A Forest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning"
The philosophy of Forest School is to encouraged inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences
At Forest School all participants are viewed as :
equal, unique and valuable
competent to explore and discover
entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
entitled to experience regular success
entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world
Little Oaks currently has two practitioners, Tina and Nicole who have undertaken a level 3 Forest School programme and are due to have their last outdoor assessment in the early summer months. We also have the invaluable skills and knowledge of Geoff who not only drives the mini bus to our woodland location but imparts wealth of knowledge he has gained over the years,
" I was in awe of the old man of the woods(District Scoutmaster) when he taught me all my basic backwoods skills when I was a young boy. 56 years later I feel deep satisfaction knowing that I too, in my turn, can become the current old man of the woods and pass on my knowledge, skills and experience to young and old alike."
Our three woodland practitioners jointly plan consecutive six weekly sessions to cover a variety of subjects and exciting experiences for the children.
This is an extract from the weekly report from Geoff following a week one visit:
On Tuesday this week I took 5 of the younger Selsted children to Selsted woods for their Day 1 Forest school sessions. I was accompanied by Jay from Selsted and the children were well prepared for the damp conditions. They were also polite and well behaved. They were all only 3 years old and understandably quiet and reserved initially.
As we walked from the entrance gate to the site though I asked them what they could hear and what they could see. This broke the ice and they we were soon talking about the birds and the sound of their different calls.
On arrival at the site the children looked puzzled when they were invited to sit on the log circle, but they soon overcame their shyness when we explained that their snowsuits were waterproof and that it was quite alright for them to sit on the wet logs. The safety brief covered the boundaries, nettles & brambles, the differences between the forest school & their nursery school, the scramble tree and the dangers of it being wet. The importance of the "where are you?" call was explained to the children and it was practised several times.
We then went on a tour of the site. This gave me a good opportunity to show the children at first hand what a bramble looks like and how it can hurt people. I also showed them the first signs of the Spring bulbs emerging from the ground and explained how, in a few weeks time, they would be bluebell flowers and that their woodland site would have a carpet of blue and a lovely scent as the flowers grew. I was also able to show them a Holly bush and explain how sharp the leaves are. A little further along there were some red berries growing out of the ground. This was another golden opportunity to explain the dangers and for the children to recognise them by seeing them with their own eyes. When we arrived at the boundary fence the children were lucky enough to see a pheasant and some horses in a neighbouring field. One of the horses came right up to the fence and the children gained much pleasure from being at such close quarters with one of our fellow beings.
The children were much more at ease with their new surroundings by now so we embarked on an activity where they make a forest figure using modelling clay and some natural materials from the forest floor. It took some time for them to get used to the modelling clay and the fact that they will get their hands dirty while searching on the forest floor. We had some baby wipes with us though and that helped the children to overcome their aversion to the clay and mud. Being younger, this group of children needed some adult help with moulding the clay and attaching some of the natural materials. The ideas though were all completely their own and they were able to take several masterpieces back to their nursery. They ranged from a butterfly to wiggly worms, a spider, a doughnut, chain links and a spider. One of them was made by a child itself and it looked like a human figure. When we asked the child who it was, the one word reply was "Daddy".
During the forest figures activity I was able to rig up the tree trunk slice rope swing. After the children had finished making their clay figures they were able to try the tree swing for themselves. They were very cautious at first but the smiles soon came, followed swiftly by laughter. Looking at the children's smiling faces and hearing their laughter as they enjoyed this open air activity was a very rewarding experience. We finished the session by playing a child instigated game where we all had to run to a nearby safe tree whenever someone saw the big bad mouse. Again, the squeals of laughter and smiling faces said it all. Their lungs got a good dose of fresh air too and by running around, the children were getting some healthy exercise.
All too soon, it was time to tidy the site and return to the Selsted setting so that the children could have their lunch. The theme next week is senses but it will be adapted to take account of their young age.
This learner- centered approach interweaves with the ever- changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference.