After helping out with Forest School 15 years ago, I knew that was where I belonged - outside, exploring and surrounded by laughter and wonder.
Seeing children in a different environment is incredible. Some children belong outdoors, others need gentle encouragement to realise that jumping in muddy puddles is OK or that holding a bug isn’t scary. By supporting one another and jumping in those muddy puddles or holding that scary bug together means a lot when they look at you with self-pride.
Not long after I started going to Forest School, I undertook the level 3 Forest School Leader course with a fellow colleague and together we built our forest school provision that is now embedded at Gretton Primary School. We have worked together with our local Parish Council, to create a space for our outdoor learning within our village. Although we are no longer in the actual forest, we still do the same activities with the added bonus of learning to look after the area we live in. We have our wooded main area - we call base – but we have the freedom to explore the local countryside on foot.
The children love to venture to what they call “The top of the world”. Some days we will sit there: just listening to the farm animals and the trains that pass below us or we will be deep in conversation about how the seasons change and how far we can see. The children gain so much from talking here. There is always something new to spot.
Over time, our Forest School has evolved at Gretton Primary. Space, environment, time allocated, staffing, personal skills, and equipment has altered how we as individuals practice. How we deliver Forest School in Gretton Village now, with the EYFS and year 1 children with acres of public land to choose from, is not how we previously ran sessions for various mixed groups in a forest setting. Neither is better – both have their advantages. We just have to tailor what we can realistically achieve based on the children, the place, and the support.
In all honesty for me, the biggest difference is always the support; from our parents, our staff, and school leaders. If the adults understand the value in children attending Forest School and support it happening, then the rest of it is relatively easy! The understanding that Forest School is not a subject or a topic, that it’s not an extension of inside, that it has its own aims, and a specific method, makes it all the more powerful as a tool to enable children to reach their potential.
If anyone would like to come and join us to see what it’s all about then just let me know!
Lucy Parkin - firstname.lastname@example.org