We are lucky enough to be able to offer a Forest School session to all children on roll at our school from EFYS-Y6. Each child is given the opportunity to be out of the classroom for one afternoon a fortnight, half a class at a time, per term. Working in these small groups means that the children have time and space to be outside with very little on the agenda other than having fun and enjoying the outdoors.
Sessions are planned to ensure that the children learn how to be safe in the natural environment and to help them understand the importance of living our values outside the school building, as well as inside. Children will tell you the Forest School rules which are 'no picky, no licky, no pokey, no ropey'. These rules are about keeping themselves safe and also about respecting the creatures which live in the Forest school site when the children aren't there, as well as looking out for one another and being aware of each other's preferences. We emphasise that it's important to be 'Ready, Respectful and Safe' even when we aren't in the classroom. Children live out those values in their interactions with one another and the staff.
The Forest School initiative grew out out of the Scandinavian 'fruitsliv' concept of outdoor life, and it has been shown to benefit children particularly in these modern times, where they spend such a lot of their time indoors. Forest School aims to reconnect children with nature by allowing them to take risks and decide on their own activities through small achievable tasks.
Our Forest School site is located at the end of the school field, where there is a base camp, materials for den-building, opportunities for nature study, a mud kitchen and the children's favourite, the mud pit! Although the children can play in any way they like, there is always an activity which they can choose to engage in, such as using natural art materials, building dens, or looking for bugs. We will be extending these Forest School activities so that the children can learn to use small tools such as potato peelers to whittle sticks and we will also be showing them how to light a fire safely.
Children are very conscious of climate change issues. Forest School provides them with a platform to observe the changes in seasons and the impact of weather conditions on the setting, which often provokes interesting discussions about what we can all do to make the world a better place for everyone.
Message from our Forest School Lead, Kate Davies:
"I hope that the children will come home muddy and enthused by their time in the setting. They love the mud pit, making mud slides, building dens with big logs ('if it's bigger than you, it takes two') and collecting worms. Some children really blossom in the outdoor environment and this can benefit their whole school experience as they carry their learning back into class. I have been involved with Forest School at Upton since we started to offer it, initially just to our infant children. Last year, I completed the Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification. I have worked at Upton St Leonards since 2012 as a Teaching Assistant and having worked with children throughout the different age ranges, I can see the enjoyment they get from being outside as well as the impact on their classroom learning. I truly believe that the experience develops their confidence and self-esteem, learning more about each other and the natural world, building on our 'foundations for a love of life and learning' that we strive for in all that we do. Outside school I am a lay minister for the Church of England and I have been involved with Forest Church, which uses the same principles as Forest School to inspire a love of God's creation and respect for it in adults as well as children."