MUD. Well not just mud but it is a good place to start
MUD: Oopy, gloopy, crumbly, pie, paint and putty…mmm clay too.
WIND: Cold, whirling, billowing, swaying, sky, birds and flags flying.
WOOD: Knobbley, knarled, smooth, burning and workable.
RAIN: Feeling on your face, puddles that are ace and water collection that plays with forces and consistencies.
TREES: Climbing, hiding, dens, sticks and leaves. Shade, sun through canopy, bark and seed, nut and berry.
SUNSHINE: Warmth, growth, light, dry, flowers, bees and butterflies.
The list could go on and on…There is just so much to appreciate outside across the seasons.
Officially, Forest School is defined by the Forest School Association as: ‘an inspirational process that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment.’
It is facilitated by Forest School Level 3 Leaders who have trained and demonstrated their competency and understanding of all aspects of outdoor education provision including safe tool and fire management, adult/child development and needs, woodland management and conservation and creation and maintenance of all the many policies and procedures that enable successful, safe and legal Forest School practice.
So, to break this down a bit, Forest School is about the carefully facilitated opportunity to:
- Be inspired
- Achieve a personal goal
- Develop confidence and self-esteem
- Get hands-on and take risks
- Have regular access to a woodland or natural environment
- Grow an understanding and participate in conservation
In future blogs we will have a look at some of these elements in more detail.
Indeed, at Wildwood we really enjoy the imaginative creativity of designing an inspirational experience for our visitors and we plan thoroughly to facilitate plenty of opportunities for confidence and self-esteem building and achievement. However, for us, the most important element of Forest School, as an educational and environmental ethos, is that of consistent, regular and ongoing accessibility to a natural environment (preferably with trees), whatever the weather.
Because… we believe that people of all ages need to be outside experiencing nature as it changes and evolves around its fascinating year long cycle. Moreover, as people, big and small, we feel good outside. There are plenty of studies out there detailing all the health benefits of being in a natural environment; to name but a few benefits: we feel calm, our stress levels and blood pressure drop and we have increased feelings of well being and pleasure. At Wildwood, we think this can be achieved even in the pouring rain!! You just need to be suited and booted appropriately 🙂
But don’t get me wrong. It is fantastic when schools organize outdoor school trips and families get out on a good day and go for an outdoor event, a walk or picnic or build a mud kitchen in the garden. These are all great moves in the direction of Forest School! Each and every venture outdoors is fantastic and most definitely counts. Nevertheless, as Sara Knight in her book ‘Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years’ defines…
“Forest School is a long term process with frequent and regular sessions in a local natural space, not a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements.”
…true Forest School is a solid commitment to week in week out, rain or shine, every season. It requires bags of enthusiasm and creativity to facilitate support and at times lead (more about how we plan our provision here) within an outdoor learning environment whilst managing all the logistical and practical elements that this entails. At Wildwood, we feel very lucky to do what we do and we really love the changes and gifts of every season. All the same, when the sun shines we feel we have earned that day’s gift through our dedication during all the rainy and cold sessions where we worked hard to keep everyone warm and able to enjoy the woods AND the wind, rain and snow 🙂 (Interested in how we look after ourselves and everyone else during the winter months the check out this blog)