Adventures in Nature
Cycling along the canal towpath on my commute between Saltaire and Keighley, I leave behind the busy roads and grey tarmac. Instead I start my day immersed in nature with so many opportunities to see many of the ‘lost words’ that Robert Macfarlane has penned in his spell book of nature poems, written to conjure up words that are feared to be disappearing from children’s vocabulary. I am always keeping an eye out for the flash of blue that signals my favourite bird, but am usually lucky enough to spot many more of these lost nature words.
When we were younger it was such a common sight, we never gave it a name. On winter evenings, we’d leave college and walk down to the bus stop on the Headrow, while starlings gathered in darkening skies above us. We’d look up and notice as thousands of birds swooped and swirled in unison, but never considered it a spectacle. (more…)
Children climbing high up a tree, playing out of sight of adults, cooking over an open fire and whittling with sharp knives are all common sights at a forest school, but which to outside observers, can appear dangerous. The Oxford Dictionary definition of risk is ‘the possibility of something bad happening at some time in the future, a situation that could be dangerous or have a bad result’. How then, you may ask, did risk come to form a fundamental part of forest school as one of its six core principles?
You may have heard it said that forest school can’t be single session, that a forest school should be a long term programme over weeks. But why does this matter? There are many types of outdoor learning that can be experienced as a one-off session such as environmental education, field studies or bushcraft, for example and they all provide a great learning experience for children. In fact, all these approaches share the type of activities that children enjoy at forest school session, such as lighting a fire, building a den or woodland crafts. However, the real magic of forest school happens when the sessions are regular, ideally at least every week, for an extended period of time and if possible, take place in the same woodland across months or even seasons.
One of the guiding principles at forest school is that play is child-led, but what does this mean, why is it important and what is the role of the adults, if children are leading the way?
Child-led play, meaning children are free to choose how they play, what they play and when they stop and play something else, rather than directed by an adult, is the key to real play and is essential for children to develop and learn at a natural pace. Adults have an important role in providing boundaries and resources, but the child takes the lead, discovering, inventing and exploring, while adults watch and wait, taking cues from the children. (more…)