Excuses, excuses, I could reel off a dozen, but ultimately the absence of written words on the blog over the last few weeks has been a product of one thing: I’ve been really, really busy!
You may already have heard over on Instagram, that I began my Forest School Teacher Training earlier this month, but what you may not know is that I also started teaching creative writing with KS2 classes across South West London, just last week! It’s been a lot to take in and I’m slowly getting used to the fact that these days, each time I sit down to write, it’s either a lesson plan, coursework or endless marking, however I’m really enjoying it so far and I know that the initial work load will settle down.
The plan for a little while now has been to work towards a schedule that allows me to write during the day and teach in the afternoons and this week marks the start of my new routine. As I write, it’s not even midday Monday and I’m already over the moon with the rhythm of the coming week. However, more importantly, what I want and have promised to talk about is Forest School: What exactly is Forest School, how does it work and what does being a Forest School Teacher mean? I mentioned I was considering writing about some of the things I’ve begun learning and was met with interest from a lot of you, so bear with me as I muddle through the early stages of the course, and pass on all I can.
Let’s start at the very beginning (as Julie Andrews once so wisely suggested); no matter who your teacher or where your school, Forest School is about holistic learning. Taking into consideration my new favourite acronym, S.P.I.C.E.S, as an FS teacher you are constantly aware of and considering the importance of the most basic requirements for child/human development: Social ; Physical ; Intellectual ; Communication ; Emotional ; Spiritual. And in contrast with what I’ve learnt from the present day state system’s approach to child development, FS included little to no mention of gender or predetermined ideas as to how each child will respond based on their given sex. Why this simple concept seems to be so unfathomable to most I will NEVER understand!
[ Now would be a very good time to mention that I have an enormous amount of respect for teachers up and down the country and that any criticism of the state system is in no way directly aimed at them, I’m simply looking at the parameters and principles given by the current UK government as to how we teach our children. ]
Forest School can manifest itself in lots of different ways, depending on the teacher, the environment and the student’s needs. As FS is not part of the national curriculum, a large amount of teaching takes place after school or outside term time, in an extra curricular capacity. These session tend to have a focus on learning through play and allowing children to spend time outdoors. However, school’s with more control over their budgets and curriculum (mostly fee-paying) often incorporate FS into their curriculum. State schools also have a tendency to allocate funding for children with special educational needs to experience Forest School teaching, as it’s been found to improve their ability to process and take in what they’re learning.
One of the main things I’ve had to come to terms with has been the fact that FS is not open to everyone. Having gone to state schools all my life, I know that I would never have been fortunate enough to experience a FS education. However, the more fee-paying schools and individual parents start choosing to send their children to FS, or incorporating it into the curriculum with positive results, the more likely it is that one day FS will be open to all, as a part of the state system- as it is in Sweden, where the school of thought began. Funnily enough, my Forest School journey began when I was very young, with a family we lived with as I was growing up. Their mum was Swedish and so some of my earliest days were spent exploring and beginning to learn outdoors in Spain.
It’s those memories that ultimately solidified my decision to pursue the qualification, however for now I’m just beginning my Forest School journey and I can’t be sure where it will take me. I harbour hopes that one day I’ll be able to incorporate creative writing into my classes and perhaps develop my own hybrid of Forest School / Storytelling. But until then though only time will tell.