Woodcraft Folk has an approach and an outlook that is different from any other provision for children and young people. If both our activities and the way that we deliver them is inspired and underpinned by Woodcraft Folk’s Aims & Principles, then the difference will be apparent, even in a group for younger children. Many young people will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of out of school activities, including sports teams, youth clubs, religious groups and uniformed groups (e.g. Guides, Cadets, Boys Brigade). It is important that both our young members and their parents/carers come to understand how Woodcraft Folk is unique so that they can make an informed decision to remain engaged with the organisation.

Similarities & differences
Having said that our approach is unique among organisations for children and young people, it does not follow that all the activities that we do are unique to Woodcraft Folk. Many activities that groups undertake would not look out of place in the programme of a Scout or Guide group. However, the difference lies in the outcomes that we are looking to achieve for children and young people (see above). The outcomes we seek will drive how we do activities with our young members as much as what activities we provide.

The most obvious overlap between Woodcraft Folk and other provision for children and young people exists with a range of other uniformed groups, and with providers of Forest School education programmes.

Uniformed groups
 The term ‘uniformed groups’ encompasses a wide range of groups for children and young people, including:

• The Scouting & Guiding movement

• Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades

• Fire and Police Cadets

• St John’s Ambulance 

• Army & Air, Sea and Marine Cadets

By their nature, most have a requirement to wear uniform of some description as part of the group’s activities. Many groups have a strong element of public service or social action, and most require young members to make some sort of membership pledge, which may have a religious component. Most are coeducational (although they have not always been so). Military and civilian cadet groups often include drill or parade as part of their core programme. Attendance at civil or religious ceremonies (e.g. Remembrance Day or parade services) may be an important part of the group’s identity.

Forest School
Forest Schools, which provide childcare and education activities in an outdoor setting, has grown in popularity in the UK in recent years. Forest Schools are inspired by Scandinavian models of early years education, and aim to support children to develop both practical and ‘soft’ skills by working in the natural environment. Despite the name, provision does not always take place in woodland – heathland or even seashore settings are frequently used. 

Some children will attend a Forest School regularly, after school or at the weekend. However, it is also becoming common for schools to provide Forest School activities, either as an extra-curricular activity or within the school day. Other children access Forest School as an alternative to attending school or nursery, on either a full or part time basis. While some Forest School activity is provided by volunteers, it is more usual for leaders to be paid – this reflects the time and expense involved in becoming an accredited Forest School practitioner, and has an impact on the cost of these activities for participants.

What do we share?
Experienced Woodcraft volunteers have reflected on both the ideas and the activities that might be common to Woodcraft Folk and other provision, and those that are unique to our movement:


Defining features of Woodcraft groups
Our movement encompasses a wide range of groups which work in many different ways. For the most part, groups and leaders are encouraged to develop ways of working that, while informed by Woodcraft Folk’s Aims & Principles, are rooted in the needs of the children and young people in the group, and in line with the skills and interests of volunteers. From group to group there may be significant variation with regard to everything from the leadership style of the volunteers to the ages of children in the group. When groups do things so differently, it can be hard at first glance to identify what common features define our identity as part of Woodcraft Folk. The list below is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point to help you consider your own group’s practice.

Groups that are part of the Woodcraft Folk should aim to:

• Promote wearing of Folk Costume (whether folk shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, woody hoodies or other locally- produced items) by adults and children during group activities and other appropriate occasions

 • Make use of Woodcraft traditions and customs as appropriate in activities for children and young people, such as the Council Circle, Woodcraft call, the Envoi and Link Your Hands

• Deliver a varied programme of activities for children and young people, inspired by Woodcraft Folk’s Aims & Principles, involving opportunities throughout the year for outdoor activities, including camping and residential trips appropriate to young members’ age and ability

• Deliver activities that are led or facilitated by volunteers (who may 0r may not be parents of young members) who have agreed to abide by Woodcraft Folk’s Aims & Principles, safeguarding policy and code of conduct – all regular leaders and helpers must be members of Woodcraft Folk with either valid DBS clearance or a named supervisor 

 • Engage young people in social action activities, including campaigning and fundraising, to improve communities, the natural or built environment, support vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, and raise awareness of local and global issues

• Develop their young members and volunteers by engaging with opportunities provided by Woodcraft Folk, including regional/national, UK-wide and international camps, gatherings and training opportunities 

 • Work in a way that is collaborative and co-operative, fully engaging young members in an age-appropriate manner in planning, delivering and evaluating activities

• Be as inclusive as possible of children & young people regardless of ethnicity, faith, gender, sexuality, family circumstances or any additional needs

Youth participation
 ‘Education for Social Change’ is one of Woodcraft Folk’s aims. Our organisation aims to empower young people to have a voice in society and shape the world around them. In our groups we support young people to grow in confidence and help influence activities.

The opportunities that young members of Woodcraft Folk have to participate actively in decision making is one of the things that makes our organisation different from other groups that they may be part of.

As children progress through Woodcraft Folk, the scope of the opportunities that we give them to participate will change. The matrix which shows outcomes linked to our Aims & Principles gives an idea of how expectations might differ over time. You might ask Elfins for ideas about what games they’d like to play at camp – but you can challenge your Venturer group to plan their own weekend camp.

It is important to understand that children and young people learn from the experience of being part of Woodcraft Folk. Most of your sessions will have an obvious practical goal, which might be creating something, such as a group banner, or learning a specific skill, such as firelighting. But you will also be working to achieve a set of less tangible outcomes for the participants – these might include improving social skills, learning to co-operate, or demonstrating problem solving. You will need to balance these two aspects carefully – while it’s great when a group achieves something together, what they gain from the experience matters more than quality of the finished product. It can be tempting as a leader to intervene or make suggestions; while this might improve the practical output, in some cases it can also take away from the chance that young members have to learn by experience.

Practical ideas
It’s relatively easy to make small changes to how activities are run so that children and young people can play a more meaningful role.

Camps & residentials

• Ask young members to take on specific roles or responsibilities at camp, e.g. lost property, running the camp bank, or leading a clan

• For a large camp, ask Venturers or DFs to shadow key roles (camp co-ordinator, KP, folk marshal etc.) alongside a leader

 • Support Pioneers or Venturers to plan some aspects of their own weekend residential, including menus, budget and costs, planning a walk

• Ensure that your group engages with opportunities to get involved in planning regional, national and international camps

 Programme planning

• Gather suggestions for activities from adults and children – give each person five sticky dots to distribute among their choices to determine which activities to put in the programme for the term

• Ask young members to evaluate the last term’s programme and suggest ways that activities could be improved in the future, using the Follow the Trail resource packs

• Share the Outcomes Matrix with your group and ask them to come up with suggestions of activities that would help achieve these

• Ask a small group of young members to support the running of a group night by leading a favourite game to start or finish the session

• Support a group of Venturers to plan and deliver a session for a nearby Elfin group


 • Woodcraft Folk’s constitution allows young people to join as members at any age (free of charge for under 16s) so they can take part in decision making locally and nationally

• Young members can represent their group at Woodcraft Folk’s Annual General Meeting, and vote on motions about policy and help to shape our campaigning and educational work

• Any member can participate in Folk Assembly, a weekend event held under canvas to explore topical issues, develop campaigns and share best practice

 Discussion Techniques
Sometimes it can be hard to encourage all group members to participate equally in a discussion, and more vocal members may end up having more of an influence than those who are more reticent to speak up. There are a range of techniques that you can use in your group to level the playing field a little:

Talking stick

A stick or other object is introduced to the group. Only the person holding the stick may speak – everyone else should listen. You can either:

• Ask anyone who wants to say something to put their hand up and wait until the stick is passed to them

• Pass the stick round the whole circle to get everyone’s views

• Ask that after they have finished speaking, the holder of the stick hands it to someone they want to hear from

 Discussion tokens

Give everyone the same number of tokens (buttons etc.) – between two and five is a good number to start with. To make a contribution to the discussion an individual must place their token in the middle of the circle.

Once all your tokens are used up, you cannot contribute until everyone has used up their tokens. If this happens, distribute the tokens equally again and continue the conversation.

With a younger group, it can be helpful to designate one leader to chair the discussion, who doesn’t need to contribute a token when they speak.

 Silent debate

Write a question or theme in the centre of a piece of flipchart or other large piece of paper. Give each person a pen. Write or draw your responses on the sheet of paper.

It’s OK to add to, comment on or disagree with things written or drawn by others. Do not speak or communicate in any other way than on the paper.

Consensus hand signals

In discussing an issue, aim to reach a decision that everyone is prepared to agree with (rather than a majority vote). Use the consensus hand signals to indicate how you feel about what others are saying (these can be found in The A-Z of Good Discussion). The key one is ‘jazz hands’ to indicate agreement, but can also include ‘technical point’, ‘veto’.

Alternatively, you can ask participants to use a ‘fist to five’ to see how close the group is to an agreement – everyone holds out their hand with a number of fingers raised to indicate how happy they are with what is being proposed. A fist (no fingers) is a veto, an open hand (5 fingers) indicates total agreement.


Resources to support you
There are lots of resources produced by Woodcraft Folk that can help you to empower young people during your sessions and other activities.

• The Youth Participation Module on our website includes practical suggestions for how to engage young people in meaningful decision making, broken down by age group. There is also a webinar to support this resource

Follow The Trail is a resource to help leaders to engage young people in evaluating their groups activities and making positive changes (there are two versions, one for older and one for younger age groups)

 • Leading for the Future is designed to help Venturers and DFs develop their skills and confidence to enable them to begin to take on leadership roles in their groups and districts

The Bored Meetings resource aims to support young people who are joining a committee 

• The A-Z of Good Discussion was produced by the DF movement and contains lots of tips about making discussions more effective and inclusive

• For a large camp, ask Venturers or DFs to shadow key roles (camp co-ordinator, KP, folk marshal etc.) alongside 
a leader
• For a large camp, ask Venturers or DFs to shadow key roles (camp co-ordinator, KP, folk marshal etc.) alongside 
a leader

• The Theory of Change can help you work more effectively towards goals and objectives by identifying the necessary steps to bringing about the required change

Benefits for young people
Well-run Woodcraft Folk groups will achieve a wide range of outcomes for the children & young people who participate. Woodcraft Folk has been able to run research projects to discover what our children & young people feel they have gained from being part of the organisation.

Catch The Light
This project took place in Scotland in 2013, and involved all Scottish groups participating in research, which demonstrated that:

 • 92% of children enjoyed or really enjoyed games at group

 • 84% of children felt safe at group

• 77% of children enjoyed or really enjoyed being outside at group

• 69% of children enjoyed or really enjoyed doing new things at group

Overall, Woodcraft Folk young members gave the highest scores to feeling safe in their group, and the lowest to knowing about where they live. Further analysis from the project can be found online.

TREE Project
This five-year programme aimed to put our young members back at the heart of Woodcraft Folk’s work, and was the driving force behind the creation of many of our current resource packs for Elfins, Pioneers & Venturers. As the project came to an end in 2013, all Pioneers, Venturers and DF groups were asked to respond to a survey, which showed that:

• 85% strongly agree that they have made new friends from their involvement

• 74% strongly agree that it has provided them with good experience that will benefit them in future life at school, college and in relation to jobs and training

• 74% strongly agree that they have acquired new skills

• 67% strongly agree that they feel more confident as a result of their involvement

When the responses of young people who ‘agree’ were added to those who ‘strongly agree’, there was universal/100% acceptance that their Woodcraft Folk experience had benefited them in the above ways. In addition:

• 54% strongly agree that they understand themselves better through being involved

 • 38% strongly agree that it has helped them understand people who are different from them