Growing Up in the Woods

26th April 2011

When children are coming back to the woods again and again, you can really start to see how they have grown. We’ve been working with the same children at St Ives woodland every school holiday for nearly a year now and some of that growth is literal -they’re taller every time they come back! But much of the growth is from the inside as they demonstrate increased abilities to co-operate, communicate and problem-solve. Our St Ives group is very mixed in terms of age and ability but they all work together and help each other out. The really rewarding thing is seeing how much their belief their own abilities impacts on their belief in themselves.

This Easter holidays we began with what we thought would be a simple warm-up; to build a freestanding structure from just sticks and twine. They quickly found their own groups and set to work trying to build the tallest. They got stuck in and although several early attempts fell down, they would just try it another way until they had something that worked. The role of the Forest School practitioner is not always to lead, but to support participants to lead their own learning, so its rewarding to see them build up resiliance and independence: when it doesn’t work out, not giving up or falling back on adult help, but keeping on trying.

I’ve been doing a lot of one-off taster sessions this holidays too. I’m not saying its any less fun, because in every case we’ve had a great time, but this development can only just begin to happen in a single session. At the end of a session, when parents and children are all asking when the next one is going to be, you can only hope that you’ll get invited back and have more opportunities for grow with them.