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Wilstead Forest School

Science and Outdoor Learning with the teaching team - September 2021

 

We welcomed in the new school year with an excellent CPD session for the teaching team, working with Primary Science and Outdoor Learning Consultant Helen Spring. Helen, who is an experienced teacher and author, joined us from her base in Yorkshire to talk about how we can bring the outdoors to our Science curriculum. The team had a lot of fun hunting bugs with their pooters and identifying them, building shelters using a range of natural materials and looking at opportunities in the curriculum for each year group. They even got to explore irreversible change by melting chocolate and marshmallows for s'mores!

 

If you would like to find out more about Helen's work, please check out her website on www.springlearning.co.uk

 

Forest School update - Summer 2021

End of Year Report by Mrs Ainsworth

Here’s a brief summary of our Forest School achievements this year!

 

Well! We started with a corner of the school grounds, an empty shed and an idea!...  We have survived sub-zero temperatures, gale force winds, flooding, torrential rain and baking sunshine, despite this, all groups of children have greatly enjoyed their time at Forest School and there’s barely been a single complaint about outdoor conditions.  Children throughout the school have had a chance to learn outside,  from the youngest Reception children making stickmen, to the oldest Year 6s  learning to use bow saws. Children have worked together to learn the skills of fire lighting, shelter building and tool use. They have co-operated and communicated well , with the Year 6s making some happy memories of their time at Wilstead Primary, despite the difficulties of this last year.

 

We have formed links with other community groups in the area – planting trees with Marston Vale Community Forest and sharing the site with the local Scouts. Many children also took part in the RSPB Great British Bird Watch in January.

 

The nature area has been planted with a greater variety of trees and plants which are useful educationally and which will also encourage different kinds wildlife into the site. The children have been involved in the planting and the Scouts are going to help with maintenance of the site.

 

We have supported the curriculum in other subjects - re-enacting the Great Fire of London with year 2  and aspects of the Mayan Civilisation with year 5.

 

We have purchased a wide variety of supplies and tools. There is now a shed full of useful equipment and some very keen children who want to use it. The children have had great fun and have been very engaged in all activities, they are interested and want to do more.

 

We have a Wilstead school member of staff half way through her Level 3 Forest School training and we ran an introductory training course for teachers and support staff, many of whom are now keen to do more outdoor education with their own classes.

 

With these firm foundations in place and the support and enthusiasm of staff and pupils,  hopefully Wilstead Forest School will go from strength to strength in the future.

 

Mrs Cropley's Level 3 Qualification

Mrs Cropley is undertaking her Level 3 Forest School Leadership Training. Here, she tells us a little about why Wilstead promotes the Forest School approach!

 

'As a society, we have become very disconnected with nature.  More and more time is spent indoors, on technology rather than exploring the world around us.  We buy our food from the supermarket and no longer spend time growing what we intend to eat.  This disconnection is having a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our society.  As a school and part of a farming community we believe that it is important for the children of Wilstead to reconnect with the natural world and we plan to use Forest School as a means to achieve this.' 

What is Forest School? Mrs Cropley explains...

 

'The idea of Forest Schools originated in Scandinavia in the 1980s, a country where an active outdoor lifestyle is embraced and embedded in society. In 1993 a group of nursery nurses from Somerset visited a Danish Forest School and witnessed first-hand the benefits to children’s well-being and development.  Research showed that ‘the children were far happier than children in urban kindergartens.  The children also demonstrated greater social capability, fewer days off sick, more ability to concentrate and better co-ordination than the city kindergarten children.’ The nursery nurses were so impressed with the ethos and approach that they were keen to develop their own programme.  This was when Forest Schools was first introduced to the UK.  Since then it has been recognised that this ‘outdoor’ approach to play and learning can have a huge impact on the normal development of all children.’

 

Forest School has now been introduced across most Educational Boroughs (including Bedford Borough). It receives support from the Forestry Commission and the Wildlife Trusts.  Wilstead is situated in Marston Vale, and their Forest Centre education team recently came and planted trees with our children in the school grounds.  The Forest School Association have a Facebook page and there are several supportive Forest School Facebook groups to join enabling networking, sharing of best practice and ideas.

 

So what is Forest School? ‘Forest School is an outdoor educational experience, usually in a woodland area, that takes place regularly over an extended period of time led by a trained practitioner’ (Knight 2011).

 

Forest School allows children to problem solve and enables their self-discovery and growth in confidence. They can experience success, take risks, build relationships with others and challenge themselves in a safe and natural environment.  Each session is designed to be learner-centred and typically includes bush-craft; such as den making, using tools for whittling and making wooden objects, fire lighting, tree climbing, arts and crafts.

 

Participation in Forest Schools on a regular basis can help to improve the mental health, resilience and enjoyment of school for children and that this positive outcome also has an impact on increased attendance and educational outcomes for those involved.

 

And this is exactly why Wilstead is adopting this approach to learning!

Forest School Reports

The beautiful grounds at Wilstead
Reception enjoying a Forest School Session exploring and making Stickmen.

December Working Party

In 2020, we began to develop our beautiful school grounds to enable us to begin offering Forest School and Outdoor Learning provision. Here are some photographs of the work in progress - keep any eye out for updates here! 

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