Over the years, we’ve welcomed hundreds of children and young people in our Home Education Forest School groups across Devon. One of the things that we love about these sessions are the longevity of them – many kids come weekly for years, and we love getting to know them and watch them grow and progress over that time. When they eventually decide to leave, often as teenagers because it’s time to move onto GCSE’s or college, it’s always bittersweet as we have to say goodbye.
End of an Era
Next week, that time has come for my own daughter. She was my introduction to The Outdoors Group when we started attending Toddler Clubs when she was just 3 years old. Since then, she’s been attending our Home Ed groups weekly and now, just a few weeks shy of 13, she’s decided it’s time to hang up her waterproofs and focus a little more on her ambitious plans for study. Forest School has been a cornerstone of her education (and her brothers) for almost a decade now and it really feels like the end of an era. To combat my irrational sadness (can any other parents of teens relate?!) I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what Forest School has meant to us over the years.
What Forest School gave us
Forest School is so much more than just playing in the woods, it’s more than the day of childcare it provided so I could work, it’s more than lighting fires and building dens. Forest School has meant freedom, empowerment, and growth. We often talk about the ‘soft skills’ that improve through regular Forest School sessions, but these last few weeks have given me an opportunity to really reflect on that in practise.
As a 7-year-old, S was outgoing in a group and good at making friends but she hated being the centre of attention or having to talk in front of others. She never wanted to be in any situation which resembled performance. Fast forward to almost 13 this week when she had been elected the ‘Forest School Leader’ for the day. She spent the week before preparing an activity for the group before beautifully executing it on the day. She divided the group into small teams and assigned them all the task of writing a mini drama piece based on the prop she gave them. She wasn’t nervous at all about speaking to, organising, and managing an unruly group of excited kids and by all accounts, the activity was a real success.
But even more than improved confidence, leadership skills and problem solving, Forest School has given her the gift of memories. From making pizzas in the pizza oven with Chris White back at Shillingford to Debbie’s amazing Wildcraft game to the plays they used to write and perform at our temporary Avanti site to the incredible array of campfire cooked delicacies she’s made over the last year at Totnes, she has a treasure trove of memories and a whole gang of friends that I know will last for years, even when her wellies are gathering dust after her final session.
What’s stopping you?
So, if you’re thinking about our Home Education Forest School groups for one of your kids, I’d urge you to give it a go…you won’t regret it. I can guarantee you that they will have fun exploring the woods, meet new friends, experience things they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try, learn new skills and make some of the best memories of their childhood! And on a personal note, the most heartfelt of thank you’s from the bottom of my heart for everyone who played a part in S’s Forest School journey – the original Chris, Nick, Debbie, yellow coated Chris, Fab, Melinda, Rich, Sarah, Claire, and all the rest of the incredible Forest School team – we love you for all that you do!
Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader
Date: Monday 17th October 2022