We have recently sent a copy of The Lost Words to every School in Devon, to help play our part in keeping the words featured in this wonderful book as common tongue. It’s words will continue to be used and it’s poetry and artwork inspire. Nick Murphy, the manager of our Exmouth Forest School explains why this book is such an inspiration…
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed.”
In 2007, the new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed a large number of words that were deemed to be irrelevant to its youth audience, many of which were words used to describe, identify and name aspects of the natural world; Acorn. Bluebell. Bramble. Heather. Magpie. Otter. Willow………all gone. In their place were younger words that were recognised as being more commonplace in day to day language such as Broadband, Blog (ironic, I know) Chat-room, Database.
In 2017, ‘The Lost Words’ was published. Written by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, it beautifully contains poems and artwork based upon a number of words used to describe the natural world that were disregarded from the new edition of the OJD. The book really struck a chord with us, stirring our passion for the natural world, and it felt odd and somewhat wrong that many of the words contained within, were words that we use regularly in our day to day life stories.
So much of what we do as a company focuses on connection. We encourage children to connect with each other through our regular forest school sessions, helping and enabling them to relate to their peers and the world around them, facilitating positive experiences in natural environments. We provide sessions which allow parents to deepen their connection with their kids through shared experience, exploring and playing in the woodland. We train adults to use the practice of Forest School to connect with the children they work among. We create activities that allow people to explore and get to know the nuances and characteristics, wonder and majesty of the flora and fauna within which they play. Key to succeeding in all these things is language. Without it we have no point of reference to light the little sparks of positivity, knowledge, magic and wisdom that assist in making sense of the world which we share. Our stories are made up of these experiences, and in turn become the stories of the generations to follow. There is no denying that in a single generation, our world has shifted dramatically at a pace quicker than most of us imagined, and words such as broadband and algorithm should without doubt be included in catalogues of words we provide to children to aid their learning. In no way should we ignore the changes and adaptations our cultures have been through, and we should encourage kids to describe it using language of our time. It is how they will make sense of it.
However, it should not be at the cost of forgetting our proverbial grass roots. It seems odd to me that lately there has been so much chitter-chatter and Twitter-chatter regarding the amount of loss our world has suffered and it’s implications upon future generations; Species, Rainforest, Habitat, Coral Reef, Air-quality, Clean-Oceans to name a few. And on top of this, things as easy to provide to children with as words, are being taken away also? Words which they without doubt require to help relate to and connect with these events, help plan for change and even be the introduction to their understanding that their environment needs some serious restoration before more losses occur?
It’s proper bizarre ain’t it bruv.
Find out more about the book and a range of available resources for teaching on the John Muir Trust website
Date: 4 June 2019
Author: Nick Muphy, Manager of our Exmouth Forest School