Slightly misleading title as this was not really a Forest School session but a session ABOUT Forest School that was delivered on a cold dark evening in February.
I've been guest speaking at New College in Swindon for around six years now on Forest Schools and Outdoor Play. I have had the pleasure of working with students doing Childcare at Level One to Health and Social Care teenagers and Foundation Degree and HND students studying Early Years. Each group is different and I always come away having had a truly special time.
Last night’s session was two hours to give the students an overview of where Forest School has come from and where it is currently. I try to do this through a serious of photos on a standard PowerPoint, video clips and some practical time too. Anyone who runs Forest School sessions – and I don’t – knows that to truly understand FS you have to do it and feel it and be there, not watch a PowerPoint. But on the other hand if we can get something into education about FS for students who are looking at a career with children we may light a spark that they carry on into their careers.
Usually when I do a session the majority of it is outside and New College are lucky to have a large grassed area opposite with willow and oak trees and for longer sessions a wonderful mature woodland and lake ten minutes walk away. However, both of those areas are heavily used and even on daytime sessions we have come across all manner of broken glass, pretty grotty rubbish and other things that you wouldn't want to step on in the dark.
I had asked all of the students to bring a jam jar which they all had so after an initial 'what is FS' we went for a collecting walk around the immediate area, which happened to be a large car park with exceptionally well manicured bushes. Literally not a fallen leaf to be found! The group managed to pick up some bits and pieces and we headed up to the classroom.
We looked at who runs FS training locally – the lovely Ruth Parsons at Woodland Learning who sits under the Archimedes umbrella, as well as Brdgwater College and the history of FS there. I touched on FEI FEN & LOtC and we watched the Bristol zoo Wild Place video ('It makes you feel kind of 'free' chokes me up every time!) Then settled down to a spot of creativity. I had taken some violets and hellebores from my garden as well as a basket of stuff from Scrapstore. So whilst the ladies created I set out a load of printed resources and took some photos.
The finished items were all different although had the same kind of Spring feel. When students are really engrossed in an activity I like to wade in and firmly say ‘Ok, put that down, we’re finished now!’ And insist that they do put it down – over the years I have had to be quite forceful in my manner. I do this to really push home the point that when children are engrossed the last thing we want to happen is some adult waltzing over and telling them to take that den down because it’s snack time, or breaking up a marvellous Lego model because it is time for story. But I couldn't bring myself to do that last night so just talked it through.
We discussed offering a provocation such as the jam jars but not making them the be all and end all, they can give structure - usually more needed for adults who need a plan, but once outside let children go with the flow. I touched on risk and 'not wrapping children up in cotton wool' but I know that a lot of practitioners have difficulty with this one when they get back to their settings and schools. One previous student told me she took conkers into school and was told to take them away again because a child had a nut allergy. Not a conker allergy, a nut allergy.
|Wonderful spring mobile|
We ended with a five minute ‘find two ideas to take home’ from the printed resources and the students left holding their beautiful spring creations.
Thanks guys :)