Here are a few thoughts after ten years of Forest School… yes I started teaching Forest School in 2012…
Well, my thoughts… what always inspired me was the wish to have children understand and be connected with nature. Yes, true it was about how nature was great for children. How nature was important to us. How they are the future and therefore they are entrusted to nature. And from the very start to was always linked to the unseen beings, the invisible law of physics or pharies, you choose, that surrounded us. Always.
The most important thing though – along with working with all of nature – was bringing this joy, this constancy of love. If the activities were overprescribed and joyless, then it would defeat the purpose.
So Forest School would always be a place of learning, yes, but also magic and play…
Fast forward ten years… that’s ten years of being a Waldorf teacher, ten years of Forest School, two years of Covid, two years of starting our own social enterprise… and here we are…
Here are the top 5 things I have learnt as an outdoor teaching practitioner:
Plan, plan, plan with the children and the activities in mind.
Have everything at hand.
Health and safety of course, but also boundaries they can explore and grow into.
Always read the children – see where they are and what they need.
Have fun with it! Make sure that there is always space for fun.
It has been a wonderful 10 years and with any luck there will be another 10 to go! Thank you everyone who has helped along the way.
We have had a return to Forest School After School at the Holywood Steiner School where we focused on foraging and rope… we made a rope ladder, had fun in hammocks, foraged the abundant greens and cooked pasta and rice over the fire… and of course had several games of hunt!
Well, yes it is true, we have been absent online – there is no excuse, but we have been very very busy…
First there was the Easter Scheme which saw three days of wonderfully warm weather and sadly due to my phone being on its last legs, I was unable to take photos of the wonderful time we had. From playing in the river once more to lounging on hammocks and even getting ‘lost’ during our walk there was just so much to do!
After that we worked with the Fostering Network over four Saturdays – Helen’s Bay was home to Wild About Learning – an outdoor classroom where we harvested mud, drew and IDed trees and foraged the tender spring greens.
As you can see we were only allowed to take the set up photos but here are some quotes from the children…
1 What mark would you give the ‘Wild About Learning’ programme out of 10?
Didn’t enjoy 5 OK 10 Brilliant
9 (3), 10 (4)
Did you have fun? Yes or No?
– tell me one thing you really enjoyed and why.
River walk – I like playing in water (3)
Making new friends – I like meeting new people (1)
Starting a campfire – I always wanted to learn to do this (1)
Building a hammock – I liked to swing in it by myself (1)
Cooking marsh mallows – like love eating them (1
We hoped you would try new things. Tell me about something new you tried for the first time.
Cooking on a campfire (2)
Starting a campfire (4)
Learning about leaves (1)
We hoped you would learn new things. Tell me about something you learnt that you didn’t know about before you came to ‘Wild about Learning’.
That you can eat some leaves (3) Learning about bugs (1)
How to cook on a campfire (1)
How to build a den (1)
How to make things from river mud (1)
Was learning outdoors a fun way to learn? Yes or No?
We worked together and listened to others.
– Did you like being part of a team? Yes or No?
– Did you make new friends? Yes or No?
Do you think coming to We are Wild About Learning gave you more confidence? Yes or No?
I found this picture on social media and it inspired me to write this…
As a teacher I see the importance of play. Children are not mini adults. Their brains are different, their hands and bone structure is different, they learn differently. And they long to learn. They are enthusiastic about life. And it is universal. A child in Asia is exactly like a child in Europe. It is astonishing how they have the exact same characteristics and go through the same developmental stages.
When a child plays they engage every fibre of their being. Their bodies, their imagination, their thought and their will. They enter into a world which they utterly believe and they are creating the future. We do them a greatest service in being able to keep those boundaries of childhood as free and as joyful for as long as possible. It is in their sense that the world is GOOD and BEAUTIFUL that they will seek its TRUTH with a hopeful, beatific will.
At elements we do this. Nature, the greatest teacher, is given the space and we enter a partnership with her to create moments of magic and lasting memories. The child develops a confidence and a trust in the world, while also encountering the very limits of their experience.
It was a perfect day to do a BBQ – it always is in Monday Forest School. But today we harvested invasive bamboo and made skewers from them by whittling. Then we roasted our own sausages and marshmallows. That was followed by 3 games of Hunt. And everyone had an awesome time!
Least you wonder, there were quiet times as well! 🙂
Here is what one person made over the weekend. Total beginner, no experience… ok, yes that person was me. It is amazing what you can do with this incredibly versatile metal! What about that amazing cast iron anvil? How gorgeous is it?
Leaves and a bangle – working with copper is magical and rewarding! It was quite astonishing the different effects you could get from tiny changes in simple processes. Alchemy!
What it starts off with – annealing, working with custom made chisels and releasing your inner jeweler.
All the copper used was reclaimed and recycled – and some of these tools were several decades old. The anvil was reused railway tracks. So much learnt over a single workshop.