Start with a blank canvas
Running Deer’s Referrals Pathway for young people in Devon delivers results for schools in Devon!
When a young person comes to Running Deer we like them to arrive as a blank canvas. Although we need information about them, a background history and the reasons why they have been referred to us, we have found that in every case the young person does not exhibit the same behaviour in our woodland environment as they do in school.
We have always tried to keep the process as simple as possible, both for the school and the young person and recommend a site visit before any final decision is made. Our woodland is not for everyone.
We are isolated, on the edge of Dartmoor with a temperamental climate that is several degrees cooler than the major towns and cities we cover. It also rains a lot!
A lot of the young people come to us because they have emotional and behavioural problems; they simply aren’t getting on in school and are facing the real risk of being permanently excluded.
Our Referrals Pathway programme aims to always transition a young person back into their existing school, or to help with the smooth transition into a new school.
Sometimes they are here for a few weeks, and others stay with us for a long time on a reduced timetable which enables them to stay at that school so that they continue with their education.
We consider our work to be about personal development through practical skills and the young person will have an individual learning plan which we implement when we know what kind of activities the young person is likely to enjoy; from green woodworking and carpentry to horse care.
There may be times when play therapy is more important and there are plenty of games and activities that we can offer whether it’s a treasure hunt or imagination games.
As the young person settles into our routine he or she will be introduced to activities which range from coppicing and stone walling to den building or fire lighting. We also teach them about health and safety so that the young person has a clear idea of risks, and also actions and consequences; a glove on the none-tooled hand when sawing wood, a safety hat when coppicing trees and waterproofs when it’s raining – which is often the case!
The best part for us is seeing the young person grow in confidence and self-esteem, and with that a sense of achievement when they successfully complete a project; such as JP who made the most beautiful bench, or CW who very proudly took his birch bark cup home as a gift for his mum.
The feedback from the schools also demonstrates that the work we do with young people really does make a difference far beyond that individual… the young person who integrated fully into school a whole year ahead of schedule, and another who has shown a sense of maturity and focus on returning to school full time.
And we hope that the positive experiences that the young person has with Running Deer will remain with them as they mature into adults… and maybe some, such as Freddie, will come back and volunteer with us – and help to share their experiences of life at Butterdon Wood.