Mel is a Senior Lecturer within Early Childhood Studies. She leads modules in Children’s Voices (rights and justice), Play and Playfulness and Research in Early Childhood. Mel joined Bath Spa in 2018, previously working as a senior researcher and lecturer at UWE and Plymouth University. She has experience as a mentor, trainer, creative outdoor practitioner, environmental educator and arts therapist in early childhood settings, as well as within educational, cultural and health contexts both nationally and internationally.
Mel’s research focuses on environment-society relationships. Her chief two interests are play and politics, or in her words, eco-social justice. Play encompasses creativity, improvisation, relationships (both eco and social) and the expression of wellbeing and growth so essential to survival. Mel’s focus on everyday eco-social justice focuses on how children and families participate as citizens in making our worlds and identities, alongside collective, community-based responses to climate change and business as usual. Her interdisciplinary research communicates between more-than-human geographies, environmental humanities, nature connections and feminist new materialisms with childhood studies.
Mel is an internationally-renowned scholar of forest school. Her work investigates how we overcome cultural, social and political barriers, and how forest school practitioners and participants respond to our current eco-social crises. She completed her PhD (an ethnography of the experiences of Forest School practitioners) at the University of Gloucestershire in 2014. Her subsequent research on forest school includes collaborative partnerships and systemic change, the impact on wellbeing and attainment, and inclusive practice for disadvantaged children.
Currently, Mel is investigating the cultural politics of land access, children’s voices for climate justice and multi-species relations through nature-based play. Mel is the author of a feralosophy that supports creative participatory approaches and provocative thinking; an untamed conceptual framework that addresses the mess of environment-society relations. In her consultancy, she supports the establishment of outdoor settings and practitioner development.
- PhD Education - University of Gloucestershire (2009-14)
- MA Creative Writing (Environment, Nature Writing and Script) - Bath Spa University (2006-07)
- Postgraduate Music Therapy Diploma - University of Bristol (2002-03)
- Community Music Diploma - Goldsmiths College (2001-02)
She is a member of the Common World Childhoods and Pedagogies International Research Collective. Members of this international network research children's relations with the more-than-human world (e.g species, place and materials).
- Natural England Strategic Research Network (outdoors for all and learning in natural environments)
- Royal Geographical Society SIG on Children, Youth and Families
- Fellow - RSA
- Fellow - RGS
- UK Forest School Association Research SIG
- Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER) UNESCO Network in Europe (EERA)
- EU Child Friendly Cities Network
- European Outdoor Education network
- Steering group - Research Centre for the Environmental Humanities
Areas of expertise
Children's voices, rights and justice; environment-society relations; play and creativity; research methods; environmental education, health and wellbeing; outdoor play, learning and forest school.
- Pedagogia del Bosco Conference, Milan, Italy, 23 November 2019, video keynote
- Invited presenter, ‘Circles of Support’, Timber Festival of Woodland Culture, The National Forest (Derbyshire), July 2019 and Inspirational Outdoors, Cornwall’s outdoor play and learning conference, June 2019
- Invited panel, ‘Interdisciplinary and multi-species relations in improvisation’, Global Improvisation Institute Symposium, Middlesex University, London, May 2019
- Invited panel chair on alternative education, ‘Growing Truly Well Adults’, Wild And Well, Bristol festival, October 2018
- Invited keynote, ’Forest School and Friends Around the World’, Forest School Association National Conference, Shropshire, 25 October 2015
- Invited panel speaker, Performance, Ecology and Responsibility Symposium, Canterbury Christ Church University, 1 July 2015.
- Walking with children making multimodal and multi-species connections, Towards the Child Friendly City, International Conference, Bristol, UK, 27-29 November 2019
- Walking with Arthur, Walking’s New Movements, Plymouth University, 2 November 2019
- ‘A Feralosophy: some untamed musings’, FERAL - a nearly neutral online conference, Political Ecology Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand, 2018
- ’Making space for children, making visible hidden enclosures’, RGS International Conference, 29 August 2018
- ‘Wild Wood: midway findings from a longitudinal study’, at: RGS International Conference, Exeter, 2 September 2015. Natural Connections National Conference, University of East London, 3 July 2015; World Environmental Education Congress, Gothenburg, 29 June 2015.
- Video - ‘A Feralosophy: some untamed musings’, FERAL - a nearly neutral online conference, Political Ecology Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand, 2018
- Newspaper - Quote in 'Forest schools: is yours more a marketing gimmick than an outdoors education?', The Guardian, 25 June 2019.
Research and academic outputs
Future shock, generational change and shifting eco-social identities: forest school leaders’ reasons to train
McCree, M (2020) 'Future shock, generational change and shifting eco-social identities: forest school leaders’ reasons to train.' In: Cutter-Mackenzie, A, Malone, K and Barratt Hacking, E, eds. Research handbook on childhoodnature: assemblages of childhood and nature research. Springer, Cham, pp. 925-952. ISBN 9783319672854
McCree, M and McCree, J (2017) 'Forest school: core principles in changing times.' In: Waite, S, ed. Children learning outside the classroom from birth to eleven. 2nd ed. Sage Publishing, London, pp. 222-232. ISBN 9781473912274
Austin, C, Knowles, Z, Richards, K, McCree, M, Sayer, J and Ridgers, N (2015) 'Play and learning outdoors: engaging with the natural world using forest school in the UK.' In: Skelton, T, Nairn, K and Kraftl, P, eds. Space, place, and environment. Geographies of children and young people (3). Springer. ISBN 9789814585903
The hare and the tortoise go to forest school: taking the scenic route to academic attainment via emotional wellbeing outdoors
McCree, M, Cutting, R and Sherwin, D (2018) 'The hare and the tortoise go to forest school: taking the scenic route to academic attainment via emotional wellbeing outdoors.' Early Child Development and Care, 188 (7). pp. 980-996. ISSN 0300-4430
Creative and credible evaluation for arts, health and well-being: opportunities and challenges of coproduction
Daykin, N, Gray, K, McCree, M and Willis, J (2017) 'Creative and credible evaluation for arts, health and well-being: opportunities and challenges of coproduction.' Arts & Health, 9 (2). pp. 123-138. ISSN 1753-3015
McCree, M and McCree, J (2013) 'A brief history of forest school, part 2.' Horizons, 62. pp. 32-35.
McCree, M and McCree, J (2012) 'A brief history of forest school, part 1.' Horizons, 60. pp. 32-35.
McCree, M (2015) Forest school and friends around the world. In: Forest School Association National Conference, 23 - 25 October 2015, Shropshire, UK.
McCree, M (2015) Wild wood: midway findings from a longitudinal study. In: Royal Geographical Society International Conference, 2 September 2015, Exeter, UK.
McCree, M, Waters, S and Orton, D (2015) Round-table discussion. In: Performance, Ecology, Responsibility Symposium, 1 July 2015, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.
McCree, M (2015) Dangerous currents: risk and regulation at the interface of medicine and the arts. In: Association of Medical Humanities Conference, 23 - 25 June 2015, Dartington Hall, Totnes, UK.
McCree, M (2015) Risks and challenges of arts-based evaluation - notes from a practitioner’s toolkit. In: Association of Medical Humanities Conference, 23 - 25 June 2015, Dartington Hall, Totnes, UK.
McCree, M (2015) A short history of forest school in the UK and around the world. In: La Scuola nel Bosco: approcci ed esperienze in Italia ed in Europa, 9 May 2015, Amici dei Boschi, Pavia, Italy.
Wild Wiltshire: year 1 of a longitudinal evaluation of the impact upon disadvantaged primary age children attending forest school and outdoor learning over a 3 year period
McCree, M and Sherwin, D (2014) Wild Wiltshire: year 1 of a longitudinal evaluation of the impact upon disadvantaged primary age children attending forest school and outdoor learning over a 3 year period. In: Tackling Disadvantage: The Role of the Outdoors Symposium, 23 October 2014, Reading University, UK.
McCree, M (2014) Forest school training for early years practitioners: hopes, fears and realities. In: The Early Child Workforce Conference, 20 June 2014, Plymouth University, UK.
Forest school trainees in UK urban and rural contexts: systemic challenges in establishing effective environmental education
McCree, M (2014) Forest school trainees in UK urban and rural contexts: systemic challenges in establishing effective environmental education. In: World Environmental Education Congress, 9 - 14 June 2013, Marakesh, Morocco.
McCree, M (2014) Practitioner experiences of forest school: PhD findings. In: Outdoor Experiential Learning Research Network, 12 March 2014, Plymouth University, UK.
McCree, M (2014) Shared space: between adults, children and environments. In: What is Play Space? Playwork CPD Event, 15 January 2014, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK.
McCree, M (2013) Values, action and politics in forest school. In: Forest School Association National Conference, 12 - 13 October 2013, Derwent Hill OEC, Cumbria, UK.
Adult experiences of forest school training in context: re-territorialising the norms surrounding natural play
McCree, M (2013) Adult experiences of forest school training in context: re-territorialising the norms surrounding natural play. In: Philosophy@Play Conference, 9 - 10 April 2013, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK.
McCree, M (2013) Adult experiences of natural play in forest school: research findings. In: National Playwork Conference, 5 - 6 March 2013, Eastbourne, UK.
McCree, M (2012) Generational changes and forest school practitioner identities. In: Outdoor Experiential Learning Research Network - Good From Woods Conference, 21 June 2012, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Newton Abbot, UK.
McCree, M (2011) Working creatively with young people at risk outdoors. In: Youth Probation Conference, 18 - 20 October 2011, NGO O.S. Mosty, Czech Republic.
McCree, M (2011) Shared space: a methodology. In: Play Research Network, January 2011, London, UK.
McCree, M (2014) International perspectives on forest school: natural spaces to play and learn [book review]. Early Years, 34 (3). pp. 318-319. ISSN 0957-5146
McCree, M (2013) Geographies of alternative education [book review]. Society and Space.