Forest School Autumn 1

It has been so exciting that I have eventually got round to having official Forest School slots with children in some of the classes across the school. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather this half term and have managed to avoid any wet weather, which is always a pleasure.

The first sessions involved exploring the natural environment in the woods and trees found on the KS2 field. The children enjoyed collecting different natural materials and using them to create a nature strip. It was great to see the children noticing the changes in the leaves and exploring Autumn.

The next session started with us finding natural resources to make the first letter of our names. Look how great they are!

Then the children found some dragon footprints and listened to a story about how a dragon had visited the Forest School site and damaged some of the little people’s houses and homes. It was our job to make the new homes for the little people.

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Forest School Session 1

Forest School Session 1:
We managed to get out into the woods last week and had a lovely time exploring the setting. We began by talking about who else uses the site and we talked about the need to look after it for the animals and insects that live in the trees and the woodland. We found a massive worm, just where we were standing and used it as a tool to develop discussions about respecting the environment.

The children loved playing the game ‘123 Where are you?’ as a way to establish the boundaries of the site as well as developing an awareness of listening and responding.

Then we all made a Forest School bracelet of honour. The children needed to work with a partner, helping them to make their bracelet and vice versa. It was great to see a different side to the pupils, with some normally quieter members of the class, giving instructions and taking the lead within the activity.

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Forest School at Shepherds Down
Hello and welcome to our new Forest School at Shepherds Down blog. This is an exciting new venture for the school, the staff and the pupils and your chance to be involved with the progress and development we make towards establishing Forest School at Shepherds Down.
My background:
This is me, Wendy Tester

Currently based in Ospreys class, with over 10 years experience of working with secondary aged children with SEN at Osborne School and I have been here at Shepherds Down since September 2017. I have a passion for teaching and learning outside, following the idea that ‘not all classrooms have four walls’.
Since I started at Shepherds Down school, I have pioneered the schools participation in ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’ which is a national initiative to encourage teachers to take learning outside. In November 2018 I placed a successful bid for a grant of £500 to spend on resources from the charity ‘Learning through Landscapes’. This provided the school with a well equipped den building kit, a wildlife camera, a pack of outdoor activity learning cards, and a huge selection of seeds! The latest ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’ was such as success, mainly due to the brilliant resources the pupils now have access to.
In September 2019 I attended a week of Forest school training. This is the first phase of becoming a Forest School leader. Within this week I built dens, built campfires, used tools to cut wood and although these were exciting new skills for me, the most exciting element was that by the end of the week my whole perception of how I teach and how I want my pupils to learn was challenged.
Over the coming year I have to create a portfolio that establishes a Forest School site within Shepherds Down and then complete an assessment week where I have to demonstrate my competency in delivering Forest school in a safe and well managed woodland, promoting all that Forest school is.

What is Forest School?
Forest school is developing the child through providing learning experiences that follow the direction initiated by the child. Promoting a development of self- awareness, self- respect and self- worth through the completion of small achievable tasks, as a group, as a pair or as an individual, within a woodland site. I found it to be learning without knowing your learning, allowing children to feel more comfortable and confident to take risks in order to develop their growth and understanding further.
As well as the children following a well structured plan aiming to develop these skills, it is important that there is an element of free play within the woodland setting. I will provide appropriate play equipment based on the gentle observations and assessments made of the children during their Forest school sessions to support this.

What will a Forest School session look like at Shepherds Down School?
The size and activities will vary depending on the group of children but will generally follow the same structure each session. Key classroom aids will continue to be used in the setting such as a visual timetable and the use of Makaton symbols to support communication and understanding.
1) Hello and welcome song or activity
2) A review activity – supported with photos, objects from previous session
3) A game to promote knowing boundaries of behaviour and how to be safe in the setting
4) An activity based on a theme or following a lead from a child in a previous session
5) Free play
6) End game, song or activity
For more specialist groups of children the sessions may take the form of ‘Attention Autism’ and be more of a ‘Forest Schools Bucket Time’.

How will you know if your child is doing Forest School?
Before Forest School sessions start with your child a letter will be sent home informing you that your child’s class will be taking part. The letter will primarily be for consent to participate but will also be a reminder to provide appropriate outdoor clothing, including footwear for the session. We would be aiming to go out during all planned Forest school sessions, whatever the weather, unless it is decided that it is too risky to do so, such as very strong winds.

Keep checking the blog to see how it’s going and hopefully I’ll be working with your child soon!

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