“A Powerful Educational Instrument": the Woodcraft Folk, indoor/outdoor nature 1925-1975

2014-07-23T14:55:44Z (GMT) by Sarah Mills
‘The Woodcraft Folk…seeks to enlist the enthusiasm and energy of youth for the great task of our generation…it believes that any attempt to establish a new, worldwide economic order is dependent upon the training of youth in the science of our age and the deliberate cultivation of a world outlook in children and young people. To achieve this end the Folk seek to forge a powerful educational instrument which shall inculcate those habits of mind and habits of body necessary to bring man to devotion to world peace and a new world order.’1 This quote from the declaration of the Woodcraft Folk in 1930 – five years after its inception by Leslie Paul – encapsulated its rationale as a new youth organisation, as well as cementing education at the heart of its motivations and methods. This chapter explores the pedagogical practices of the Woodcraft Folk in the United Kingdom across the first 50 years of the organisation (1925-75) as while still popular today, it is in these formative years that it sought to forge a ‘powerful educational instrument’ and developed its training programme. In doing so, this chapter illustrates how the Folk drew upon a number of spaces and practices of (informal) education to inculcate those ‘habits of body and mind’ expressed above. Specifically, this chapter considers how ‘nature’ and elements of folk culture and arts and craft – such as song and dance – were used as part of this project. While academics and popular imaginaries of youth organisations tend to focus on experiences of nature on camp, here I focus on the deeper, symbolic and performative place of nature in the Folk’s indoor activities and wider ambitions.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0