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THE Mayor of Henley enjoyed hot chocolate and popcorn by a bonfire with children attending a wellbeing event at Badgemore Primary School.
Councillor Sarah Miller was invited to take part in the activities of Gabriel’s, a community interest company which aims to teach children how to be happy in nature.
She stayed and chatted with the children and also tried her hand at making pom-poms.
Founder and director Lisa Bedlow said: “We are all experienced teachers and have a passion for helping children with their mental health and giving them some calming strategies. Gabriel’s is about children having an opportunity to be outside, in nature, where they are most comfortable.
“We sometimes get children who are really shy but here they know they can feel safe and let go of all the negative energy.
“We are inspired by the archangel Gabriel, whose name means ‘God is my strength’ — we want our children to be strong and kind.”
Once a month they set up a bonfire and outdoor activities in the gardens of the school in Hop Gardens for children aged four and above. The motto during their sessions is “kind thoughts, kind words, kind actions” and their activities, which include knitting, meditation, carving toys from wood and outdoor games, encourage children to play with nature.
Fleur Russell, six, said: “I feel quite settled when I’m at Gabriel’s — it’s a place to feel good and relaxed and let go of the tensions. Lots of people have worries and here we can just let them go.”
Cllr Sarah Miller, who has two 10-year-old daughters, said: “This is fantastic — every school should have a place like this. It’s lovely and my kids would love it and I feel this is something we really need.
“I could sit and watch the fire for hours, I think adults would benefit from something like this as well.”
Joanna Feast, who is also a director of Gabriel’s, said: “We always have a fire and snacks and encourage them to engage with nature.
“What we wanted to do was encourage children to feel comfortable and safe with us and in nature. It is something that they will keep with them for the rest of their lives, it’s not a physical safety but a psychological safety.
“They don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to when they are here, it’s completely up to them. This is a positive environment to manage their emotions effectively and we like for them to feel as comfortable as possible with nature. They are used to spending a lot of time indoors, especially coming out of lockdown and we want to give them the opportunity to experience the outdoors, if that is what they want.
“Particularly the shyest are usually encouraged not to be, but here we encourage them to be exactly who they are, it’s for them to decide.”
Gabriel’s also run similar sessions every Tuesday morning at Milestone Wood in Emmer Green.
For more information, visit www.gabrielseducation.com
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