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The Diversity of Forest School

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As any full time Forest School establishment will tell you, you can deliver the entire curriculum outside. It takes planning and a lot of thinking outside the box, a specific way of working and all staff on board. 
Currently still in post lockdown mode, our Forest School within a Primary, is here half to give the children the freedom that lockdown stripped them of, and half to re-activate the children's interest, innovation, resilience and problem solving skills.

In September it would be nice to think that we can all start reverting to 'normal', but that is not going to happen, and actually do we want it to?


Firstly, every year during the six weeks Summer Holiday (which is usually nearer seven for the pupils), some children move on in leaps and bounds academically and in maturity, others stagnate a little, and others revert to earlier versions of themselves. 
All the reasons for this, and all the contributing factors would fill a book not a blog, but suffice to say, those chil…

Supporting Forest School

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In the last month the children have engaged and smiled through all kinds of aspects of being outdoors. Much of it with their teachers and some of it with the Forest School Leader. With over 100 children from Reception to Year 6 it has been a challenge to keep up Forest School as a broad scope for exploration and learning. 

Squeezing 12 sessions into a four day week leaves little time for changing activity-starters, and no time for planning! Switching from the mindset of instructing10 year olds' on building a safe structure, straight into Early Years mode with no break in between can make your head spin! The change of pace and needs required can alter drastically depending on the range and experience of the children involved, and this swap 3 or 4 times a day can be demanding!

The school staff, teachers and TAs who have joined in to ensure safe numbers have all adapted too. Many had never been to a Forest School Session before this term and were learning along with the children. Their…

Looking Forward to a New School Year

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Possibly due to a background in Early Years Education, I have always championed outdoor learning. There is nothing you can teach inside that can't be moved outside. Even if it is simply taking clipboards onto a patch of grass and delivering the lesson that would have been in a classroom to pupils in the open air.

For instance, adapting your Autumn story-writing to include a walk in the woods so children HEAR the crunch of leaves, SEE the Autumn colours, SMELL the rain and mulch, TOUCH the shiny conkers, FEEL the breeze, WATCH their misted breath.... before asking them to write descriptive sentences, links indoor learning to outdoor. 

Growing food and plant life cycles are so much easier to teach, and to understand, when it's actually happening!

Basing a topic around a pond on school grounds, or local to the building, with daily visits and monitoring of wildlife, recording of changes, writing of poems, drawing from observation... is reliant on the outdoors
Whether including the out…

Forest School and Social Distancing

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Week 1 getting all 12 'bubbles' outside for a reduced form of Forest School was interesting! We are abiding by our own risk assessment and amended rules and procedure as we go. No bubble has more than 15 pupils in and as every school is finding there are hidden difficulties and sudden incidents that make implementing Social Distancing INSIDE the building difficult at times. OUTSIDE I can confirm it is just as fraught!

The space is there for them to move around in, there are multiple trees offering climbing opportunities, but children do like to form groups and interact. Trying to stop them is to go against human nature and requires a lot of discussion, reminding, nagging....

I've said before that part of our assessment is the fact that Covid-19 spreads slower outside. The wind and air circulates the virus quickly and UV light from the sun helps destroy it, so based on the current scientific advice, a 9 acre space with sky for a ceiling and no obvious walls is probably the sa…

Bubbles

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Mama Beech sits on the edge of a Forest School site overlooking the copse that hides basecamp. There's a strip of woodland the children explore, a field of space to run, and the huge tree shields the Fairy Glen quiet space. This site is on school grounds, and across the year as many classes as possible in a two-form Primary take part in full 2 hour FS Sessions... Until Lockdown interrupted and Coronavirus changed the rules.

Emerging back into school life routines have changed, lessons have altered, classes are no longer the same size, or pupils, and restrictions due to social distancing and cross contamination make even the idea of Forest School Sessions as I know them fraught.

So it's time to adapt.

We've made the decision that all the children need as much outdoor time as possible. This stems from some children having been cooped up during the lockdown period and needing the space and freedom to move, the assertion that it's harder to catch Covid-19 outside (but not imp…

Quality Forest School...?

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I refuse to gleefully announce that 'schools are open' because many including mine never closed. The children who attended had opportunities for both Forest School and other forms of Outdoor Learning throughout. It was possibly the only time these children would've had the chance to explore in such a wide aged ranged group, and their interactions were very positive


But now they are back in school with a new timetable and a new agenda and a new way of working and learning and living day-to-day

Forest School is adapting as it goes, and a lot of what we normally do has either ceased or is being questioned

Meeting the 6 core principles of Quality  Forest School (as listed on the Forest School Association website) may be difficult

Quality Forest School is long enoughQuality Forest School isrisky enough/safe enoughQuality Forest School promotes holistic developmentQuality Forest School is natural enoughQuality Forest School has learner led outcomesQuality Forest School isrun by qual…