Salad! an extended metaphor

I’ve been in conversation with my friend Vicky Mateu from Catalonia about a metaphor that explores how the mix of elements affect the flavour of our practise. There’s a lot of levels that we have discovered through our conversations which I hope to share here at some point. Folk at the Forest School Association Conference joined in the conversation recently and we used it as an opportunity for reflective practice.

With thanks to Jude Vinton, Chris Holland, Sarah Allington and Maria Sprostranovia for sharing photos

Some of the materials we used are shared here. We would love you to share them with your colleagues and teams with attribution.

This is the very simple introduction to the model we’ve been exploring. It doesn’t go into the olive oil or mayonnaise, which is the resources we take with us, or what to do when you get a raw potato in your salad…

Vicky and I used the ideas we were exploring to create a self evaluation tool which we share below:

As with any form of reflective questioning it is important to be kind to ourselves and not look for reasons to criticise our practice but to look at the areas we can explore further.

Reflective questions



  • What do I appreciate from the land I offer sessions in?
  • What can I do to be more connected to this land?
  • What does it move in me?
  • What inspires in me?
  • How does tending this land/site feel?

I feel connected to this land/site


  • Whats does this type of landscape offer (affordances)
  • How does being in this land/site promote:
  • Connection to wildlife
  • Playfulness
  • Mystery/wonder
  • Exploration
  • Discovery
  • Healing
  • Grounding/Calmness
  • Is there is a rich array of non-human elements to interact with, plants, trees and wildlife
  • The number and range of loose parts for play is optimum?

The site is rich in nature and loose parts


  • What can we do to care for the impact we have on this piece of land?
  • How easy is it to get to?
  • What does the site size offer/sparks to explore, do, propose?
  • Resilience of the land. Can the land handle the amount of activity?

The land is resilient to the amount of activity on it

What does the land need?

Onion – LEADER – ME


  • My gifts: Which are my gifts? How could I make use of them in the sessions, in the team or in my development as a forest school leader?
  • My personal management: How am I dealing with my own issues? Am I aware of them? Am I able to be grounded in my delivery?
  • My interests: What I am interested in at the moment? Can it be possible to discover or share things in this field alongside the participants?  How can this be woven into the sessions?
  • My experiences: Am I using my own experiences and processes to enrich my practice? Am I using them to guide me in acknowledging and sustaining the participants’ own processes?
  • My knowledge: Is it rich enough to lead the sessions I wish to deliver? Does it respond to the needs & interests of the participants?
  • My training and my access to professional development or mentoring: does it make me feel resourceful, grounded and supported in dealing with the needs/interests of the sessions I offer?  Does it make me feel ready for the project I am involved with or the team I’m a part of?

I have training and access to professional development or mentoring

OTHERS- TEAM – in relation to

  • Do I feel supported in my role or I’m part of a team?
  • Do I/we feel that our team has a system in which we come into dialogue and agreement when need be?
  • Do I/we feel that the team shares the gifts of its members and allows for each other’s best work?

I feel supported in my role or I’m part of a team


  • Do I feel confident to allow participants to lead their learning and take a step back?
  • Am I confident to create a community of learning?

I feel confident to hold the flow of the session and create a community.

What may I need?


INDIVIDUALS – APPRECIATION – Internal (me to them)

  • Do I know the participants? Who they are, their background, needs, etc?
  • Do I feel connected to all the participants of the group?
  • Am I being proactive in creating a positive relationship with all the participants in the group?
  • How do I support the holistic development of the participants?
  • How do I deal with complex needs, trauma or Adverse Childhood Experience?
  • Do I manage to create acceptance and non judgment of the participants, within me and among each other? If not, what do I do about it?

I feel able to connect with all the participants with a non judgemental attitude.

We are individuals, and I accept others as their are and where they are at

GROUP – TEAM – OFFER (them to each other- group dynamic)

  • Do I know the group? How can I get information about them?
  • Do I know the background of the group?
  • How do I support the holistic development of the group?
  • Do they know each other? If not, what can I do to help break the ice?
  • How do I build community, for the group to deal with participants who have complex needs, trauma or Adverse Childhood Experience?

I/We can support the needs and dynamic of the group

We create/are a community


  • What is my approach to holistic development and outcomes in a natural setting?
  • What do I do to make a group feel comfortable in a natural space? Open (no boundaries), changing and alive environment?
  • Does the group feel comfortable in this land/site?
  • What is their relation to nature?
  • Do they have experience of nature on a regular basis?
  • What are their interests? What do they like to explore?
  • How do they get inspired?

The group feels comfortable and confident in the space/land

What does the group need?


We belong in nature. We are part of nature. We feel part of nature


Playing with and extending the metaphor 


  • 6 principles
  • 3 main FS rules (care of me, group, nature)

I can implement the ethos of Forest School


How does the background, culture, and communities that the participants and practitioners come from influence the way the participants and practitioners connect with each other and the land.


Which of the tools are vital to how we look after ourselves?

Which resources activate our relationship with nature and which of them distract from the relationship?

Which resources act as a transitional object for participants who are out of their comfort zone?


We are fascinated to hear how this lands with you and what other elements you are finding in your salad.