Why We Should Remember

Remember walking down Memory Lane? The sign said so.

Built To Remember

It is important to remember.  Recalling our life experiences, how to eat, get dressed, walk on a slackline and events from our recent past barely scratch the surface of our memory’s significance to the human race.

Scientists tell us that neural connections (called synapses) in the brain are responsible for creating memories.  We build stronger synapses and associated memories the more active we are in an activity.  Examples include walking or using a saw.  The mental process of retrieving knowledge from the past is referred to as recall in the memory.  

Our main forms of memory are: sensory memory, short-term and long-term memory.

Sensory memory is taken from stimuli in the world around us and can be stored for future access.  Short-term memory is the memory we access during short periods of time, often referred to as working memory.

Our long term memory develops when the neural network strengthens through multiple uses of recall. The memory is encoded within the brain in the hippocampus and cortex throughout time and repeatedly being recalled. It eventually develops an independent existence in the cortex, where it is stored, as at a storage facility, until needed in the future. 

Memory formation is part of what makes us human.  Getting active outside is a great way to build memories and even learn new skills.  Following are a few key dates of remembrance and memory for November and December.

Remember our fire safety while toasting marshmallows around the fire on a wet autumn afternoon.

Remember Remember

This children’s poem by John Milton is about the failed Gunpowder Plot, which involved Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators on November 5, 1605.  They attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The Fifth of November 

Remember, remember!

The fifth of November,

The Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!

John Milton

Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is observed annually on November 5 to commemorate this occasion, enjoying fireworks, bonfires and food.  Thankfully, the houses of parliament are safe and sound, but it’s good to remind ourselves not to take our issues to extreme ends to make a point.

Remember Bonfire Night with Fireworks.

What it might look like in Forest School

Reading Milton’s poem is a good stimulus for Bonfire Night sessions.  Learners could decorate the poems with firework style images/shapes cutting up natural materials, colouring with pens or sprinkling chalk dust.  

Another activity is making fireworks with chalk.  Bright colours drawn onto trees or other natural materials make for a bright woodland around bonfire night. 

Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is a time when we stop to remember those who gave their lives during the two World Wars and other conflicts of our time.  Central to this is the humble poppy. A nationally recognised symbol of remembrance day, that was initially inspired by Lt Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem:

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

The use of the poppy spread, initially in the US closely followed by Canada, Australia and the UK.  Anna Guéin persuaded Earl Haig (founder of the British Legion) in 1921 to adopt the poppy in the UK.  This proved a solid move, with 9 million poppies selling and raising over £106,000 on their first selling. A huge sum for the time. 

The poppy remains a symbol of remembrance and hope for a peace filled future, even today.

Poppy Stone made in 2020 for Remembrance Sunday. Poppy Stone for Remembrance SundayRemember to work for peace with a poppy stone made with a rough stone.

What it might look like in Forest School

A poppy stone can be a good way to mark Remembrance Sunday in a Forest School setting ahead of the day.  Resources: print outs of a poppy, scissors, marker pens, PVA glue, paintbrushes and rocks.  

Cut out the poppy from a printed sheet and colour it in red, adding a black dot in the middle.

Paste to the rock using PVA glue.  Write with a permanent marker to add the text ‘Lest We Forget’ around the top and bottom of the poppy (optional).

Once the ink has dried, cover the entire face of the rock with the poppy on with PVA using a paint brush.  Allow to dry.  The glue will dry clear and offer a shiny coat.  These can be displayed in your setting or taken home for the children to place in their garden or chosen place. 

An alternative activity is making a remembrance wreath using autumn leaves.  Resources: sheets of paper, leaves and glue.

Print a piece of paper for each learner with two circles, one larger and one smaller inner.  The words Lest We Forget should be in the centre.  Learners source leaves from woods and glue them to make the wreath.

A wooden mobile spelling out Merry Christmas.


Christmas has a lot of significance for many people.  Some faith based, others in tradition, family and celebration.  Whatever your reason, it’s a a time to be together with those you love.

For Christians, Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Saviour coming to the world in human form.  It is worth remembering for the watershed moment it is in human history and the difference one person can have on the world. 

For others it’s a time to remember family (living and passed on) 

Christmas is typically celebrated with family and friends gathering together.  Gifts given, food eaten and party hat jokes told.  

Painting a terracotta pot green to help remember Christmas.Painting coloured dots a on a green terracotta pot.

Remember Christmas with a tree ornament.

What it might look like in Forest School

Christmas trees are very popular symbols at Christmas time.  Making a flower pot Christmas ornament is a practical take home with minimal environmental impact.  Resources: small flower pots > 5 cm, green paint, coloured paint, brushes, cue tips, scissors, twine and festive coloured ribbon (or use rustic twine if preferred).

Tie a thick knot in a piece of twine.  Thread through the hole in the pot.  Paint a layer of green on the pot with a brush while holding the twine.  place down to dry.  Layering up 2-3 coats of green may take a few sessions.

Once dried, add pretty coloured light effects using a cue tip to place dots of paint on the pot.

Finally, a length of ribbon tied at the loose ends will make the hanging loop.  Poke the ribbon through the hole carefully and pull till the knot locks in the hole.  

The children will be able to take it home and hang on their Christmas tree at home.

Children Balance on a slackline at Forest School so they can remember it for next time.

Remembering For A Better Tomorrow 

It is right to remember.   It is important to remember.  Remember where we have come from.  To remember our mistakes.  Remember good times and hard times.

Time spent outside is a top memory making investment.  Children learn about the natural world, how to manage risk safely, play freely and learn new skills as they become more independent and think for themselves. 

The meme is right: ‘Kid’s won’t remember their best day of TV.’  If we invest in our children and spend quality time with them, we make memories that will last a lifetime, deposited away in their long-term memory.  We are raising a new generation of well-adjusted free thinkers that are knowledgeable and passionate about the planet, able to thrive in all kinds of environments and handle themselves in new frontiers as they take on all that life throws at them.

What are you remembering today to build a better tomorrow?  Want to share it?  Get in touch via email to share your favourite outdoor moments.

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