Spending time outdoors and in wild places, away from familiar toys and the noises of everyday life has calming, reflective and restorative effect. From my own experience, children are often calmed and centred from a trip to the woods or to the river. Sometimes it allows them to just 'be', to reflect and to order their formal learning. Sometimes they are stimulated, inspired and energised from the new sensory experiences. Either way, the balancing effect of our environment makes me passionate about the importance of the outdoors in child development, and I believe that Forest School is an excellent way for the next generation to re-engage with the outdoors.
“Children need time to explore their thoughts, feelings and relationships”
As a Forest Schools qualified practitioner I am are legally entitled to deliver Forest Schools programmes to children, young people and adults. I trained in the Lake District in 2005, when few people had even heard of this new approach. Now, twelve years on I am delighted to have seen it unfurl through local primary schools, education centres, youth groups, preschools and even playgroups. This is testament to the value it holds as an inspirational educational method, enabling young people to experience the wonder of our wild outdoors safely and respectfully.
Forest schools activities run throughout my childminding year. I usually choose a theme such as 'spring' or ‘insects’ or ‘day and night’. Activities are designed to give form to our outdoors experience, they are the framework on which we hang our experiences, ideas and achievements, and when we come home, we have something to show and share and reflect on.
"Activities are tailored to suit the ages of children in my care, and all sessions are learner-led."
This means that if a child does not want to collect leaves for a collage for example, and has absolutely no interest at that time, he is allowed to freely explore and play independently. It may be that he comes back to it, dips in and out, or follows another pursuit entirely. My job as a practitioner is to ensure his safety, provide encouragement and opportunities to further his play if needed.