campfire, reconnecting with the mood of the season.
At the end of the session, participants will leave with a momento of time spent in mythic space, as well as, hopefully, a deepened understanding and connection of the role the Divine Feminine which they will be able to continue to strengthen independently in their lives.
The workshop will be facilitated by Siuban, Stephanie and Jemma.
Who should attend?
Anyone who is interested in journeying, nature and conservation, mythology, tree lore, creativity, woodland and outdoor activities and skills, exploring their own relationship to the Goddess in all her aspects and forms. You can be brand new to the process or a seasoned practioner yourself. No experience is necessary and depth of experience will be welcomed!
If you are on a threshold yourself – or would like to retrospectively look back at your own experience of those thresholds. We hope to offer a space where all are able to share of their experiences openly and draw from the journey of the Goddess herself to develop a nourishing narrative.
Ages: 16 and above
Gender: Open to anyone who seeks to connect with the Divine Feminine within them. It is important that as a participant you must respect the experiences of everyone else.
Mobility: Allowances can be made for people of varying mobilities. If you have a question about ability, please contact us directly by email.
What to bring
Participants need to bring a Journal and Pen – although loose leaf paper and stationery will also be provided. All food will be provided. All art materials will be provided.
Must be dressed for the weather (outdoor element). Dress comfortably to enable movement during workshop.
Navan Fort (Emain Macha) is an ancient ceremonial monument near Armagh, Northern Ireland. According to tradition it was one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and the capital of the Ulaidh. It is a large circular hilltop enclosure—marked by a bank and ditch—inside which is a circular mound and the remains of a ring barrow. Archeological investigations show that there were once buildings on the site, including a huge roundhouse-like structure that has been likened to a temple. In a ritual act, this timber structure was filled with stones, deliberately burnt down and then covered with earth to create the mound which stands today. It is believed that Navan was a pagan ceremonial site and was regarded as a sacred space. It features prominently in Irish mythology, especially in the tales of the Ulster Cycle. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, “the [Eamhain Mhacha] of myth and legend is a far grander and mysterious place than archeological excavation supports”.
Siuban O Hare
Siuban is a fulltime artist, sculptor and storyteller, who lives and works in Bangor Co,Down. She has exhibited her work with the RUA annual exhibition in the Ulster Museum Belfast, Scuplture in Context National Botanical Gardens Dublin, ForM Sculptural exhibition Walled Gardens Bangor and the Chimera international Gallery Mullingar WestMeath. Siuban is a member of a local writers and storytelling group. Her knowledge also extends into Irish mythology and Folklore, Divine Feminine and Irish Indigenous beliefs and practices.
Before becoming a fulltime artist, for over 25 years, Siuban worked as a Trauma and Systemic Family Therapist. Using art, play, poetry, storytelling and journaling as a form of communication. With children, adolesences and their families, in residential and community settings.
Siuban designed and delivered training and workshops on Trauma and Systemic Family therapy.
Stephanie has had a long standing interest in mythology, especially Goddess mythos. She has delved into shamanism, tree journeys and has facilitated workshops with teenagers – boys and girls – to enable connections with the world around them to assist with sense making.
She currently teaches in a Waldorf school and has also been a Forest School practioner for the past 11 years. She started Elements Forest School in 2020 and is working closely with the Fostering Network to deliver their Wild About Learning Programme.
She has a MA degree in English Studies and holds amongst other certifications, a diploma in Steiner education and has been an accredited Forest School practioner for the past 11 years.
Jemma Wemyss is a Play and Creative Arts Therapist and Forest School Leader from Bangor, County Down. She specialises in a technique called SandStory which is a creative Therapeutic approach using sand, symbols and storytelling for wellbeing. Jemma became involved with Elements after responding to an opportunity to volunteer. The immersive engagement with nature inspired her to become a permanent member of the team. This series of workshops is a unique opportunity for Jemma to bring together SandStory, creativity and outdoor skills to facilitate a connection with oneself, the stories we hold and the natural world around us.
Starting in February, at Imbolc, we will be starting a series of workshops honouring the feminine and everyone is invited, regardless of gender.
We will be taking a voyage with Brigid (Imbolc), Macha (Bealtaine) and the Cailleach (Samhain) through the course of the year. Along with the goddesses, we will be working with trees as well as the land. The venue is being confirmed now, but it is quite close to being confirmed! So we are most excited about this.
We will continue our After Schools club in Holywood Steiner School. But if you are interested in having one for yours, please contact us and let us know.
The dates for the Easter scheme are the 4, 5 and 6 of April.
We will continue to work with the Fostering Network. We are planning a session over the February half term already for somewhere in Belfast!
and Halloween was back! Sadly we didn’t get too many photos of it, but here are a few that were captured by the parents. It was a collaboration between Elements and the Parents and Friends of the Steiner School. over 150 people attended despite the downpour! It was a truly memorable evening.
I must apologise for not updating the site since June! Unforgiveable!
In my defence, it has been extremely busy the past few months though.
Here is a run down on what we have been up to:
After School Sessions at the Holywood Steiner School
We have had full session of up to 18 children here on Monday afternoons between 3 to 5 pm. The children who attend these sessions are now so well seasoned, that they engage in deep play. We set out our activities and the children then self direct play. There could be some who play int he hammock.
Others choose to hone their knife skills.
Yet others play in the woods, creating worlds which are limited only by the imagination. Others build dens. It is the sort of thing which you really want to do after school, with friends…
After that, most importantly, we all have a good feed…
Here are a few thoughts after ten years of Forest School… yes I started teaching Forest School in 2012…
Well, my thoughts… what always inspired me was the wish to have children understand and be connected with nature. Yes, true it was about how nature was great for children. How nature was important to us. How they are the future and therefore they are entrusted to nature. And from the very start to was always linked to the unseen beings, the invisible law of physics or pharies, you choose, that surrounded us. Always.
The most important thing though – along with working with all of nature – was bringing this joy, this constancy of love. If the activities were overprescribed and joyless, then it would defeat the purpose.
So Forest School would always be a place of learning, yes, but also magic and play…
Fast forward ten years… that’s ten years of being a Waldorf teacher, ten years of Forest School, two years of Covid, two years of starting our own social enterprise… and here we are…
Here are the top 5 things I have learnt as an outdoor teaching practitioner:
Plan, plan, plan with the children and the activities in mind.
Have everything at hand.
Health and safety of course, but also boundaries they can explore and grow into.
Always read the children – see where they are and what they need.
Have fun with it! Make sure that there is always space for fun.
It has been a wonderful 10 years and with any luck there will be another 10 to go! Thank you everyone who has helped along the way.