Forest School in the Wood
In late 2010 the Chiltern Society was approached by the Mary Towerton School, Studley Green, as to whether it would grant them permission to use the Wood for an educational programme, a Forest School.
The Society visited the school and walked the Wood with the Head Teacher, Sarah Leighton, and the Forest School programme leader, Amelia Huby-Green, to agree the areas most suited to the programme's needs.
A Conservation Group working party then cleared the area of anything 'unnatural' (such as old tree guards) and things potentially harmful to exuberant children. Once done the school were free to use the area as they wish – the programme has its own teaching guidelines and safety rules. What follows is a report from the school about the programme.
“We went to a
school in the trees
This comment was made by a child from the school following her first visit to Forest School in the Wood. Based on an original concept from Scandinavia, Forest School offers a unique way of allowing children to learn through play, exploration and discovery in a natural outdoor setting.
The Forest School programme leader, Amelia, says, “I love taking children down to the woods to let them play and explore. When I was little, I was lucky to have a field and trees close to where I lived. I was always investigating something or climbing a tree or looking for insects. With current lifestyles, this opportunity isn't open to every child and so I'm really glad we now have Forest School at our school.
Periodically, members of staff take a group of children of different age to Bottom Wood. Weather is no deterrent – there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! They are always really eager to go and get changed into their waterproofs and wellies remarkably quickly! So far, the children have made dens, dug holes, hunted for rocks, created mud creatures, climbed trees… It's lovely to hear their thoughts too. It's a great time for stimulating imagination.
Back in the classroom, we are seeing an increase in children's vocabulary, which is helping them to include new and interesting words in their literacy work. Each time we visit, they are getting a greater knowledge of their local environment and the creatures that live there. Their physical skills and coordination are greatly improving as well. We will also be using the sessions to apply numeracy into real-life situations.
It's great to see the children happily mixing with each other, playing with different friends. Some are finding new skills, other children are keen to share their skills with others. All this makes for a great foundation in their emotional intelligence as well as their academic knowledge.”
The Head Teacher of the school, says “We are always looking for ways to enhance children's learning and education. The Forest School programme will be a positive benefit to our children now and in the future.
The lessons learnt from this will help teachers develop our pupils' full potential.” Amelia continues “Having trained to be a Forest School Leader for the last six months, it's tremendous being able to run these practical sessions now.
Whatever the weather or season, there is always something new to discover and explore. Bottom Wood is a perfect place to hold a Forest School and we would like to thank the Chiltern Society who have so kindly lent us this area for such an enjoyable and educational purpose.”
In its turn the Society is pleased that Bottom Wood is being used for the programme and is delighted it offers the children experiences that older generations took for granted – learning about the woodland environment, some rough and tumble, and a bit of mud and water!