A jolly good show

Forest School Officer Trisha McGlynn shares the fun she's been having with her Forest School trainees and learners in Manchester.

What a blast the year has been so far. I have been supporting 6 new Forest School trainees - Mel, Steph, Josh, Emma, Michelle and Louise - in a lovely school called St Mary's RC Primary in Radcliffe, Manchester since January 2019.

On our initial meeting last year I knew the year ahead would be fun. All the candidates were very keen and eager to learn new skills to pass onto their pupils. We had a plan in place to all arrive early, set up the outdoor area, view the activities for the two sessions ahead and have a brew. This format has proven to work well and we even tweak the activities to suit the children’s individual needs on the day.

We started our journey by assisting a member from our school grounds team with a spot of willow weaving. The school have requested a willow walkway, carved oak leaf story chair with beautiful mushroom seating, two raised dipping ponds and a variety of established native trees and plants.

Once the trainees had completed their initial five-day Forest School training, and then another two skill assessment days they were all filled with inspiring ideas to share with each other and the children joining us.

The support and guidance they give to each other when struggling to identify plants and trees, or when tying knots is fantastic. They appreciate that everyone (even themselves) learns at a different pace and in a different style.

It is a pleasure to support them through their Forest School journey and the children get to see their teachers in a more informal and relaxed manner. The outdoor surroundings is a more nurturing and caring aspect to the normal school day, when the children are only accessing the outdoor area during lunchtime and morning break.

forest school trainees

The fabulous Forest Schoolers of St Marys.

On our weekly sessions I can see the appreciation and understanding of the Forest School ethos within all the trainees (approaching learning with your head, heart and hands). They all have a clear understanding of how it nurtures even the most disruptive children within a classroom. We have now welcomed a child each Friday who presently is struggling with his behaviour at school. The older children have had a positive impact on him and take it in turns to shadow and promote good behaviour to him. He now arrives at school in his Forest School clothing and his parents have commented that it has impacted on his behaviour at home also. We are so proud of him and have decided to reward him with a special certificate during the whole school assembly.

We've got up to all sorts in our sessions. Activities have included: 

Woodland eyes, bumblebee pine cones, tree climbing, bubble wands, compostable plant pots, natural weaving, natural identification skills (such as insect, moss, mushroom, tree, plant and even poo), tree planting, campfire cooking, elderflower cordial making, storytelling, making bird feeders, willow weaving, making mallets, picture frames, making tent pegs, fire lighting, hide and seek, ninja games and even sledging in snow.

We've still got a few weeks left to fill with more fun before it's time to move onto new schools. I'll be gutted to say goodbye to my good pals at St Mary's but I am proud of what they have achieved so far. 

To find out more about our Forest School Project in Manchester, supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, visit our webpage: https://www.lancswt.org.uk/forest-schools-manchester

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