About the Trees was borne out of a passion for woodcraft and green woodworking, and the firm belief craft is central to healthy child and adolescent development as well as happiness, self-esteem and mental wellbeing at any stage of life. The skills to create or repair goods - the training of head and hands - is liberating and hugely rewarding. In days gone by whole communities would have traditional crafts at their core, often using warmer/lighter months to forage for materials and using the colder/darker months to invest the time in making activities. The modern consumer culture, worryingly wasteful in nature and expecting goods on tap, has distanced many people from hand skills and creativity. In education, the value of working with ones hands has been slowly but consistently eroded over decades in favour of academic subjects. Where crafts are taught in schools, the value of that approach as key to child development is often poorly understood - seen as something only aspiring joiners or builders might need. Bizarre, since brain surgeons and vets rather rely on tools and the fine motor skills that control them.
Crafts are also inextricably linked with mental wellbeing. In 1970, psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term 'flow state' - what many know colloquially as being 'in the zone'. In essence, your mind is completely absorbed in an activity to the extent you lose track of time (the 'Wait a minute...I didn't even have lunch today' state!). Crucially, flow relies on a task demanding concentration but being effortless (not at all frustrating) at the same time. This is where avoiding frustrations becomes so important; the stakeholder being armed with enough knowledge to avoid annoyance, but enough freedom to explore craft at their own pace.
Jonnie works as a high school teacher for Fife Council. As such, he has first-hand experience of teaching 'at the coal face' of current education policy, including current policies such as Curriculum for Excellence and GIRFEC. He is experienced in the factors which often frustrate efforts to incorporate traditional crafts and meaningful outdoor learning in the school day, but is equally passionate about helping break those down and equip other educators with the knowledge to make positive changes in their setting.
As an educator Jonnie is passionate about craft and outdoor learning as a crucial component of adolescent development and wellbeing, and reads extensively into research on the links between crafts / nature-contact, and positive mental health.