Connecting Through Nature at the Goodwood Education Trust

10th October 2023

The Goodwood Education Trust and Diggers Forest School hosted successful summer Forest School workshops for people with aphasia, using nature to provide a space to come together, socialise and find support.

  • Goodwood Education Trust

  • sustainability

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The Goodwood Education Trust, an independent environmental education charity operating on the Goodwood Estate, was approached by Caroline, a Forest School Leader and a stroke survivor living with aphasia.  

Aphasia is a little-known communication disability, acquired after stroke, brain tumour or injury. It makes it difficult for people to read, write or speak, affecting people differently.  

Knowing the power of nature, Caroline had a dream of being able to run Forest School sessions for people living with aphasia in the local area. Caroline says, ‘After my stroke, I could hardly talk for 6 months. Grit, determination and stubbornness got me through. Spending time outside in nature is beneficial to us in so many ways that people take for granted, that those with aphasia may find it hard to do so’.

The Trust team worked with Caroline to carefully design all elements of the Forest School workshops. They bought Directors chairs, to provide stability and balance. Paths were cleared to ensure sufficient width for support while walking. Tree stumps were cut at height to provide tables, to allow activities to be raised up. A location in the woods was chosen to be close to disabled toilet facilities and accessible car parking.

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Catherine Cannon, Trust Manager, said, ‘Activities were thoughtfully designed to be accessible and achievable, and to provide a focus while allowing people attending time to chat. Being in nature, without background noise or distraction, is so important for people with aphasia. It was wonderful to see participants creating woven crafts, enjoying the campfire and trying clay and leaf printing’.

The sessions were funded by the Education Trust, using external funding, and free of charge to those taking part. Participants could attend for one week or many weeks. One person said, ‘The outdoor environment added greatly to the therapeutic effect and confidence. It was a pleasure to meet other people and Caroline in particular (with similar problems).’ Some attending had neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

The sessions were observed by an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, who could see how effective they were. One said, ‘The set up in the woods was perfect and the way you ran and managed the group was so lovely to watch. I could see by the participants' faces how important it is to them’.

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The Education Trust is delighted at how well received the workshops have been and is looking forward to supporting them again through 2024. Catherine continued, ‘We’re so pleased we could help Caroline make her dream come true’.

For more information on Goodwood Education Trust, click here. To learn more about Diggers Forest School, visit www.diggersforestschool.com

  • Goodwood Education Trust

  • sustainability

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