What does Forest School mean?
For me, Forest School means freedom. It’s restorative and quite frankly, it’s essential. For other people though it may mean exploration, play, role-modelling, team-work or it may mean access to something they wouldn’t experience otherwise. Forest School means different things to everyone. Its appeal is multi faceted, broad and varied. There is no magic formula for Forest School and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. It is at its core, accessible to all and given that us homo sapiens are endlessly unique, it makes sense that Forest School will be experienced differently by each individual.
National Forest School Day
It seems appropriate that this year, the theme for National Forest School Day is gratitude. After the year we’ve all had, I think that many would agree that it is more important than ever to acknowledge and express gratitude for the good things in our lives. Gratitude comes easily when you’re running or participating in a Forest School session. There is so much to appreciate when spending time in the great outdoors from the joy of a child the first time they manage to light a fire, the shriek of delight upon discovering an unusual beastie on a bug hunt, watching a group of bickering children working out their issues successfully to simply enjoying the colours of autumn leaves on a crisp October morning.
Gratitude as a Practice
Children are particularly good at gratitude; one activity some of our staff have been doing this week has been a great example of this. They’ve been collecting natural objects such as rocks, leaves, bark or sticks and paint them in different colours and putting them in an opaque bag and depending on what colour is pulled out, they’ve shared a gratitude for the natural world. For example:
Green: a plant or tree that you are thankful for.
Yellow: a favourite spot in the woodland.
Red: an animal that you have noticed enjoying the forest.
White: anything else that you are grateful for.
The children have naturally latched onto this and actually, as adults, we can learn a lot from them in our approach to gratitude. Studies have shown that the conscious act of gratitude as a practice results in consistently higher levels of happiness as well as a whole host of other benefits (if you’re interested, you can read some here and here).
Variety is the Spice of Life
With this mind, I asked some of my colleagues what they were grateful for when it came to Forest School this week. Their answers from the practical: ‘tarps’, ‘waterproofs’ and ‘dry sticks when you’re getting a fire lit’ to the comical ‘for the oxygen the trees produce to keep me alive’ and ‘cob nuts’ to the more sincere replies ‘for the awesome folk I work with and their wealth of knowledge’, ‘clay modelling our spirit animals’, ‘the realisation of young people in a natural environment’ and ‘running through the woods to flee the imminent attack of a rampage of velociraptor: indulging my learner’s incredible imagination’! Finally, one colleague shared that she was grateful that ‘forest school has allowed me to find a like-minded community in the UK! It’s made me feel at home’. To be fair, that selection of answers reflects the range of personalities within our company and that is something I am personally incredibly grateful for. Without this rag-tag mix of peoples, temperaments and humours, we wouldn’t be who we are as a company.
So this Forest School Day, we’d love to hear what makes you grateful about Forest School – even if it’s just a day of peace and quiet whilst your children are at our Home Education groups! Leave us a comment below, thanks for your ongoing support and Happy Forest School Day folks!
Author: Hannah Durdin, Administrator & Forest School Leader
Date: Friday 9th October 2020