Shanghai children fly 6,000 miles for Forest School
Seventeen families from Shanghai made the six thousand mile trip to Gloucestershire this summer for their children to experience the great British outdoors with training company Forest School Learning Initiative (FSLI).
The two-week trip, which was months in the planning, aimed to give the seventeen children – aged from five to twelve years – a hands-on experience of Forest School, as well as the chance to learn horse-riding, while parents enjoyed a series of sightseeing visits and trips around the south west and to London.
Chris Dee, FSLI director, said: “It was an unusual request that came on the back of our recent Shanghai project, where we set up and led Forest School for a number of international schools: as you can imagine, finding luxury accommodation for forty-one guests, as well as nearby woodlands for us to adapt for Forest School, plus a week’s riding tuition for seventeen children was quite a tall order! We decided to take the challenge on, and were excited to find Upper Court Kemerton, near Tewkesbury, which was the perfect fit for accommodation and had fantastic woodlands, and to partner with Mill Farm Riding Stables for a week of riding and activities.“
Playing and exploring outdoors in a natural environment is not part of childhood inShanghai,China’s largest city, which suffers high pollution levels, intense heat and humidity and is almost entirely built-up. Most children will spend the majority of their time indoors, often under the watchful eye of parents and grandparents.
Chris explained: “Cultural norms also mean that children are used to strict, formal classroom settings – even in the international schools. By contrast, ForestSchool is child-led - everything is about the child exploring, being creative and problem-solving. So for our group of children it was a huge contrast to come to theUKand be outdoors for two weeks, both in terms of physical exercise as well as having the freedom to lead their own learning through play and exploration.”
By the end of the first week, which included riding lessons, stable management and a visit by the farrier, all the children were riding independently and took part in a small show for parents to enjoy. During the second week at Forest School, the children enjoyed mud painting, den building, making rafts to float down a stream, going on nature walks, using tools for woodwork and cooking. A celebration day at the end of their stay saw the children cooking on an open fire for their parents and sharing in the skills and activities they had learned in the woods.
Chris commented: “Seeing the children grow in confidence, become more adventurous and build lasting friendships has been fantastic. All credit to the FSLI team, as hosting this special training programme was a huge undertaking for our small team – from the admin of flights, taxis and accommodation to the logistics of numerous sightseeing trips, to setting up a new Forest School area and leading exciting sessions every day – it has been an incredible experience.”