With our Forest School Leader Training busier than ever, a common question that we get asked is what kit would we recommend? For those setting up their own site from scratch, deciding what equipment to get can be a bit of a minefield. With outdoor equipment companies selling a veritable plethora of goods, some useful and some….not so much, having some tips from someone experienced can be worth its weight in gold. As a relatively new Forest School Leader myself, I am not the person to ask so I sat down with Neil Martin, our Lead Trainer (with years of experience), to pick his brains about his favourite bits of Forest School kit. So without further ado, I give you his list!
Ok, ok…I know that technically this is two things. But shelter was Neil’s priority when it comes to setting up a Forest School site, whether it’s a permanent settling or just for the afternoon. Having some good quality tarpaulins and rope is essential for rigging up a shelter between trees. And if you’re not quite sure on how to do this, why not check out our YouTube video where director Tom shows you how to rig a simple shelter by yourself using just these two items. Shelter provides you with a refuge from all kinds of weather; it shades you from the sun, keeps you dry in the rain and reduces windchill when things are a bit breezy.
We’ve doubled up again but we feel that these two go hand-in-hand (although perhaps not literally)! A fire is almost synonymous with Forest School and in order to have firewood you’ll most likely need an axe to split wood into more fire-friendly pieces. And a knife will be your absolute best friend whilst running sessions; from whittling sticks for marshmallow toasting to a bit of green woodworking to making feather sticks for the fire – this will be your go to. Invest in a decent knife if you can, we like Mora knives and if you can afford to get a few for the kids, Hultafors make a decent safety knife perfect if you’re working with younger children.
So you’ve got your logs for burning and your feather sticks for kindling, but how are you going to light your fire? You don’t want to rely on matches which can get wet or lighters which might run out of gas. For the most reliable option, opt for a fire steel (bonus points as it adds to the authenticity of your practice!) or flint and steel as some people call them. You can pick these up pretty cheaply and once you’ve got the hang of them, you’ll never light your fires any other way.
Hot chocolate has a magical effect on a cold, damp day on the moods of attendees young and old. Make sure you’ve got a kettle; whether it’s a storm kettle, kelly kettle or cast iron kettle is a matter of preference but then you’ll have hot water to make this woodland elixir in no time at all. Hot water of course is also vital for caffeinating adults present, washing hands and then doing the dishes at the end of the session.
There’s nothing like being cold and wet for hours on end to derail your session. Invest in some good quality waterproof trousers, a coat and boots (wellies or walking – it’s up to you) to make sure you stay snug as a bug no matter the weather. As Alfred Wainwright said ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’! If your budget allows, it’s worth getting some spares for poorly dressed attendees as well but this is a luxury, not an essential for someone setting up.
Not much to say on this one – it’s just common sense! Make sure you’ve got a well stocked first aid kit and accompanying accident book at all times. More likely than not, you’ll only ever have to deal with bumps and bruises and the odd cut but you’ll rest easy knowing you have kit to address more serious injuries, if ever needed.
Arguably the most important of them all, and it’ll cost you nothing! You can run Forest School sessions with nothing but your wits and ingenuity if needed. Engage your imagination, embrace the child in you, practice moving and exploring in the woods…lead by example! Some of the most engaging, entertaining sessions I’ve witnessed have come out of a spark of an idea, organically thought of and developed on the spot.
Of course as your practice grows and develops, there will probably be more kit that you buy for your site and your sessions. But with the above to hand, you’ve got all you need to get started and running Forest School sessions at your new site. We hope this has helped if you’ve been pondering your shopping list but don’t forget we offer a Consultancy service if you’d like a bit more in depth guidance and advice as you start along your own Forest School journey.
But for now, we bid you adieu!
Author: Collaboration between Neil Martin, Lead Trainer & Assessor and Hannah Durdin, Administrator & Forest School Leader
Date: Friday 26th February 2021