We often talk about our success in helping learners who don’t quite fit within mainstream education. It is amazing and wonderful seeing the change in these young people. But did you know that here at The Outdoors Group, we also work within mainstream schools? Some of our forest school leaders visit local schools weekly to enrich their school programme with forest school sessions. This year has seen a record number of schools keen to take learning outside, to give children some space to be and explore, give them an opportunity for new things they’ve yet to do.
Not Just For Kids
I joined The Outdoors Group many moons ago when it was Exeter Forest School. I wanted my then 2 year old to have forest school opportunities before she started school. I didn’t want to travel over half an hour to get to the nearest forest school, so I got in touch with Chris and Tree Tots Toddler Club soon began. Now I can’t say if the sessions are entirely just for the toddlers, I think the adults enjoy the bond they quickly develop and the chance to really encourage their kids to get muddy and explore just as much! I think everyone’s confidence grows in ways that are not measurable, but there is a sparkle in parents and children alike as the weeks go on, the fire is lit and the fun is had.
After a pause as a leader to have my second child and returning as a parent with him, the love of Forest School really grew within me and my kids. I wanted them to be able to enjoy it and so chose a school which had Forest School within it’s weekly programme. But that meant I couldn’t be there, unless I volunteered…(which I did!) As The Outdoors Group grew, more local schools began to ask about day trips, wanting to give their classes an opportunity for bush craft, survival, fire lighting, marshmallow toasting. You’d be amazed how many children I have had the privilege of teaching the art of the marshmallow toasting to!
Connecting with Local Schools
And so, my role as School Liaison began. At first running day trips with our then 2 sites – Exeter and Exmouth – and then going on to offer a ‘pop up’ forest school to happen within a school site (thus saving them the need to transport 30-35 people to our woodland and back). For these schools, forest school has become a real highlight to the students learning. Teachers have seen different children shine in ways they don’t behind a desk, TA’s have enjoyed pure moments of play with mud and den building, and many, many bug hotels have been built.
The Chance to Be Free
Every child should have the chance to climb a tree, light a fire safely, build a den with their friends, explore bugs and their habitats, drink hot chocolate whilst soaking in the smoky smell of the camp fire and be free to roam in the great outdoors. The satisfaction of facilitating this for school children around Devon is only further solidified when I receive feedback for our team like the following, from Claire Webber at St John’s Catholic Primary School:
The children are so engaged and inspired by his sessions and all the children really enjoy their learning with him. Ali provides a wide range of outdoor activities including orienteering, bush crafts, art, DT, alongside all the exciting forest school activities such as lighting and building campfires, building bows and arrows and using the mud kitchen. The children particularly enjoy learning to use tools safely and the large wood saw and cutting horse were firm favourites with the Early Years children. Ali’s creative ideas engage the children of all ages in the sessions, each class really looks forward to their half term of forest school and we cannot recommend the Outdoors Group enough as a forest school and outdoor education provider – we have been so impressed and look forward to working with them again next year!
Author: Melinda Burge, Schools Outreach Manager
Date: Thursday 15th July 2021