Friday, 25 September 2015

New workshops for winter 2015

Winter tales and Spring stories
activities in school with Creeping Toad
December 2015 - April 2016
marking the changing edge of the year, here are old stories, new adventures, art, history and wildlife to inspire your classes
this year we might meet.
  •  storytelling, and storymaking, treasures, plots, landscapes and thrills
  •   puppets, lanterns, shadows and pop-ups
  •  trees, leaves, nuts and fruit
  •  animals in winter, waking into spring
  • ancient lives, distant land

With stories running from the frozen edges of the world right through to the first flowers of spring and the waking of the bumblebees, here are stories and activities to enchant and inspire.

I am planning and promoting workshops for the winter and spring ahead. Here are ideas, suggestions and throw -away thoughts: all of these are here as starting points. If you are interested in a session in school - or some other place - your youth group perhaps? or as a public event in a library, museum, country park or dungeon, get int ouch! let's have a chat! Let's plan something wild and wonderful!

A day of activity might include:

~ storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time

~ stories out of anything! usually we might do this outside but given wintry weather, we'll use leaves and pine cones, twigs and stones and shells indoors to inspire words, create poems and shape a set of stories never told before (allow 60 minutes for a class session)

~ story and book workshops: taking a bit longer (allow 90 minutes for a class) as well as discovering those stories no-one has ever heard before, now we will build those into the books that no-one has ever read before and leave the classroom with a library no-one has ever visited before!

 ~ pop-up storyscapes: allow an hour for a class: gathering ideas, images and words well make quick 3-d landscapes holding the essence of a story or the thrills of a lifecycle in a setting, with characters and the words that set the adventure running

~ Winter lights: finding words and images to hold the essence of winter or the hopes of spring in quick poems, we'll slide words  and pictures into lanterns and make a swarm of small glowing lanterns to glow through the darkest nights or gloomiest days

~ shadow stories: out of my stories might come new stories: drawing on whatever theme we are working with to create quick performances of shadow puppets. Incorporating silhouettes, translucence and transparency, we'll mix science with story to create an (almost) instant set of story performances to show or perhaps to film

~ Ancient Lives and other lands: add a voice from the distant past to your history topics with stories that our Stone Age ancestors might have listened to. Stories. models, artefacts and drawings can feed into art inspired by cave paintings, carvings and jewellery. Similar inspiration runs through collections of African, Rain Forest and Native American material

~ Animals in winter - getting to know your local wildlife from stories to listen to, to models to make, life-cycles, food, homes and habitats

~ Trees? Just how well do you know your trees? Help your class become Tree Detectives and identify local trees through leaves, seeds and twigs. Find out about animal life in different trees and meet some of the old stories that have grown alongside our oak, ash, holly and birch

~ Working with younger children: special sessions for early years where we might listen to stories, invent new stories, find adventures in gardens, make puppet characters to send on quests…enjoy playing with words…

~ your own themes and ideas: or are you exploring a particular theme that you would like to involve some stories in? pirates.tropical islands.ancient Greeks…the wonder of fossils and rocks..where in our school would bears live?…a shadow puppet quidditch match and the Great Fire of London  have all featured in recent Creeping Toad projects

Charges: £250 a day: includes storytellers fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you. Activities can be adapted to suit groups from KS 1, 2 or 3

For further information:
visit the Creeping Toad website at Creeping Toad
( or the blog at
To book: contact Gordon directly at
or by telephone:
landline: 01298 77964
mobile: 07791 096857

you never know who - or what - 
will end up in a Creeping Toad story!

inspired cave drawing

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Migdale Wyrm

The Migdale Worm

It heaved itself up from the floor of the sea, its huge claws digging out the Dornoch Firth as it scrabbled up onto the land. Dripping seaweed and dribbling water, the Wyrm saw something small and shiny fleeing across the moor and struck. Clouds shivered, trees shook and the monster bit down, crunching. But it had lived the long centuries of its life in the deeps of the sea, chewing on rubbery squid and sucking up squishy jellyfish. Its teeth had never met the metal of a school bus or heard the screams of 30 startled children and, in wild disgust, the wyrm dropped the bus which wobbled and rattled and escaped over the hill, leaving a broken dragon-tooth lying there, just lying there like a fallen rock, beside the old road

But the wyrm had swallowed two tyres and they made it feel ill. So ill, in fact, that the monster threw up and its vomit spilled out to make Loch Migdale, there, just there, over the hill. Still feeling ill, the great sea-dragon curled up and went to sleep until she felt better. And there she is, still sleeping while trees grow on her back and heather on her head.

And if you do not believe our story, here is the wyrm's tooth, here, right here, beside us on this path….

That’s it really. We had a day of adventures and stories with the Woodland Trust in Migdale and Ledmore, telling stories and making up tales, spinning delights out of Gandalf’s staff (he retired to the woods here after all the trauma of Lord of the Rings), small chips of painted wood (fragments from the ghost train of Spinningdale), the fairy princess and her pet caterpillars, horses and horrors and general delights….
and we told stories to toads and passing beetles

Take a few new steps....

Take another step: training courses this autumn

I'm doing three sets of training workshops in October and November. For all of these, you are welcome to talk to me about the content and details but to book and discuss money you need to talk to the individual organisers

Workshops like these are aimed at teachers, countryside rangers, environmental educators, youth group leaders….
During a workshop, we will aim to
            explore ideas
            try out (hopefully) new or different ways of connecting people to the natural world
            experiment with materials and techniques
            give you time to think and plan for your own situation
            meet fellow professionals
            remind yourself that working with people and nature is fun, and rewarding!

More details are given below but essentially, we have

October, Norfolk
Thursday 8th: Inspired by Nature: trees, leaves and creative mess
a practical and engaging workshop for KS1 and 2 and outdoor learning educators combining science and creativity

Friday 9th: Adventures Everywhere: using the environment to inspire stories, storytelling and poetry: stimulating creativity and imagination in the outdoors to support younger children's literacy skills

Saturday 10th: the conference "Whatever the Weather" has been postponed to the spring


Wednesday 4th: Botanic Gardens Education Network, annual conference: I am doing 2 workshops inspired by the Celtic Tree Calendar at this lovely event…(at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire)


Thursday 5th: Outdoor Adventures with Younger Children: activities for creative times with younger children - from instant characters to take adventuring to finding treasures, making up stories, looking for secrets…for Wildwise in Devon

More details

1. October: lively times in Norfolk
"autumn's wonders"
explore the world around us with creative techniques for teaching science and literacy

Autumn's wonders brings two days of related but stand-alone workshops offering ways of using creative techniques to explore the world around us

From creating instant stories out of a handful of grass and a stone to lighting a night-walk with lanterns, animating landscapes with puppets or simply capturing thoughts, feelings and impressions in hand-made books, these sessions will instruct, inspire and provoke you into a whole new set of activities

Workshops will invite participants to:
  • discuss the value and relevance of creativity in environmental education
  • experience ways of drawing inspiration from the world around us
  • plan their own workshop sessions using these activities
  • build confidence in working with ideas and delivering techniques to groups
  • try activities for themselves developing their own creative skills

Thursday 8th October, Inspired by Nature: trees, leaves and creative mess
a practical and engaging workshop for KS1 and 2 and outdoor learning educators combining science and creativity
9.30 - 3.30

Friday 9th October, Adventures Everywhere: using the environment to inspire stories, storytelling and poetry: stimulating creativity and imagination in the outdoors to support younger children's literacy skills
9.30 - 3.30

Booking through:
£125 per day

Workshop venue: Catton Park, Norfolk

2. November

2.1 Wednesday 4th: B-Gen conference - find out more here

2.2 Thursday 5th, Outdoor Adventures with Younger Children

9.30 am - 4.30 pm

on the Dartington Estate

£115 / £95 / £70*

 Build your own toolkit of activities and themes to use with younger children. Looking at the world around us as a treasure-trove of stories, to inspire language, encourage communication and foster a deep sense of excitement. Discover the best pizza for a troll, and how to call a dragon from a flowerbed! Using readily transferable techniques and easily sourced materials, this workshop will encourage us to value and cherish the creativity of younger children.

(I feel I should point out that I am an environmental educator, artist and storyteller - not a bushcarft worker so we'll be happily muddied into art, story and leaves rather than bush-crafter stuff! There are lots of other workshops you can go to for this - look at the rest of the Wildwise programme for a start!)

* rates for business/voluntary-charitable organisations/individuals

Bookings: contact Wildwise.
Wildwise office 01803 868269 / 07919 093784
WildWise Events
Dartington Space
Dartington Hall