With another Forest School Holiday Club done and dusted, it’s important to look back and review its successes and indeed where it could be improved. As a forest school leader, as all educational practitioner do, it’s paramount to review your practice. This enables you to develop and progress your own skills and implementation of sessions and, just as importantly, better the children’s experience for the next time they come. The week saw very a very positive turnout of children over the 4 days we ran it, but unfortunately also bore witness to some extremely cold and inclement weather and even some snow! This had a real impact on the longevity of some of our smaller members despite having a roaring fire and plenty of activities to take their mind off the cold north-westerly wind that whipped through the trees. It was also testing for the staff members, as those in the know can appreciate how much preparation and clear-up there is to deal with during such events.
With the weather not improving over the course of the week, we took the decision to run the rest of the course on site at Free Rangers Nursery, so the children were closer to our facilities, (the woods is a good 10-15 minute walk depending on the size of your legs and how tired you are) but could still be outside and enjoying themselves. It was a hard week, but the children make the best of every opportunity to play in the outdoors, and we did all the activities we normally do during a Forest School day: knife work, shelter building, fires, cooking over the fire, creative activities like paining with mud and sculpting clay embellished with natural materials as well as some slacklining (“Slacklining? What’s that?” I hear you say! Click here to see - redirects to YouTube). We also tried felting, making some little eggs to go into a bird nest made of materials found around the grounds. It was great to see the nursery forest school area being used by older children, whose group dynamic showed me different ways of utilising the space; this gave me some definite food for thought on developing the grounds.
As a result I have taken the decision that next year in the February half term, we will run dedicated “Forest School Skills” sessions in one of the barns at the Nursery. This will enable us to build upon the skills the children have put in place as well as having closer access to our Nursery Forest School area without having to contend with the chilly weather for too long if needed!
Weeks like this are hard and tiring, and it’s easy to lose focus on why you are doing it in the first place. However, I was warmed by one child, a frequent visitor to our Forest School, who went out of his way to make me a poster of his time that week. It showed our woods, the sun (which believe it or not did shine!) our fire pit and the cold wind blowing through as well as token flower for added flair. I was really touched and it has pride of place above my desk. It’s moments like this that you remember why you do what you do, and even more rewarding that children take your sessions home with them continuing their learning and passion.
And yes...to JV who drew this picture. I do like it. Thank you very much!
We look forward to welcoming our Free Rangers back in March (25th - 28th) to bask in Spring's glory and to some hopefully warmer weather!