Work Matters: Management Focus - Into the woods

Karen Faux
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Childcarers are learning how to set up forest schools, says Karen Faux.

A conference recently held by Bridgwater College is inspiring nurseries in both rural and urban areas to develop forest schools and extend outdoor play.

Wendy Oliver, manager of Brue Farm Nursery in Somerset, is aiming to develop a forest school on her site at the end of this year. The nursery was opened last October, in the grounds of the owner's dairy farm, and offers full daycare for 26 children aged from three months to five years. Staff already make good use of the outdoors, taking children on daily tours of the farm to meet the cows and ponies, and caring for hens and rabbits in the pets corner.

'We sent two of our nursery nurses, so they could access the workshops, exchange ideas between themselves and bring what they learned back into the nursery,' says Ms Oliver. 'We've achieved a lot here since we opened and there's still potential for more. Our space provides wonderful opportunities for learning, and a forest school site will extend this further.'

The conference also celebrated the positive impact that forest schools can have in urban areas. Katherine Milchem, forest school co-ordinator for Eastwood Nursery School near Wandsworth, south London, explained how to successfully deliver a forest school in towns and cities.

In the afternoon delegates had a choice of workshops, which included First Steps for those new to forest schools, Advanced Forest School, Urban Forest School, Inspirational Forest School and Building a Round House. They were held in the woodland area on the edge of Bridgwater College's car park.

Fay Thick and Kate Rice, nursery nurses at Brue Farm, both enjoyed the day which literally covered a lot of ground.

'We learned all about how forest schools started and the ideas behind them and we are already incorporating these into our practice,' says Ms Thick. 'We were shown how to construct a round house with timber, using knots to make it. It is a very simple structure that can be used in different ways and I am keen to have one in our own nursery. It could be used for outdoor circle time, storytelling and other activities.'

Her colleague Kate Rice says, 'We really felt we were amateurs when it came to the skills, but we are now inspired to use what we learned.'

More conferences are planned. Bridgwater College's section leader for early years and education, Karen Morgan, says, 'Feedback from the delegates has been fantastic. They all went away with smiles on their faces and lots of ideas to encourage access to nature.'

Bridgwater College is a specialist in forest school training and offers courses throughout the UK. Visit www.bridgwater.ac.uk

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