Lost words and found connections

Adventures into language and literacy through nature

Inspired by The Lost Words book, Lost words and found connections was a child-led adventure into language and literacy through nature connections. The project has been reviewed with our ongoing Eco-Capabilities Research programme with Anglia Ruskin University and a webinar that shares the learning is available to watch free online here.

I’ve enjoyed the quiet. It was really peaceful. It’s so nice to sit and listen It was so nice to meet Dana again too. Oscar (4) said he didn’t want to go home. He loved the imagined things – Mother 

It’s water, and the leaves…and its growing (the leaves) the butterflies and the caterpillars are growing too ……and the birds are eating the leaves and the water – Amy(4)

This is the first time I have seen Dan (4) do any sort of artistic creation. He used expressive language to communicate what they were doing together – Educator

We were able to collaborate with Mayfield Primary School and Under Fives Roundabout pre-school, thanks to a grant from Cambridgeshire County Council’s ‘Talking together in Cambridgeshire’ initiative.

Through a series of artist residency workshops and after-school sessions devised with artist Filipa Pereira-Stubbs, the project shared CCI’s inclusive, child-led creative practice with 175 participants. Together we all explored nature on the doorstep by being together, sharing discoveries and creatively exploring themes of talking, listening, making and creating.

Participants included children (aged 3-5) from Mayfield Primary School and Under Fives Roundabout pre-School, their families, classmates, their families, educators, artists, creative producers, the local community and volunteers.

We also created a resource - using the children’s words and ideas. ‘Pocket Adventures’ is a set of small playing cards that can be popped in your pocket as you head outside to discover your everyday in a new way. These cards have been given to educators and families to use to have their own outdoor creative adventures. They are also available to other interested parties. Please email info@cambridgecandi.org.uk for more details.

Image of the Pocket Adventures

We evaluated everything we did and the short film below gives a taste of what happened during Lost words and found connections - the adventures we all had together and some of the outcomes we shared. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed the project.

Logo Strip

What does fire eat?


Group drawing

(by Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Joanna Holland) Today, during our final session together, we were delighted to welcome back many of the children we’ve been working with and their families, along with new friends from their classes and community

Over 70 of us adventured out into the dusk, a magical time – even the drizzle made the fairy lights more enchanting.  The youngest adventurer was just two weeks old and the oldest an octogenarian - we all visited the school's wild space in search of stories. Parents, grandparents and siblings shared in the discoveries which the children had made during their recent sessions but also discovered new things for themselves.

Setting up and setting off on outside adventures

Setting up and setting off on outside adventures

Some people stood quietly in conversation whilst others explored, gathering materials and even finding monsters in the darkness. Together we made new stories and were reminded of the pleasure in talking, sharing, and discovering slowly together. Parents told us:

He was very excited and wanted to show me everything. He is a quiet child normally but had a lot to say.

It’s just so lovely, standing here in the soft rain, and dusk.  It’s so peaceful.

He liked the atmosphere – it was really quiet.

The lanterns and fairy lights intrigued the children, becoming themselves objects of wonder:

What does fire eat?...Air, and wood, and things like that….Is that why we hang the lantern high in the trees? So it can't eat anything?

And then that too became one of the adventures - finding the dark spaces and stringing up the lights, with Nan, with peers, with parents.  At the end of the outside adventures, children found the lanterns one by one, blowing out the flame and bringing the dark back to the wild space. It was then time to return inside to draw and to share more stories together of: Cambridgeshire Green Bears who turned into Brown Bears who got stuck in their big blue caves; talking owls in trees who, when it started snowing, had to have special blankets to keep warm; flying fish escaping sharp teethed crocodiles; and journeying butterflies. We noticed how often the children placed themselves in the story, as a character or by writing their name.

Isaac in the story

Isaac in the story

One parent told us It’s so nice to sit and listen.

Next we’ll be sharing the learning experiences and playful exchanges discovered during this project through our set of pocket adventure cards – a set of prompts which celebrate the creative imaginations of all the participants’ in this project. Watch this space!

The journeying butterfly (follow the yellow line)

The journeying butterfly (follow the yellow line)

A gentle stick, a mouse and a snake


This was our third and final session together adventuring outdoors. It’s been wonderful to see the children’s confidence as makers and storytellers grow. There was a real sense of them finding their voices in this session as stories emerged of great detail and complexity.

We placed images we had drawn alongside found objects on a huge piece of card; bringing our discoveries and ideas into relationship with each other, growing and telling the stories together. We realised we could change the stories, as we chose, and that was fun too.  We could add to our story, or we could take it in a different direction. Some things on the card stayed as they were  - there were leaves, so many leaves – others became something else in our imaginations - bark became snakes, feathers became magic, Evie’s girl grew her own wings.

Ronya’s mouse says hello to a friendly snake before being buried under leaves

Ronya’s mouse says hello to a friendly snake before being buried under leaves

Below is Louis being brilliantly bold and telling his own story from beginning to end in front of the whole group. Not everyone wanted to do this - it was their choice. Ayaan had drawn his story with yellow pastel on black paper and he held onto it until the end of the session - I didn't want to tell my story. It's my story. 

At the end of our storytelling adventure, the reception children went back to school and spent time drawing and sharing ideas with a group of year six children.  Working all together on one piece of paper, a world of nature and the things that happen in nature, was recreated. Relationships with the older children were built easily and instantly as they took great care to listen carefully to the reception children.

Next week in our final session together, we are inviting the children’s families to join us and also their classmates and their families so that our stories can lead new adventures in the school’s wild space.

Family adventures in oranges, reds and yellows


Artwork pegged on a line

(by Joanna Holland and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs) After school on this stunningly bright November day, we were delighted to welcome many of the children we’ve been working with and their families. The parents, grandparents and siblings were able to make the most of the last of the year's warmth. Together we shared and celebrated the discoveries their children have made during their recent sessions.

Clipboards lined up ready to explore

Cakes and apples were eaten as we played with open invitations and prompts to explore the school’s nature space brilliantly ablaze with orange, red and yellow leaves. Together all of us talked, listened and created together: following children to their favourite finds and discovering miniscule details, hidden archways, ancient gates and enormous sticks.

On December 5th, everyone in the Mayfield reception classes and Under Five’s Roundabout community is invited to join us afterschool for more cake and outdoor adventures.

Families exploreing together outdoors

Seven birds and a Scribble Scrumble


Childs hands holding a seed

(by Joanna Holland and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs) Our time together outdoors this week had more of a sense of unfolding adventures rather than discovering the space afresh.

Everyone knew what they wanted to return to. We ran through mazes, climbed trees and looked and listened carefully.

Together we talked about hearing ‘birds and children chattering….silent seagulls, planes, and helicopters’. We described feeling the warmth of the sun and sound of the leaves as we watched them fall onto the ground, into our hands, onto our heads.

Our imaginations created ‘mountain landscapes, floating trees, monsters, and many wild creatures’. Some of us built a little home, a shelter, and many of us noticed many other homes in the outdoor space - birdhouses, nests, spider webs.

We finished the sessions by sharing our discoveries and stories. Mr Holt shared one of ‘seven birds talking together’; Oliver and Patrick’s was about catching fish – ‘a kind fish to put on the fire and cook for tea’; and Ezra’s talked about gathering food for the Scribble Scrumble – ‘the huge monster who lived in the Church House’.

A den made from black cloth

The dream grasshopper


I saw a grasshopper once, a dream one.  Patrick

(by Filipa Pereira-Stubbs) On our first day two small groups of Reception Children and Nursery school children came together with their teachers to explore a carefully managed wild space on the corner of Mayfield school grounds.

This way, this way. It’s a trail.  Look here’s another gate and there’s our school. I think it is our school. Kayla

A familiar place for some but new to others it was the first time they were together in this new group. We set out to explore, listen, look, discover and imagine. As we went we shared our discoveries, created stories, exchanged ideas and drew imaginary creatures and worlds. Here are just a few of their many observations of the world we found in this patch of land:

It’s water, and the leaves…and its growing (the leaves) the butterflies and the caterpillars are growing too ……and the birds are eating the leaves and the water. Amelia

A big stick, we found it. In the forest. It has marks.…(it’s) a bit taller than Jo. Louis and Ayan

An egg, a soft leaf, a teeny tiny creature.  Patrick

We’re fishing for frogs..and sea rabbits….and waterbunnies…and sea spiders.  Oliver, Kaydee and Patrick

We’re water hunters…..Look a very tall mouse house. Ayan

Children discovering and imagining

Autumn leaves and pebbles

Drawing in the outdoors