The birds are singing, the blossom blooming and little leaves are unfurling at the end of tree branches – spring has arrived and just in time for my group’s last Forest School session before the school holidays.
For the last three months we’ve been coming out into a little woodland nestled between the school and a housing estate, where we’ve played games, built campfires, climbed trees and dug a hole so big you could fit your whole arm down it. Today, the children are using a bow saw to cut wooden discs, which they are decorating and turning into characters. A young boy called Robin and his favourite teddy, Rex the dinosaur, are in the tool area with me, sawing a log. As the bow saw flies through the log with ease, Robin’s disc falls to the floor and everyone watching cheers. “I chopped!” Robin squeals and, clutching both Rex and his wooden disc to his chest, he hurries over to choose some stickers and crayons. All the children have done a great job using the tools this week, but for Robin, taking part in the activity is a particularly big achievement and we adults are all extremely proud of him.
Forest School is a chance for children learn through play and develop skills outside of the classroom in ways that will help them in wider life. Having a go at using a tool, successfully lighting a fire or learning how to identify a beetle can aid children’s development in multiple ways. Whether it’s improving confidence, inspiring creativity, developing empathy for others, increasing resilience, enhancing teamwork skills or something else entirely - each individual gets something different out of taking part. For Robin, Forest School has had a huge impact on not just his confidence but his communication skills too. Forest School has helped Robin to find his voice.