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Nature, Well-being & Child-led Learning - HARE's First Year

It's not only the end of the Autumn term, but also the end of the very first year we have run HARE. And what an amazing year it has been!

We began creating and planning HARE about 14 months ago. Susie, Georgie and Charlie all come from an education background and we talked about how we would love to run outdoor education that meets children's individual needs, and incorporating our love of nature, creativity, mindfulness community work and supporting families. We talked about how we would love to support parents' well-being, because we know how hard it is being a parent!

We planned family workshops and children's Forest School and searched for an appropriate site. We were very lucky to find the Beaver Lodge in Parkend, where we have run all our sessions this year. We are so grateful to the Beaver Lodge for all their support.

We planned an open day, which we ran in February 2023. We were hoping a few people would come and support us at our open day and were astounded when over 80 people were on site! We hadn't bought enough biscuits for that many people!!

We began running forest school sessions at the end of February with our outdoor parent and toddler group and our family home ed, each attended by a small group of people in the first week. Over the weeks the numbers grew and by the summer we had over 20 children and their parents attending our parent & toddler group which we call Forest Play. We have sensory play, natural crafts, den building, heuristic/loose parts play, our mud kitchen and hot drinks for the grown ups. All in a beautiful ancient woodland on the Beaver Lodge site. We always finish the session with a group story and songs at our log circle.

We have parents with tiny babies right up to home educated children up to 7 years of age attending Forest Play with their parents. It's a lovely group and we've been amazed by how many parents have continued to "wrangle a toddler into waterproofs" and layers to be out in the woodland through the late Autumn and Winter.

In April we ran our first Family Forest Gathering, attended by 14 parents, grandparents and children. We incorporated traditional crafts, forest school and mindfulness. We plan for these days to be a wonderful time of quality family connection and will to run more in 2024.

July was a very busy month as we secured two grants and a tender. A small amount of grant funding from Forest of Dean District Council to buy some equipment and fund some bursary places at our Forest School sessions. An NHS grant through the District Council to run our weekly Nurture in Nature Walks, which started in July. And a tender from Gloucestershire County Council to run HAF (Holiday Activity & Food) children's workshops in August 2023.

Our Nurture in Nature Walks began in late July and have run weekly until this week. We love running these free walks in the forest and meeting new families. Many parents who attend are new parents, finding their feet for the first time, and it has been lovely to see parents get to know each other as they attend week after week. We have been joined on these walks by Mums, Dads, Grandparents, babies, toddlers, older children and sometimes friendly dogs. We have also had a couple of professionals from local organisations join us to see what we're up to.

In August we ran our first fully funded HAF (Holiday Activity & Food) school holiday children's workshops. We ran four days of children's workshops and one Family Forest Gathering. The weather was fantastic and we had a wonderful time building dens, playing group games, doing crafts, making clay faces and elder bead necklaces, painting and cooking marshmallows on the fire. We will be running more HAF children's workshops in January 2024 before the January school term starts.

With feedback from parents we changed our family home ed group to a drop off for children 8 years and over. We had 9 children attending Home Ed Forest School each week in the Autumn term and are registering with Ofsted which will enable us to take younger children in the Spring.

At the end of August we set up a Welly and Waterproofs Library, where families can swap or long term load welly boots or waterproof clothing to help them get outdoors all year round.

In September we began running Forest School sessions in a local school and a gardening club in another school. In November we started running our Yoga for Women's Health classes, which have been a wonderful relaxing, destressing time in the run up to all the Christmas madness. We have more yoga and well-being planned for you in 2024.

In December we recruited two new Forest School Leaders, Sarah and Laura who will be working with us in our Winter Children's HAF Workshops in January 2024.

We are so thankful to every person who has joined us on this wonderful journey this year. We have lots of exciting plans for development in 2024, so keep an eye out for news on our social media channels.

All three of us also work in other jobs and volunteer time in HARE. With HARE developing we hope in 2024 to be able to focus our work solely on running HARE, which will enable us to bring more fantastic services to our local community.

We would really appreciate your support. You can do this by: following us on social media, sharing our social media posts, regularly liking and commenting on our posts, telling friends and family about us and what we do, visiting our website regularly, subscribe to our newsletter, give us a shout out on social media, join our facebook group and interact in the group (post, comment, like, invite friends), write us a review on Facebook reviews or Google reviews, or fill in our Survey and let us know what you would like to see us doing in 2024. If you can afford it, you can also donate to our work through the shop on our website or give the gift of nature by guying a gift voucher for a loved one. There is a donations button at the bottom of any page on our website.

We really value and appreciate everyone who has supported us in any way during 2023 and we look forward to sharing our new developments with you next year.

We wish you a wonderful restful Christmas break and a happy new year and look forward to seeing you in the forest soon.

Charlie, Susie and Georgie x

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