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Integrating Forest Therapy in Outdoor Education

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At least every month, I am lucky enough to take a group of human beings to interact with the more-than-human world through a Forest Therapy Walk. Originating as the Japanese tradition of Shrinin-Yoku or "Forest Bathing" in 1981, the Forest Therapy that I facilitate in the Salish Sea area has been passed on to Guides through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides (ANFT). There is a sequence that Forest Therapy Guides follow according to ANFT's teachings where participants interact with nature slowly and intentionally by using senses to experience nature in many different ways. Guides call the different sensory-based experiences invitations, because you can accept them as they are said, or modify them as you may need.

Hepp 1These invitations follow both a standard sequence and can depend on where you are Guiding, how are you are guiding with, the day, as well as many other factors. One of my favorite things to do is play with invitations, especially to cater to people of diverse ages and to highlight an especially interesting place/space. I have been practicing Forest Therapy both as a participant and as a Guide since 2016. In so doing, I have noticed how the practice of Forest Therapy gives the participants a chance to connect with nature and each other and opens the doors to playfulness, connection, and thoughtfulness in many different and beautiful ways. I keep thinking of ways to bring Forest Therapy in unique, interesting, and exciting ways not just to the participants I am Guiding, but to myself as well.

I have been incorporating Forest Therapy in the field during the Student Overnight Program during the weeks of teaching in the field in a couple of ways. I have used invitations from my practice as a Guide to help enhance different lessons and activities.

Hepp 2One example of my use of Forest Therapy was during the two times I did my Arts Integration Lesson using natural materials to make animals and ecosystems at IslandWood. One of the objectives was: “Students will be able to correlate the meanings of shape, structure, color, and texture as it relates to both plants and animals”. To help students notice the more-than-human world as they go slow and use their senses, the invitations I facilitated on the first day with my groups were Pleasures Of Presence and What’s in Motion. These are two different invitations used to slow people down and facilitate them into a more mindful and aware state.

Through the invitations, various senses were explored in order to notice beings as well as colors and textures. Later on in the week, we did another Forest Therapy awareness session where we explored the Wild Zone again with more awareness of the beings that were there after spending time learning and investigating. I told the students to gather materials from the forest that they found interesting, in order to make something with them. After time exploring, I gave them their task to make an animal or ecosystem that we’ve seen or know now that we’ve investigated and that the students knew is at IslandWood.


Hepp 3During the two times I facilitated the Art Lesson, it was quite a different situation. My first group had mindfulness in their school, so they were used to the practice of slowing down, internalizing their thoughts, and reflecting thoughtfully on their noticings. The second group I did the Lesson with took a little more time to get familiarized with the practice of mindfulness.

In doing Forest Therapy with adults and young children, I have found that it helps to Guide and to teach with the understanding that there always needs to be space for times to slow down, question, interact, and notice and times to play and be sillier. Through my practice as a Forest Therapy Guide and as an IslandWood instructor, the most valuable thing I am re-learning is how to let go of some of my expectations when the students are unfamiliar with a concept and meet them where they are to help them towards a goal. I am reminded that the real goal we should all be working on make sure whoever I am working with is being safe and kind to both the human and more-than-human world, so that the learning can take place over the time that you have available in a variety of ways. I hope to keep practicing the medicine of Forest Therapy and joy of teaching, and in so doing, connect with the human and more-than-human beings in reciprocity of care for the communities we share together in this world.

  

At least every month, I am lucky enough to take a group of human beings to interact with the more-than-human world through a Forest Therapy Walk. Originating as the Japanese tradition of Shrinin-Yoku or "Forest Bathing" in 1981, the Forest Therapy that I facilitate in the Salish Sea area has been passed on to Guides through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides (ANFT). There is a sequence that Forest Therapy Guides follow according to ANFT's teachings where participants interact with nature slowly and intentionally by using senses to experience nature in many different ways. Guides call the different sensory-based experiences invitations, because you can accept them as they are said, or modify them as you may need.

Hepp 1These invitations follow both a standard sequence and can depend on where you are Guiding, how are you are guiding with, the day, as well as many other factors. One of my favorite things to do is play with invitations, especially to cater to people of diverse ages and to highlight an especially interesting place/space. I have been practicing Forest Therapy both as a participant and as a Guide since 2016. In so doing, I have noticed how the practice of Forest Therapy gives the participants a chance to connect with nature and each other and opens the doors to playfulness, connection, and thoughtfulness in many different and beautiful ways. I keep thinking of ways to bring Forest Therapy in unique, interesting, and exciting ways not just to the participants I am Guiding, but to myself as well.

I have been incorporating Forest Therapy in the field during the Student Overnight Program during the weeks of teaching in the field in a couple of ways. I have used invitations from my practice as a Guide to help enhance different lessons and activities.

Hepp 2One example of my use of Forest Therapy was during the two times I did my Arts Integration Lesson using natural materials to make animals and ecosystems at IslandWood. One of the objectives was: “Students will be able to correlate the meanings of shape, structure, color, and texture as it relates to both plants and animals”. To help students notice the more-than-human world as they go slow and use their senses, the invitations I facilitated on the first day with my groups were Pleasures Of Presence and What’s in Motion. These are two different invitations used to slow people down and facilitate them into a more mindful and aware state.

Through the invitations, various senses were explored in order to notice beings as well as colors and textures. Later on in the week, we did another Forest Therapy awareness session where we explored the Wild Zone again with more awareness of the beings that were there after spending time learning and investigating. I told the students to gather materials from the forest that they found interesting, in order to make something with them. After time exploring, I gave them their task to make an animal or ecosystem that we’ve seen or know now that we’ve investigated and that the students knew is at IslandWood.


Hepp 3During the two times I facilitated the Art Lesson, it was quite a different situation. My first group had mindfulness in their school, so they were used to the practice of slowing down, internalizing their thoughts, and reflecting thoughtfully on their noticings. The second group I did the Lesson with took a little more time to get familiarized with the practice of mindfulness.

In doing Forest Therapy with adults and young children, I have found that it helps to Guide and to teach with the understanding that there always needs to be space for times to slow down, question, interact, and notice and times to play and be sillier. Through my practice as a Forest Therapy Guide and as an IslandWood instructor, the most valuable thing I am re-learning is how to let go of some of my expectations when the students are unfamiliar with a concept and meet them where they are to help them towards a goal. I am reminded that the real goal we should all be working on make sure whoever I am working with is being safe and kind to both the human and more-than-human world, so that the learning can take place over the time that you have available in a variety of ways. I hope to keep practicing the medicine of Forest Therapy and joy of teaching, and in so doing, connect with the human and more-than-human beings in reciprocity of care for the communities we share together in this world.

  

About the Author
Julie Hepp
Author: Julie Hepp

Julie Hepp is an Outdoor Educator and Certified Forest Therapy Guide by the Association for Nature and Forest Therapy Guides. They have been teaching, leading, and facilitating programs and activities in nature for eight years. Julie is an artist, and writer currently pursuing a MEd at University of Washington and is a part of IslandWood’s Education for Environment and Community Program.