Forest School Articles

Browse the Forest School article database for reflections, evaluations and case studies about the benefits and opportunities Forest Schools bring to creative play, imagination and learning in the UK.

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I’ve been working on a planning template for my own sessions and for participants on my courses. I’m enjoying it as a way to think through my sessions whilst taking a lead from the children and young people.

I call my starting points ‘springboards’. I’ve written about springboards before. That previous post was from 2010! 

Feel free to download this template and let me know if you use it. 

I’m working slowly on a part 2 to capture reflections and observations. 

I’m working with a group of Forest School trainees who are reaching the end of their qualification process. They are sharing their reflective diaries with me which is such a wonderful insight to the learning and thought process.

Messaging Corinne about things I read in her diary she sent back another reflection;

“…the big, hulking Y6 boy who I’d been warned about ‘cos he was so disaffected and switched off and confrontational, nearly knocked me over in a big hug and said,
“Thank you thank you thank you for letting us do Forest School. I just LOVE it!!” This is a really big thing we’re giving these children isn’t it? Wish I’d been doing it 34 years ago when I first started teaching…”

There is something really powerful in that. It’s not the first time I have heard similar things expressed by participants on my Forest School Leader training programmes and it got me to thinking. What is it about the ‘right now’ that is so important? In an ideal world we would know everything we needed to know from the very first time we needed to know any of it but then when would we learn and how would we grow?

I wish I knew then what I do now, but I’m also looking forward to what I will learn today.

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The second best time is now.

Do you want to come and find out what you could be learning? Check out our course dates here. 

The Forest School principles are a useful tool for Forest School Practitioners to check in with as part of their ongoing development. One of them states that “Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.”

After the last Forest School Association conference and a conversation about wonky wheels with Jo Philips of Essex Country Parks I developed a reflective tool for myself and for Forest School trainees that I work with.
wonky-wheel

Download the blank wood cookie wheel here [..read more..]

“Play is a biological necessity that puts the child in the driving seat.”
The play theorist Bob Hughes inspired the recent Forest School Association conference with his words about play. There were challenges in that speech for us all too. He talked about when children’s play becomes sexualised and violent.  Play which makes us, the adult uncomfortable. He said that if we truly support the play process then we should allow it to ‘play’ out. That a child needs to have a range of experiences for their healthy development and the adult should not intervene with this process.  For me and for others at the conference this conundrum is manifested regularly in the woods when we see a child’s interaction with living things and when those thing are killed or harmed because of the interaction.

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I was really inspired recently by a great whittling project. So much so I’ve been making these all week!

a skulk of foxes

six foxes

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com·mon·sense \?kä-m?n-?sen(t)s\ adjective  : sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts

People often say that effective risk assessments are the application of common sense. I tend to agree, but, different people have different perceptions based on their differing experience. The questions are then; how do we collect all that sense?  How do we hold it in common so that everyone in a team, organisation or partnership shares the wealth of experience on offer? This is the role, to my mind, of the risk assessment.  The process of collecting all that experience and judgment together to give us a ‘common sense’ of what is possible and how we make it work for the benefit for the participants.

But when children are given the opportunity to direct their own play and learning, then what they are doing could go beyond the collective experience which is recorded in those risk assessments. How do we make judgements then? [..read more..]

When I walk into the woods it’s nice to try and see what invitations there are for the senses; a whiff of wild garlic, dappled light, a splash of yellow woodland flowers, birdsong,  an uncurling frond of bracken, you know, the things that really invite your senses to come alive.

invitations to the woods [..read more..]

Our story of the day. Reflective group poems from Forest School training;

 

Upon reflection, it’s small yet guiding.

This place, a calming release in the sunlight.

Identifying. Reflective and delicate.

We’re explaining, thinking and applying.

Facilitating challenge as well as calming.

Positively supporting. Making explicit. [..read more..]

Compound Flexibility 1During my years as a Forest School leader one if the attributes that I find myself drawing on is flexibility. Being able to change plans, put aside my agenda because of the weather, a really interesting discovery in the woods, because of something a child needs or wants to do –my flexibility is core. [..read more..]

Badge of honour 1Many years ago I talked with my friend Martin about the idea of the badges of honour of outdoor play. Martin wrote about this in www.playengland.org.uk/media/130593/play-naturally.pdf, that dirt, stains and smells can be treated like ‘badges of honour’, ‘evidence of successful outdoor play’ and learning. Like all good ideas I’m still mining it. [..read more..]

Fear 1I didn’t know how much of this last week would be spent dealing with fear. Heights, the dark, spiders in the toilet, bigger kids. All normal parts of a week of play in a field on the edge of a wood. But what struck me again and again is the resilience and bravery of children who know they are afraid but refuse to let that get in the way of experience. [..read more..]

challenging behaviour outdoors

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour in the Outdoors

Level 3 OCN (3 credits) – with Jon Cree and Lily Horseman

When: 28th-30th September 2015
Where: Rookhow, Grizedale, Cumbria
Cost: £300 (includes basic accommodation in the bunk house)

Download a booking form to reserve a place on this course.
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Look After Yourself 1There are many ways that I have used over the years to set ground rules with children. It always boils down to this though… [..read more..]

Nordic Romantic Braid 1Occasionally I see a craft technique and think to myself “I can’t wait to take that to the woods!” So it was when I attended a textile workshop with Larry Schmidt at the North House Folk School. He specialises in traditional Scandinavian textile techniques that were brought to America by the first settlers and the have wonderful names like flettet snor, frynseflet, bregdet band and rundflet snor. [..read more..]

Walking Alongside 1Sitting around the fire at a recent Forest School conference a fascinating discussion developed about the nature of the pedagogy we employ. My friend Annie, of Get Out More, remembered a conversation she and I had had a few years ago. [..read more..]

How to make char flowersThere is a really fascinating process you can do with fire that is basically making charcoal but without any wood… [..read more..]

Tree Climbing Risk 2Risk taking is widely understood to be a natural part of a child’s development. Adults who work with children are moving on from thinking of risk only in the context of ‘the risk assessment’ which decides those things are too dangerous to allow. [..read more..]

Maslow's Hierarchy 1I was just repacking and checking through the safety bag that I take into the woods with me and I felt like something was missing. There had been a lot more space in the bag over the summer but as the weather changes so does the contents of my safety bag. [..read more..]

Child Led Learning 2Giving control over content and intent of play and learning to children. [..read more..]

coppice birds 1Last year I learnt to make these little wooden birds from a local coppice worker. They are made from a single carved forked stick. [..read more..]