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Louise King, a nursery practitioner at The Old Station Nursery at Henley on Thames, has such a passion for outdoor learning, she is training to become a Level 3 Forest School Leader.
Children at the nursery are already benefiting from her training with regular Forest School sessions.
These include making dens, exploring and learning about the different environments, climbing, mud play, bug hunting and making ‘bug hotels’, scavenger hunts, art work using natural materials and observing wildlife and their habitats.
The whole Forest School idea originates from Scandinavia and is becoming more and more popular here as it is becoming increasingly recognised that an outdoor approach to play and learning can have a huge impact on the development of children.
The approach enables children to take risks and have the freedom to explore.
“I feel Forest School creates a fantastic learning environment for children. I find it very interesting and I particularly enjoy seeing the different ways in which children learn whilst taking part. The children have the opportunity to engage with the rich, natural diversity of the woodland environment.
“They have opportunities to play with and learn about natural objects, animal habitats etc, and also to develop a range of different skills during their Forest School sessions such as communication, problem solving and risk assessment,” says Louise King.
“I spent a week away in the woods near Sandhurst for my Forest School training, where I learnt the importance of Forest School in children’s learning and development.
“It also led me to further understand how children use their imagination and how the skills learnt will help children develop their social skills, for when they become young adults. Forest School provides excellent opportunities to support the children’s social development, communication skills and also physical development throughout.
“On my course we were taught how to use different tools, so that I will be able to teach these skills to the children. We were also shown how to build and use fires correctly and safely so that we can pass this understanding on to the appropriately aged children.
“So far at Henley in our Forest School with Nicole, we have had a fire with the children as a special treat, although we regularly use the Killy Kettle to heat water for our hot chocolate.”
Ms King has also completed a two day Forest School First Aid course. “The first day I networked with other Forest School practitioners while learning the basic First Aid skills.
“On the second day we went out into the forest and acted out different scenarios you might endure, e.g. drowning in a pond, falling from a height, being impaled by an object, and lots more.
“I feel my knowledge and confidence grew over the few days which has prepared me for what I might have to experience one day. I also picked up a lot of ideas and techniques to support me in my Forest School practice from other Forest School leaders’.”
All early years settings can get involved with Forest School projects. Forest Schools sessions need to be run by a Level 3 trained Forest Schools practitioner. More information on Forest Schools can be found at www.forestschools.com