How many of us remember our childhood with hours and days spent outside, only stepping indoors for food or when we could escape no longer the cries of “Bed time… NOW!”?
An outdoor childhood gave us time to play and immerse our senses within our natural surroundings. It was a time for us to exercise imagination; sticks, beech nut cases and moss covered banks becoming magically transformed into swords or wands, fairy cups and fairy carpets. Hours spent lying on tummies just watching…falling leaves, a crawling bug, clouds, a spider’s web… gave fuel to patience, a sense of wonder and first hand observations on problem solving! Rain was embraced, as it brought puddles and opportunities for stirring a potion and making mud pies! It transformed the outdoor environment, heightening our sense of smell and forever linking our memories to those experiences of childhood. Being outside taught us to take a risk, how else could we cross the stream or even enter the woods in the first place? Shared experiences taught us how to get along with others and gave us a sense of camaraderie and of belonging.
In the 21st century, much is written about children’s sedentary lifestyle, of computer games and hours spent lying on tummies just watching TV. Modern day science has taught us that being in an outdoor environment is not only the perfect antidote to stress but also helps to strengthen immunity and growing bones. It helps with the development of motor skills and balance.
"Why can't we go all year?"
When I take a class of children into the Forest School environment, the clock is wound back, a sense of excitement is palpable. The magic has not faded or become tarnished, it is still there waiting for us to rediscover it. Quiet children can find that they step forward to take the lead, nervous ones that they can ‘risk it for a biscuit’. Each and every journey is afforded a sense of enjoyment, of wonder and transformation. The only complaint I receive is, “Why can’t we go all year?”
As time is precious, it is structured, with games and explorations allowing children opportunities to engage with the natural environment and to discover their inner strength and resolve.
I personally wouldn’t ask if there is enough time within the school day for Forest School or, if we can link enough curriculum learning objectives to it. But rather, can we afford not to take all our children outside to Forest School?
Mrs Philippa Crampton
Forest School Coordinator