Happy Bunnies

I’m going to miss my little group of woodland adventurers. Sure, some of them will be around next term, but it’s been an amazing experience getting to know this group – and having the privilege of watching them change so much in such a short space of time.
At the beginning I saw:
– a child who was timid and wanted to hold my hand and stay very near. Today he told me: ‘This is easy, I don’t need your help Jenni. ‘
– a child who was scared of mud, puddles, insects and catkins. Today she held a worm and slid on her bum down a muddy bank.
– a child who often wouldn’t take the lead. Today she made most of the decisions, organised us and kept everyone going with songs.
– a child whose mum has complained that she won’t walk more than 10 steps without asking for a carry. Today she walked up hill and down, across fields and along the river – and never once complained.
What’s the link? The forest. Because it gives the children freedom. It gives them challenges and something to aim for. Because no matter what they accomplish, somewhere in the forest there’s a higher tree, a heavier stone or a steeper bank. And for every little success, they grow a mile in confidence.
And no, I’m not this enthusiastic because I’m hoping to raise the next generation of Olympic tree climbers. But in the forest, children are learning confidence – and they are having fun. And that’s what childhood is all about.

Scared of Puddles?

Instead of buckets of rain, today the sun shone on our forest school! And it was indeed a beautiful day for exploring textures and making cob monsters!
But more importantly, today I really had the chance to see some of the principles of forest school in action. When we are training, we learn about developing confidence, managing fears, individualised learning, self-directed exploration and holistic learning. But these days too easily these words can become catch phrases – show me a school mission statement that doesn’t mention at least one of these things and I’ll show you a Head who is hoping to blow their redundancy package on a round-the world sailing trip. So how refreshing then, to be working with kids in the forest where it really feels possible for these things to be true.
Today a 2 year old boy, normally quite timid, very softly spoken and often seeking reassurance from grown ups, told me he was going to go down our big hill alone – and then he did! And when he got to the bottom, he shouted to me, “Jenni, I did it! I got to the bottom all by myself and I didn’t need a grown up to help me!” And, certainly today, maybe forever, that was the end of him holding hands in the woods.
Later, a 3 year old girl, a mixture of confident and timid, happy and thoughtful, approached an area with many puddles and stopped dead in her tracks. (Speaking of dead – to give you perspective, she looked right up close at the disembowelled pheasant we found earlier and didn’t bat an eyelid) “I’m scared.” she said and grabbed my hand. So I asked her what was scaring her and she told me it was the puddles. “Because they are scary and they can get me.” Remember, she’s 3 – don’t try to understand, just go with it.
Anyway, I’ll leave out the middle bits here – reassure, talk, approach the puddles, tap boots in, forget about it – play play play. And then as we’re packing our things to leave I ask her what her favourite thing was in forest school today,
“The puddles,” she said “I like splashing in puddles.”