Article 46 out of 205
The Forest School ethos is based upon developing self-esteem, confidence, independence and responsibility in children of all ages and ability. Achieved through stimulating and hands-on outdoor experiences, its aim is not to replace classroom learning but to enhance, expand and add to it.
Carina Culliney is a Forest School Leader at Little Achievers Forest School Nursery, which is situated within 120 acres of farmland. She believes that early exposure to the great outdoors has a positive impact on a child’s development in the early years, primary school and beyond.
Why did you decide to be a Forest School Leader?
When I was offered the chance to train as the nursery’s Forest School leader I was delighted. I already had a year under my belt as the Forest School assistant and I jumped at the chance to develop my role. I love the outdoors and outdoor learning, so this was a fantastic opportunity for me.
What does your role entail?
My role entails ensuring the Forest School area is safe for the children, maintaining tools, compiling risk assessments, developing child-led planning, supporting children in their play during Forest School sessions, and liaising with parents and carers.
What is a typical day like at the nursery?
The children have all usually arrived and settled by 10am, which is when our Forest School sessions start. We change into our waterproofs and wellingtons (and hats and gloves if it is cold) and head out to the Forest School, where we have snacks around the campfire.
After a game of ‘123 where are you?’ (a Forest School version of 'hide and seek’) the children set off for their adventures; climbing trees, digging in the mud pit and den-making. We all come back together for a quick review before heading in for dinner time. In the afternoon, a different group of children come out to enjoy their session, and the fun starts all over again.
Are there any outdoor activities you carry out that involve risk?
Risk is a fundamental part of the Forest School ethos. As the children are so young, all risk is carefully assessed and controlled. I teach the children to use bow saws, loppers, whittling tools, and mallets. We have a safety talk before we use the tools, and I model the correct use of the tools, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
We also have campfires, which are a lot of fun. The children know how to sit safely around the fire circle and only approach the fire if they are invited by a staff member. Because the children are trained how to act safely around dangerous activities, they tend to take it seriously and they really are very sensible. Ask any of the preschoolers, and they could tell you exactly how to stay safe in Forest School.
What impact does outdoor learning have on the children?
Children who have difficulty focusing, or who are quiet indoors often flourish in the Forest School environment. They enjoy the freedom and the space, as well as the fresh air.
Learning is far more hands-on and practical, and using the trial-and-error system means that children are more likely to remember what they learn. Parents often come to me and tell me they won’t stop talking about their Forest School experiences.
I see their confidence and self-esteem build week after week and I see them beam with pride at their own achievements. Forest School helps them build a clearer sense of who they are and what they can do.
What is the most rewarding part of your day?
The most rewarding part of the day is definitely seeing the delight in children’s faces when they achieve something new. They are so proud of themselves, and it’s so wonderful to see.
What do you most like about your role?
I love being creative with the children out in the sun, making dream catchers, whittling and making mud faces…getting messy and making things is always great fun.
What are the downsides and challenges to your role?
There’s a well-known Forest School phrase: 'There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate weather'. While this is true, it can be hard to get enthused about going out in winter when it’s blowing a gale and pouring with rain.
What qualities and skills do you need to be a Forest School Leader?
Resilience, a good sense of humour, enthusiasm, imagination, and a willingness to have a go. A thick pair of wooly socks is also a must.
What makes being a Forest School Leader so special?
I get the chance to work with children and teach them useful skills in a beautiful, peaceful, natural environment. What more could anyone ask for?
Little Achievers Forest School Nursery is run by a specialised outdoor learning team, dedicated to providing innovative support and learning tailored to the needs of children and families in Blackburn and the surrounding area.