The forest school revolution leaves, logs and life forest school newspaper articles skills Teacher Network The Guardian

The forest school revolution leaves, logs and life forest school newspaper articles skills Teacher Network The Guardian

“For me, the most important thing is to teach children how to work together. We do a fairly bad job of that a lot of the time. If I can get them to value each other as team-mates and friends, I’ve done a good job.”
G rey clouds are looming above Chrishall Holy Trinity and St Nicholas CE primary school in the rural north-west corner of Essex, but a row of bright wellies are lined up ready for action outside the reception classroom. Inside, class “ praying mantis ” are sitting in fleeces and overtrousers, writing and drawing preferred activities on mini-whiteboards for their weekly morning in the forest.
More and more nurseries and primary schools around the UK are following suit, as a quiet forest school revolution spreads. It’s patchy – East Anglia and Worcestershire are leading the charge. Although no one is officially counting the numbers of schools incorporating the concept, the Forest School Association charity has helped 12,000 teachers and other professionals undertake training.
With class Praying Mantis back inside, changed and devouring lunch, Bicknell, who trained as a forest school practitioner seven years ago with the Green Light Trust , argues forest learning helps children redisover the lost skills of playing together with “absolutely nothing”.
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Back at Chrishall, the children have carried their supplies to the wood , greeting the ash tree at the entrance and checking its branches are not waving so strongly in the wind that entry might be dangerous. Noting deer tracks and “bunny poo”, they cross a ditch and scale a slippery bank with ease. Back in September, when they began their weekly forest school mornings, most students couldn’t manage this, says teaching assistant Sonya McKenna. “You’d be amazed – even those in the countryside might walk only on footpaths. They couldn’t negotiate ditches. Some of them were afraid of getting cold and dirty.”
A lot depends on warm and waterproof clothing, but Chrishall – which unusually maintains its forest sessions right up to year six – works hard to educate parents about this. Now, most children turn up with the right kit, allowing outdoor learning in almost all weathers. No one bats an eyelid today at the drizzle: hoods go up and the only mention of rain is when Mrs B asks students to find a “sit spot” and listen for forest sounds. “I heard the rain tip-tapping on my anorak,” forest school newspaper articles reports Izzie, five, who also likes the sound of an outdoor xylophone fashioned from logs by Mrs B.
But, he warns, the risk for schools is offering just a taste of forest school – dubbed forest school lite – without the regular full immersion in the outdoors that creates the self-esteem and co-operation the movement prizes. With testing, exams and work-readiness so prominent in the education agenda, there’s no guarantee that future classes will be granted their time in the woods.

The forest school revolution leaves, logs and life forest school newspaper articles skills Teacher Network The Guardian
The forest school revolution leaves, logs and life forest school newspaper articles skills Teacher Network The Guardian
Forest school works in urban environments too – anywhere with access to some trees and space, adds Bicknell. “Too much of education is orientated towards going to university. I want to give children an appreciation of the cycles of nature. We live, age and die just like everything else out there.”
Each student in turn describes their plan to Liz Bicknell, a veteran outdoor learning specialist who – accompanied by her small white dog Fluff – co-ordinates the forest school here. A falling tree might not be audible in an empty forest, but it’s a safe bet that Mrs B would be: her cheerfully commanding tones are just the thing for guiding four- and five-year-olds in the great outdoors.
Liz Bicknell uses soft toys to illustrate stories of birds and their different nests. Photograph: Anna Gordon I want to give children an appreciation of the cycles of nature. We live, age and die just like everything else. Over almost three hours, the reception class listens as Mrs B uses soft toys to illustrate stories of birds and their nests, hunt plastic Easter eggs containing a chocolate and build their own nests from mud and sticks to put them in. They enjoy free play with rope swings, tree climbing and den building. At the edge of a shallow pond, boys leap happily aboard a log spaceship, now morphed into a liferaft – developing the skills of play and co-operation that forest schools prize. While there is always structure, it’s light touch and there is plenty of time for child-led activities, says McKenna. “You are very rarely called upon. They forget there is an adult there in a way. They are so engrossed in what they are doing and looking after themselves and each other.”
Theo’s whiteboard features a wooden hut for insects, an ant house and a hole. “Do I need to take the hole with me?” asks Mrs B, a twinkle in her eye. Someone else suggests bringing Minecraft along, but Mrs B is brisk: “Minecraft stays in the classroom.”
A clutch of girls have joined forces to portray a den, buckets for mud-carrying and stick figures of themselves, while Louis – bundled in many layers – has drawn “a massive secret hideout”.
This isn’t a top down phenomenon: indeed, Ofsted’s one-size-fits-all approach can jar with the forest school philosophy . what are the objectives of forest conservation act