Interview: Donna Goodchild and Gemma Griffiths
Monday, October 6, 2014
Forest School leaders, Acorn Childcare
What do you think makes Forest School so important for children's learning and development?
Forest School is really important for children's learning as it covers all the areas of development, not just physical activity as many people might think. All of the learning and play that children experience at Forest Schools is child-led and real.
We have noticed that children thrive in a Forest School environment, especially those children who may be quiet in an everyday nursery environment.
Being part of a Forest School can really help with language and communication. As it's quieter in the forest, children have time to think and speak to their peers.
Why did you decide to offer Forest Schools to other settings?
When we saw just how beneficial the experience was for our children we wanted to be able to share it with as many children as possible, so we decided to offer our help to other schools and nurseries. When we had completed our training we spoke to a lot of Forest School leaders and realised that due to their workload and classroom routines many couldn't devote the time to it that was needed so we felt that as an outside agency we could help by also offering to set up Forest Schools.
How do you set up the Forest School at other sites that do not have their own woodland?
If the nursery or school doesn't have its own woodland area then we offer them the use of ours that we use with our Acorn nurseries. We also look in the local area to see if there is somewhere that we can use that is within walking distance. We have a good relationship with the Milton Keynes Parks Trust and also have a site on Forestry Commission land.
We also look at what the setting already has, as you don't need a whole woodland to run a Forest School session - it's all about making the most of the environment you have.
What sort of activities can children take part in during the day?
Our activities are all very child-led and offer lots for the children to do throughout their session. One of the children's favourite activities at two of our sites is mud sliding! Especially at the site where we have a small stream running through - our children really do love getting muddy! We cook meals on an open fire, and children have no difficulty respecting the rules of the fire circle when they can see for themselves that it is a real fire.
We work closely with the schools and nurseries to include whatever their current topic is that they are learning about. We even managed to run a Forest School session based on the Great Fire of London.
We have just completed a video, taken mostly in the summer holidays, showing the range of activities that children enjoy at Forest School.