At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run our Forest School Training Level 3 from a beautiful, mixed broadleaf woodland in the heart of the Sussex countryside. In this environment, it is so easy for our trainees to understand the ethos and principles of Forest School, to see how child-led learning can take place, the resources that are available and the importance of nature connection, they can feel it just by being here.
In a woodland environment there is so much stimulus. To our trainees, it is clear to see how the children can explore and lead their own learning.
There are places to climb, logs to balance on, mud to dig, creatures to discover, leaves to throw, sticks for dens, the list is endless….but how to translate all this to an urban environment, where there is no woodland?
Forest School in an Urban Environment?
The answer is to remember the ethos of Forest School – child-led, learner-centred sessions, which take place regularly (weekly if possible), with opportunities for supported risk taking, in a natural environment…this could be your local park, the school field or even a corner of the playground.
This, plus a little bit of creativity can go a long way towards giving the children the same sense of connection, freedom and opportunities for exploration and learning, regardless of where they are.
I have seen an excellent example of Forest School run on a small patch of grass, with one tree, in the middle of a housing estate in East London. The children walk there from their nursery every week, the site is a public space overlooked by hundreds of residents that used to be empty apart from the broken glass, used needles and empty drinks cans.
Now once a week it rings with children’s voices, the litter has gone and the local residents know that Forest School is taking place.
As for the children, they are motivated, engaged and learning. They find worms, they dig, they make paint from mud, they use the tree to make shelters and homes for the creatures, they lie on the grass and look at the clouds, they play, they learn…to these urban children, this is nature.
Activity ideas for Forest School in urban spaces:
Mini-shelters – ask the children to bring in a bag of sticks and leaves as their homework. Have this available as a resource for free play. Leave pictures of different types of shelters as inspiration.
Clay – use it to make mini-beasts, creatures, fairies, faces on trees (or brick walls).
Natural paints – bring in a bucket of mud if you don’t have any, use frozen blackberries, crushed chalk, charcoal – mix with water and paint on the playground (it will wash off) or an old bed sheet.
Listening activities – tune in to what is around you, what sounds can you hear? Can you identify which sounds are from nature (birds, leaves rustling, wind in the trees, rain) and which ones are human sounds?
Mini beast hunting – Use magnifiers to search carefully in the corners of buildings, in the cracks of the pavement, in flower beds….. it’s amazing what you can find, even in a concrete jungle.
The most important thing is to get out there, the environment (even if it is urban) and the children’s imagination will do the rest.
By Katie Scanlan, Circle of Life Rediscovery.
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If you are keen on Forest School Level 3 Training in East Sussex, our next courses are:
Part one: 4th & 5th March (Mill Woods) & 6th & 7th March (Picketts Wood).
Part two: 29th April – 1st May (Mill Woods).
Part three: 20th – 21st May (Mill Woods).
Part 1: 26th, 27th & 30th September and 1st, 2nd October 2019.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February and 2nd, 3rd March 2020.
Location to be confirmed but will be East Sussex/Brighton area.
Please visit our website for details.
Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.