Overcoming the fears of written work!!
When I was asked if I wanted to do the Forest School course, I was apprehensive of how much work it was going to be as I am also doing another level 3 course, but after the first session with Chris I was relieved that she was so helpful in breaking it down and alleviating those initial fears.
High Elms was a stunning place to find ourselves learning in and the support from the staff was fantastic. Sue was an amazingly supportive mentor, with a wealth of knowledge for us to draw on both during the course and as an ongoing advisor for our site development during our 3 year plan.
I wasn’t worried about the practical side of the course as I am quite an outdoor person who enjoys practical tasks and knew that I would be at home in the forest as I had grown up as a child in similar environment on a farm. However, after finding out what sort of a learner I was, I was surprised that some of the skills did present some problems for me and needed more practice, namely knot tying. The tools use practicals were really useful and learning the whole health and safety impacts of their use was daunting, but I feel confident now of how to use and look after these sorts of tools.
The atmosphere of learning together in a large group was fantastic and it was really advantageous as different peoples skills and their help, helped me to develop my own. It was a great learning environment, learning together by trial and error, my favourite way of learning. This whole experience was so different to the independent learning I have been doing on my other course, making it feel much easier and more enjoyable.
I think that as an EYFS teaching assistant, the ethos of Forest School mirrored a lot of the way we support learning in my own Reception environment, so was not such a different concept for me to grasp. I felt comfortable with standing back and letting the children explore and find things out for themselves, which may have been harder for some other T.A’s whose supportive roles are different. There is so much that Forest School can bring to my practice in my Reception environment. I am passionate about my outside area at school and can’t wait to extend this outside learning across into forest school for them.
My 6 assessment sessions were planned for a ‘Challenge the Gap’ group who fitted an excellent profile to progress within forest school – predominantly pupil premium (free school meals) children who have low self esteem in some cases and lack resilience and independence skills. It was a bit daunting at first, as I wasn’t sure whether the planning would have any impact. Forest school was, as it turns out, a perfect platform for developing these skills and at the end of the 6 sessions I have seen a considerable impact on some of the children. So it is nice to see such positive results from my practice. We were also fortunate enough to present our Forest School to another school who were also part of the ‘Challenge the Gap’ initiative who joined us for a session and have asked us to help them with ideas from the children to set up something similar on their own grounds. It was very daunting delivering a session to 2 of my own teachers, plus 4 teachers from another school, but everything went really well and I was proud of what the children who had not experienced anything like this, enjoyed it and got so much out of it. There were children with special needs who spoke in the base camp group and interacted with other children in our Forest School who never normally did so. I was so proud and pleased that we could have that sort of impact in only one session.
I am more confident with the planning and delivering of sessions now, however, I am still worried about the ecological impact of the sites and how to preserve the habits and environment whilst allowing us to learn from it. Unfortunately, unless you have been on the course it is hard for others within my environment to understand the fine balancing of giving children the opportunity to experience sessions along with maintaining it as a thriving natural environment. As we can see from our current site, the impact of bodies on the site does have a huge impact and helping the school to understand this is going to be difficult as they want to use if as a resource/venue without really understanding what impact we are having on this area. I feel this is going to be the most difficult part of my practice to get right. Fortunately, Sue from High Elms has been very supportive and will I am sure continue to advise us with her wonderful experience and knowledge.
Having taught my own 6 sessions and supported other Forest School candidates in their lessons, planning for next terms Reception sessions seems less daunting. The learning objectives fit very nicely, linking with not only ‘knowledge and Understanding of the World’, but so many others, ‘Social & Emotional’, ’Physical’, ‘Listening & Attention’, ‘Communication & Language’, ‘Expressive Arts & Design’ & ‘Being Imaginative’. Forest School was made for Reception planning.
So for me Forest School has been a fantastic, valuable experience and brought in general, so much to my over practice within school. It has helped me to focus on and see children in a different way, allowing me to develop and fine tune my practice to their needs, both in and outside of the forest environment.
Thank you Forest School – Chris, Wendy & The Whole Team XXXX