Country Kids – Learning Outdoors
I wanted to do a slightly different post for Country Kids this week.
I’ve finally completed my training for Forest Schools Leader Level 3 over the past few weeks, and it’s been the most interesting course that I’ve taken part in.
To offer a bit of background info, Forest Schools is a child-led learning initiative that supports the curriculum. It focuses on the child, their holistic learning and personal development. It’s a hands on approach to learing, and is all taught with the individual at the centre. The learning is set in a woodlands outdoor environment and a range of learning activities are offered, to be freely chosen by the child. It really isn’t about the adults leading the way. The adults are very important, but their role is to facilitate the childs’ learning and development.
Small achievable tasks are set, so that children can feel empowered by actually achieving and accomplishing tasks set for them. This also allows for a setting that increases emotional development and social well-being.
We learnt about the history of Forest Schools. Initially created in Sweden in 1985, it was further developed in Britain in 1993 through Bridgewater College. It has since evolved and in 2012 the Forest Schools Association rolled out nationwide in the UK.
This shows that the learning and development of children in the outdoors is not a recent idea. The training was fantastic, and it only enforced my belief in the importance of outdoor education and wild experiences for children and young people even more.
We discussed various issues, such as emotional intelligence and how it should be developed in a Forest Schools setting. We learned about play theories and those theorists who’ve developed the importance of play over many the years. We went through ecological impacts, what we do while spending time in the woods and forests, and how to limit our impact on the environment. We looked at risk assessments, how to manage risks and yet still allow managed-risk accessible to children. We discussed the history of British woodlands, and also the flora & fauna found in the sites where we work.
There really was so much to learn, not just how to play in the woods!! It was such a fantastically interesting training course and, although very intense, it gave me so much to think about.
Our time was divided between lessons in the classroom, and time learning outside. This was great for me as, by midday, I tend to get a bit twitchy and struggle to sit still. I enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and take part in some hands-on learning using a range of interesting and slightly large forest-tools, which helped me to make some wonderful craft objects.
The reason why I wanted to share this slightly different Country Kids post, was to express that the more time I spend with children and young people in the outdoors, the more I see a huge reason for the education system to include outdoor learning as an integrated part of the curriculum.
If anyone has seen the film “Project Wild Thing”, it simply enforces the thinking and logic behind Forest Schools. The film explains how children from the Western world have been identified as having low self-esteem, issues with obesity and depression, largely attributable to the proven data that children in our modern society don’t have the experiences of being in the outdoors, as much as those children of generations past.
I see the positive results first-hand, when I work with a lot of young people who simply cannot cope in mainstream education for a variety of reasons. These young people have been classed as disruptive and non academic but, when taking part in outdoor activities with my team, and given the opportunity to learn in the outdoors, they become happier and more confident people. I have witnessed a whole range of truly wonderful things, such as taking young people to a beach for the first time, seeing them stomping through the woods, feeling free and happy because they’re not confined within a classroom. My Forest Schools training has really enhanced this idea, and it’s given me so much confidence as an outdoor pursuit worker (and as a parent) who believes that a childhood for my daughter should be rich all types of outdoor experiences.
I haven’t finished my training yet. I’ll have to deliver 6 sessions with a group of local school-children aged 8 – 9 years old. It’s going to be very exciting and the children all get the afternoon out of school. They shouted and jumped for joy when their teacher told them the news!! I have to observe and monitor how the children develop through the sessions, and I also have a huge folder of written course-work to complete, which includes essays, risk assesments and full descriptions of of the woodland environment of my chosen Forest School site.
Lots of late nights, and suddenly feeling like I’m back in school, I think!!
It really was a brilliant course, and I’m enjoying the prospect of the up-coming outdoor training. The reason why I’ve chosen to include this as my post for Country Kids this week is because, as parents, we should all try to give our children lots of happy memories and experiences. By taking part in this Forest Schools training, I really believe that it’s a huge benefit to their childhood.
With very little effort, we can provide lots of outdoor fun for kids which mixes learning and development with some wonderful family memories that everyone can cherish.