Natalia is our wonderful Forest School lead. Natalia uses our own nature area on site and the farmland beyond St Mary's Church, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Jack. Squirrel class (years R and 1) enjoy Forest School every week and our older classes work with Natalia for two terms during the year.
What is Forest School?
Forest School is an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence, self-esteem and communication skills through hands-on learning experiences in the woods. It is an opportunity for children to explore and create freely, to develop their own ideas in play or practical activities and deepen their physical and emotional development whilst using the natural resources around them. They also deepen their nature connection and woodland skills and knowledge.
What we do during the session
We stand back, watch the children play and listen to their chat and ideas. We engage with them when they seek our help or support and empower them to make their own choices.
We meet as a group at the start of the session to share stories/songs games/introduction to an activity. Part of each session will be child-led. This enables the children to ‘play to their needs’, to explore at their own pace and to reveal their skills, interests and creativity.
The way we speak and our interactions with the children will of course have a big impact on their experience. We always work with positivity at the forefront of what we do and say.
Forest School leaders give children space to figure things out for themselves, to be themselves and to share how they are feeling. The way we speak is specific and not judgemental. If we are dealing with behaviour we always check in with the children involved ‘How are you feeling?’/‘I can see you are upset.’ ‘Do you need some help?’ ‘What has made you feel this way?’
We always see the best in all children and do not bring preconceived ideas about behaviour.
Climbing / physical activities:
We do not directly assist children to climb, i.e. we don't hold their hand/ physically guide push them. This enables children to ‘climb at their own limit’ and helps them be able to climb back down independently and test their own boundaries.
As there are no toilets on site at the Dairy Field, the children go to the toilet before the session. If a child should need the toilet during the session a member of staff will take them back to the school if the staff/children ratio allows. If the ratio do not allow for this the children will be offered a ‘wild wee’ in an out of sight location. Wipes and tissues available in the Forest School bag.
We use a range of different tools. Before using any tool, children listen to the ‘tool talk’. We encourage the children to follow all the given steps
Children should be appropriately dressed for the weather with suitable footwear and ensure their legs and ankles are covered to protect from insects and plants (even in summer). In winter they should wear thermal tops and trousers plus leggings or jogging trousers, waterproofs trousers, long sleeved t-shirt, jumper and waterproof coat or a couple of jumpers and a waterproof jacket, gloves, scarfs and hats, and double socks. The children are outside for long sessions in all weathers and they need to be warm and dry. It is always best to wear lots of layers and take those layers of when if needed.
Getting muddy and dirty:
Free play is most or half of the session. Playing with mud is one of the children's favourite activities and they are totally allowed to be free in their play. We ask parents not to tell their children not to get dirty. In wet weather it is almost impossible not to get muddy and dirty but this is absolutely fine at Forest School and is encouraged.
Tips for dealing with muddy/dirty clothes:
We always recommend that the children wear old clothes and wear multiple layers underneath their waterproofs.
- Do not wash waterproofs every week as this encourages deterioration of the waterproof effect. Just hang the clothes outside. If it is raining they will be cleaned and if not, they will dry outside.
- At the end of the term then, wash the clothes according to their instructions.