Lockdown: The teacher using pavements as blackboards

By Sherie Ryder
BBC News

  • Published
Chalk marking the pavement indication there's a sycamore tree above it.Image source, Rachel Summers
Image caption,
On her daily outings, Rachel has spotted plenty of interesting flora and fauna

Since lockdown started, many people who can't carry out their usual work have been finding creative ways of putting their skills to good use.

Rachel Summer, a self-employed forest school practitioner, has been using her skills to make her children's daily walks a bit more interesting.

Image source, Rachel Summers
Image caption,
A little bit of education on a daily stroll

A forest school practitioner helps children, young people and adults benefit from educational experiences in the natural world, according to the Forest School Association.

As she's been unable to use the classroom or the forest at the moment, Rachel decided to point out different plants and trees, writing their names and interesting facts on pavements during walks around her neighbourhood.

"I wanted to help people make a connection with the wild spaces where they live. It's like a kind of ownership of their local space," she said.

Her chalk markings, which she used because they wash away easily, were soon spotted by local residents including Elizabeth whose tweet saying it made her heart sing, has gained more than 127,000 likes.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Others who loved Rachel's markings were local MP Stella Creasy who recognised her as "our amazing forest school teacher" and wildlife TV presenter, Chris Packham who retweeted Elizabeth's post.

Rachel, who is home-schooling her five children, says she is fortunate to have a garden and really feels for the young families she works with who are in flats and have nowhere to play.

Image source, Rachel Summers
Image caption,
The pavement messages don't just inform, they "engage people, make them notice nature and look up," says Rachel

She takes her younger ones out most days and posts pictures of the trees on her Instagram account.

View this post on Instagram

Today’s trees. I found a ginkgo!

A post shared by Rachel Summers (@curiouswilds) on

There's been a lot of positive feedback from parents unable to take their children for walks in the woods.

"It's certainly struck a nerve and for me, this is quite simple and easy to do."

Rachel says she understands how day-to-day living for young families can be exhausting.

Her husband is a vicar and her family had an interesting Easter this year with a fire outside their house, a live-streamed service, candle decorating and a bit of bell-ringing.

Image source, Rachel Summers
Image caption,
Rachel: "We found some sparklers and I told Bible stories around the fire"

Social distancing did not stop the Eucharist from taking place on Easter morning. The family joined people from their living room using online video platforms Zoom and Facebook livestream.

"Although some of the people we normally worship with were missing, we were joined by people from all over, including family and friends in Southend and the Peak District."

As for her tips on getting through lockdown, Rachel says she tries to break up the days. "We have tea with the kids at 15:30 to indicate that 'school' has finished."

However, she does have sympathy for teenagers, including her own. "It's hard for them. The world is just opening up and now it's shrunk to nothing."

Once lockdown is over they are all looking forward to going out, and in particular Rachel would like to get back to the job she loves where she says she is "paid to make mud pies".