What is all this talk about Forest schools... Jump in for more info about our grand plans for BRANSTY!
Making Memories using nature!
This is a little trip down my memory lane below "The Blossom Tree" Making memories which promote connection to nature and being in the present could and should be a priority in schools. I wonder what your memories of the outdoors in school are? Playing in the freshly cut grass, dancing in the leaves, splashing in puddles? We all have these memories and we have all had facilitators who allowed us to go outside and make these memories happen!
What is Forest school?
Forest school is an opportunity to spend time outside the classroom immersed in nature whilst supporting the pupils learning and allowing them space for creativity and their imagination to exceed the walls of a classroom. The research and findings out there go beyond the obvious fun element of having a nice time playing in the outdoors and as we continue to strive towards becoming more active as a school + its good to take note of the other strands Forest school taps into.
- The positive impact on our mental health and immune system by being outdoors, hands on and reconnecting with Nature.
- Cross curricular learning is everywhere in Forest school! Exploring life cycles in Science, reading identification guides in Literacy to using tools as part of DT. Forest school can connect so many areas of the curriculum all under one roof (Or Tarp Shelter!)
- Promotion of risk taking in an environment tailored to encourage and support children trying new things and being more willing to have a try at something new and give more things a go. The opportunity to engage with tools, fire and interact with nature in a deeper more hands on way.
- Fine and Gross motor skills having a chance to develop outside of the classroom through using tools, play and exploration of the environment around them.
- Longer periods of being active and moving around, engaging core muscles and nurturing the base for pupils endurance and support of muscular development.
- Grassroots opportunities for team work and improving individual social skills by providing a stimulus for all learning preferences and dispositions.
- The opportunity to explore nature close up, ask questions and lead the sessions while they discover things which make them ask questions or grab their own interest.
"Forest School" is a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting. FSA website - https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/
Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities. Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. https://cemind.org/resources/youre-wellbeing/
Research shows getting outside is also good for a child's eyesight, and being in nature as a kid is linked to better mental health. Some recent studies have even shown green spaces are linked to structural changes in the brains of children. - https://www.sciencealert.com/daycares-in-finland-built-a-backyard-forest-and-it-changed-children-s-immune-systems?fbclid=IwAR2DfHJPoH92wSNlQ3nMcmwoYqC6cYGBKZnV5MX_MaDKS_XAwlpmrEnwszQ
Appropriately developed gross motor skills can help your child build their fine motor skills. Knowing how to sit will give children the ability to be at a desk and practice controlling the movements in their shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/gross-motor-skills
Risk Management is VITAL for growth!
Forest school encourages pupils to take risks which are supervised and supported. Risks are an important part of life and sometimes we need to go be supported and encouraged to go out of our comfort zone whilst being within a framework of safety which can be monitored by quality staff, resources and provision.
We need to help pupils realize that the world is full of risk and we will aim to offer an ethos within our sessions where we work alongside the pupils to dynamically approach RISK and weigh up the associated risk with the benefit of participation. We will aim to cultivate a spirit of YES not NO and HOW not WHY.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE + OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENTS = HAPPY CHILDREN!
During my career in youth work, outdoor coaching and teaching I have been privileged to a plethora of professionals which has led me to believe and trust in the research and evidence of positive impacts through movement and time spent outdoors! This has impacted my own and many other educators delivery over the years, leading me to develop a strong ethos of cultivating opportunities for pupils to have personal interactions to help support their well-being most recently through bespoke lessons and interventions combining movement and time spent outdoors.
THE EVIDENCE - It`s out there!
Consider these two questions...
Howard Todd and Active Cumbria introduced me to the idea of Active schools in 2016 and the importance of regular physical activity for young people. Since then it has empowered me to seek opportunities for Quality first teaching of PE alongside the opportunity for allowing additional provision in school for more minutes to be active. This video below impacts my work now as much as it did then and I try to share with staff, parents and governors the importance of activity within a child's daily life due to the amazing positive impacts it can have!
Recently I have been challenged about how I perceived the outdoor world - Being honest It just used to be a playground for my extreme sport adventures - mountain biking, snowboarding and fell running. Then my whole world was turned upside down by 5 days in ROOKHOW with 5 friends all eager to grow a Forest school in their community! Since then I have slowed down and spent more and more time looking at the detail in nature and the awe, wonder and joy which can be found in the discovery of Fungi, observing a buzzard, tasting new foraged foods and much more! What I have found is a new sense of appreciation of the natural world and it has really opened my eyes and affected my core! In my previous time working as an outdoor instructor and supporting outdoor learning in other settings I was always impressed and impacted by how the landscape seemed to soothe and soften the toughest inner city teenager and for moments turn their world upside down as they dived head first into the mud and climbed up into the trees. Nature is and can be a safety net for so many people and we hope to utilize its strength in school to do just that!
The 6 Principles of Forest school
- Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
At Bransty primary we will be running sessions from Spring 2 2021 for intervention groups and classes throughout the 4 seasons. We will work closely with the class teachers and allocate the time spent outdoors to align with meeting the government requirements for 2 hours PE each week for every pupil. Myself and the PE subject leader Mrs Mullen are keen to work towards each class accessing regular sessions by aligning this with a long term plan for PE at Bransty Primary school.
2. Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.
We have chosen 2 specific sites for delivering our Forest school sessions at Bransty. We will use the school grounds "green areas" such as the garden, wood and playing field boundaries alongside a site within a public park in Whitehaven known as Crow Park which is managed and maintained by The Woodland Trust.
3. Forest School uses a range of learner-centered processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
Our goal throughout will be to create Forest school sessions which respond dynamically to the landscape the children are engaging with alongside the areas of interest they choose and the questions they ask. The Leaders of our sessions will need to prepared with the tools and know how for a variety of activities but be mindful of allowing the sessions to be governed by the the interests of the pupils and natures smorgasbord of play, taste and discovery.
4. Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
Forest school will allow for more opportunities outside of the classroom for everyone involved to be shaped by our interactions with each other in an unfamiliar environment. Forest school will allow new arenas for growth socially and emotionally within a framework of safety and play.
5. Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
The world is full of risk and we will aim to offer an ethos within our sessions where we work alongside the pupils to dynamically approach RISK and weigh up the associated risk with the benefit of participation. We will aim to cultivate a spirit of YES not NO and HOW not WHY.
6. Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
(All 6 principles shown in italics are Taken from the FSA website )
Where are we operating these sessions from?
Not only will be using the fabulous wooded area, garden, green spaces and trees on our school site but we will also be taking our pupils off site to a piece of CCC woodland opposite our school as well as some nearby woods further afield for upper KS2 pupils to access (approx 45 minute walk away.) We have identified a perfect location within the Woodlands Trust owned Crow Park (The forest situated on the hillside behind Castle park, Whitehaven.)
Crow Park was planted in and around 1930 and a historic fact in the shape of a Rabbit! The woods sit on an area of 28acres on slopes with an elevation up to 70 metres. The woods are managed by The Woodland Trust and consist of a mixture of broad leaved trees aged between 80 - 100 years old!
Our long term plan is to work alongside the Woodland Trust becoming active stewards of Crow Park. As outlined in their woodland management approach they seek to engage with local groups, educators in the use of their woodland for the enjoyment and initiatives sought within woodlands they oversee. By working together I hope that the work Bransty primary school do in this area will help to protect, preserve and educate the community wider in the pursuit of more people enjoying this fabulous resource abundant with nature within their community.
"We work with neighbors, local people, organisations and other stakeholders in developing the management of our woods. We recognise the benefits of local community woodland ownership and management. Where appropriate we allow our woods to be used to support local woodland, conservation, education and access initiatives "
Quote taken from - Woodland Trust, Crow Park Management Plan 2018 - 2023
The Pedagogy of Forest school
This is the bit that really interested me in training to be a forest school practitioner. I observed the sessions and loved the ideas of bringing opportunities for pupils to use tools, make fires and explore the world outside the classroom as part of their school day... but it was the why and how that I needed to know more about. On the course we were given a lovely explanation of this complicated and difficult to pronounce word Pedagogy!
The forest school pedagogy is walking alongside the child and their learning journey. Supporting them in their understanding as they question, explore and discover the world around them.
A learner-centred pedagogical approach is employed by Forest School that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners. The Practitioner models the pedagogy, which they promote during their programmes through careful planning, appropriate dialogue and relationship building.
The Pedagogy of forest school, having the child led approach of working alongside the learners needs and interests, combined with appropriate time and tools given will aim to establish stronger connections to understanding their achievements, developing emotional intelligence and planning for the future. The staff who lead and support these sessions will be trained and aware of the need to be mindful in our planning of these sessions and the ability to respond to this dynamically by our pupils curiosity, environmental discovery and questions.
When, how and who?
Mr Lee will be delivering small group sessions focusing on social and emotional targets with pupils across school Monday to Thursday. These sessions will be focused on working towards meeting personal targets EHCP outcomes and the government requirement of allocated hours of PE.
KS1 and SEND interventions for Forest school will took place on a Friday Morning and Afternoon for 2-3 hours each. The sessions will be based around a wide variety of outdoor learning mainly on school site within our mini woodlands set up and green areas focusing on play and some optional activities. We ask that pupils who attend school these sessions be prepared and dressed for all weather as Forest school will be outdoors (Wrapped up arm and ready for rain!) with spare shoes and socks for traveling home. We recommend pupils wear ; Wellies, Long sleeves, warm clothing in layers, Hats and accessories in response to the season. (Sunhat and sun cream spring summer) (Hats, gloves, scarves Autumn and Winter)
KS2 sessions for Year 6 will be launching on a weekly Basis from Summer Term 1 on a Monday Afternoon as part of their transition work to KS3. Other KS1 and KS2 sessions will be on a more Ad hoc basis to interact with curriculum links such as Forest school day, science days, creative writing, physical literacy and Nurture sessions. Please note parents will be notified by Class Dojo when these sessions are running. Summer 1 and Summer 2 will see this timetabled as a weekly 3 hour PE slot on a Monday afternoon. Pupils will be asked to come to school dressed for Forest school (Wrapped up arm and ready for rain!) with spare shoes and socks for traveling home. We recommend pupils wear ; Wellies, Long sleeves, warm clothing in layers, Hats and accessories in response to the season. (Sunhat and sun cream spring summer) (Hats, gloves, scarves Autumn and Winter)
Bransty has 2 key Staff who will be delivering the sessions on and off site. Mr Lee will oversee the establishment of the Forest school provision and combine elements of the Take 5 for Play, Countryside code and Outdoor education ethos to ensure a play focused, immersive experience with a child centered approach is embedded within our ethos. Mrs McLean has recently qualified as a Level 3 Forest school leader whilst Mr Lee is completing his Level 3 course. Sessions will be supported by the wider staff team of Bransty ( all staff are DBS checked and will have attended in-house training prior to attendance ) to provide consistent staff and ideals in our delivery. As a staff Team we will work together to ensure the Risk assessment ratios match the environment, location and activities planned with a qualified First Aider in attendance.
KEEP ROOTED TO OUR WORK!
We will be using Class Dojo, School website and this BLOG to keep all of our parents, governors, pupils and teachers up to date with what we are doing in our Forest school work as we launch small groups, class adventures and 121 work using the natural world and physical exercise as part of our response to well being. The pupils and staff are and excited to see this element and we look forward to sharing it with you as we hope for the Forest school bug to inspire your family adventures on evenings and weekends!
Insurance and relevant policies
The insurance held by Bransty primary school allows us to risk assess and plan for high quality provision inside, outside and off site. Specific Forest school session plans and risk assessments, prior to any session shall be in place, combined with a professional response dynamically to the pupils needs and the environment allowing learning to flourish safely outside of the classroom and inform our planning in the future.
The work delivered off-site will meet the same criteria as if on-site. This commitment is to ensure staff provide the same professional attitude to our pupils, each other and extended community and as such will strive to meet the standards detailed in the Behavior policy, Child protection policy, Health and safety policy, E Safety Policy and Privacy notice policy.
A copy of these relevant policies can be found on on our school website page:
Bransty Primary School
Bransty Primary School is a very special place where each child is an important part of our school family and where children come first. Bransty’s children are our future generation and as such must be nurtured, cared for and educated to the highest standards. This is what we aim to achieve. Your child’s happiness is at the heart of everything we do. A happy child will learn well and reach his or her true potential. A part of our vision states, “Learning is a treasure that follows its owners everywhere”