I have been running a Forest School programme with a Reception class from Christopher Hatton Primary School since last October. They’ve had 12 sessions so far, split between a class of 30 who come in two groups of 15 to Barnsbury Wood, a local nature reserve run by Islington Conservation Team. We’ve had a huge amount of fun and learning, including building fairy homes when the “Big Bottomed Dragon” carelessly squished the fairy village – we were rewarded with gems and decided to even build a new home for the dragon to stop it from happening again!
We’ve played with mud, looked for worms, listened to birds and made nests and whittled and decorated journey sticks to take home and played lots and lots of 123 where are you?! I have to thank Polly Shields, their teacher, for being so determined to make this programme happen (failure was NOT an option!) and for just “getting it” so completely, allowing the children to have so much time and space to explore, learn and play. It has meant that we’ve been able to reach the point where I can see the learning taking place; seeing children finding different areas of interest in nature – whether it be sticks, mud, mini-beasts, tree-climbing, making up games, learning the names of birds and their calls….and I know Polly does loads to back this up once they get back to class too, it’s fantastic.
Last week, I had my last session this term with one of the groups and introduced them to whittling with peelers. Some took to it like ducks to water, some found it harder and took a little longer. Either way, I was amazed after about 20 minutes of going from one child to another, assisting, redirecting, swapping tools etc to suddenly turn around in the circle and see everyone sitting there, heads down, intently whittling away as if their lives depended on it! (They are 5!) In fact, even (maybe especially!) those who I would normally say struggle to stay engaged with a task, or are often afraid to risk engagement in new things or lack perseverence, remained totally focussed on this until we ran out of time. For me it was a “This is what it’s all about!” moment – when all the theoretical stuff just pops out in front of you; living, breathing proof that it all works! One of my best days this year!
(Photos to follow soon)