May 28, 2015, by sustainablenottingham
Forest School at the University of Nottingham
The University’s Childcare Services is introducing a Forest School programme into their curriculum for children in their care. “We have decided to do this as we wish to promote healthy lifestyles in a healthy environment, installing a love of nature in the children in our care” Catherine Lucas, Early Years Practitioner.
The Forest School concept originates in Denmark. It is a unique educational experience based on an ethos that offers children the opportunity to develop confidence and self esteem, cooperate and work with their peers and adults and develop strategies in order to take risks within a woodland environment. Children explore and experience the natural world through practical tasks and activities throughout the year and in almost all weathers. The project views each child as unique and believe that children engage in learning experiences that support and enhance their development.
Forest Schools programme believes that their role is to provide an environment that promotes optimum physical, linguistic, cognitive, emotional, social, moral and spiritual development. Play and choice are an integral part of the Forest School learning process, play is recognised as vital to learning and development. During Forest School sessions, children are able to experience challenge and risk within their play, when children are given a chance to engage freely in adventurous play they quickly learn to assess their own skills and match them to the demands of the environment. Forest School programme believes that children learn best from first hand experiences. Exploring, playing and so learning using a range of activities and experiences (both designed by the leader and instigated by the children themselves) is what the University of Nottingham Forest School is about. Forest School provides an encouraging and inspiring environment where children can learn using all of their senses to explore and investigate the world around them. A Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits.
Catherine is currently undertaking a level three Forest School leader qualification and am developing the Forest School site, policies and procedures as part of this. Once she has qualified, Catherine will be able to introduce the children to working with tools, such as a bow saw and loppers, the children will also cook simple food over an open fire. So far Childcare Services has run a number of Forest School sessions for a group of children from the Playcentre, all of whom have thoroughly enjoyed them. The children have been learning how to keep themselves safe from the dangers of holly and stinging nettles, climbing low branches, balancing on fallen trees, searching for insects, watching the clouds move in the wind, walking along rope trails, investigating pulley systems and getting very muddy in the mud kitchen! “Whilst the aim of the Forest Schools is to teach children about the great outdoors, most of all we want the children to have fun, and develop a love of learning” Catherine Lucas.