Bristol CC Outdoor Education Centre situated in the village of Parkend in The Forest of Dean

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Outdoor Learning Cards, 'Forest School' Activities and doing it at school

In recent years 'Forest Schools' has become a popular and successful way to work with children in the outdoors and particularly with Key Stage 1 pupils. Similar to Outdoor Learning generally it has been proven to engage children and have a positive affect on their relationships and their work back in the classroom. It is of course nothing new - we've been doing Forest School style activities at DFSC for the last 39 years and many schools have similarly made good use of their School grounds and surrounding locality to do Forest Schools style activities for many years.

Ian Healey the Centre Manager of DFSC is also the Oudoor Education Advisor for Bristol CC and is very positive about encouraging schools to do their own outdoor learning at school. He sees the courses that we provide at DFSC as being a progression to all sorts of great outdoor learning that children can already be doing with their school. We can provide the technical expertise and equipment to lead more adventurous outdoor activities such as climbing and canoeing and of course provide the residential experience that is so valuable in itself, but Ian believes that being outside and engaging with the natural environment should be an expectation and right for all children every week of their school careers.

For the last two years Ian has gone into schools and delivered training in the OEAP Outdoor Learning Cards (OLC) which is an intensive one day course providing teachers and youth leaders with the skills and confidence to lead outdoor activity sessions based around Team Building, Journeying, Orienteering and Bouldering.

The OLC course has always been very well received by schools and has received feedback such as “Inspirational, active learning. All staff should experience this.” However, Ian is keen that such learning and inspiration can be cascaded to other staff and that it is not a prerequisite that everyone needs to have attended a training course before delivering outdoor learning. Similarly you do not need to be a Forest Schools Leader Level 3, for example, to deliver Forest schools style activities to a group of children.

Although Ian is a qualified teacher and has worked professionally in Outdoor Education for over twenty years he is not a Forest Schools Leader and has not worked with Key Stage 1 before. So when he was recently invited into a school to work outdoors with a reception and Yr1 class he felt he was no more equipped to do so than the class teacher and TA's he worked with. He did however have a great morning and thinks the children enjoyed it as much as he did.

 He started the session by reading a picture storybook called "Water Witcher" about a boy living in Australia who looks for water for his family by water divining, as his Grandfather had done before him. Despite the teasing of his sisters the boy then digs a small well and finds water. Ian then asked the children "who wanted to go water witching and digging wells?" and received an enthusiastic response. So welly boots on and off they all went into the nearby woods.

Everyone had a go at water witching with a forked stick and then lots of muddy fun was had digging wells in a ditch. The class also went for a walk, ate wood sorrell, caught falling Autumn leaves and made wishes, found acorns, saw squirrells and generally had a great time being outdoors.

Ian says he would be very happy to do this type of work with schools again but can't see any reason why they can't do it themselves. You don't need anymore qualification than common sense and some enthusiasm to get children learning outdoors. Ian is always willing to talk to teachers and Heads in his capacity as an Outdoor Education Advisor and offer ideas about how they can incorporate more outdoor learning into the curriculum.

1 comment:

  1. Great story. People like Ian are the main reason why forest schools are extremely popular these days. I hope more people will be just like him.

    Forest School Level 3 Training Specialist in Sussex