At Chiddingly, we go out in all weathers to take part in Forest School activities. Our Forest School clothing is listed in our prospectus: Wellington boots, waterproof coat and waterproof trousers. These are kept at school in our special forest school changing room, which is heated to enable the clothing and boots to dry. We also expect that the children will bring gloves, scarves and hats as the weather dictates. In the summer children should have a sun hat and wear sun lotion from home. Please label all clothing with your child's name, and provide a large carrier bag for boots.
At Chiddingly, we have liaised with the local fire service to ensure that the children and site are safe. We have a strict protocol of entering and leaving the fire circle. The fire circle has large logs to sit on, which are stepped over, and a hearth which is 2m away from the logs. The hearth contains the fire pit, and allows room for utensils, away from any walk ways. Forest School trained adults always supervise the fire activities, with children joining in on a one to one basis, with up to four people allowed around the hearth at a time. Our fuel for the fire is stored away from the fire for safety. Wood is often collected in each forest school session to ensure a plentiful supply. It is collected in a variety of thicknesses for different purposes - thinner than a match stick for tinder, pencil thickness for kindling, and up to one pence piece width for fuel. We have a fire circle in the school grounds, and have also been permitted to use an area in Hoads Wood for the same purpose.
Exploration & Investigation
At Chiddingly, we encourage the children to follow their own interests in the Forest School session, under supervision. We use the natural resources available to us, and take note of the changing seasons. The children are actively encouraged to explore and investigate the world around them, entering a ‘flow’ state of learning where time seems to stand still as they are totally engaged in their learning.
At Chiddingly, we encourage both genders to engage in activities equally. We teach a variety of useful knotting techniques to children, and discuss how shelters might be made. Forest School functions around Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, which ensures that basic warmth and food are a priority before moving on to learning activities. We take a bothy bag (a temporary tent) with us on excursions into the woods, to ensure that participants keep warm if the weather changes. We also do story and joke telling, and singing activities, in the comfort of the bothy bag.
Creative Activities & Care of the Environment
Forest School lends itself to art work and creative projects of all sizes and styles. The children are taught to respect the environment around them and are shown how to use materials that will be sustainable, and which materials to enjoy in their natural habitat. We work closely with the land owner to ensure that we ‘leave no trace’ and understand that we are visitors in the outdoor environment. We link our art work to popular artists and sculptors, such as Andy Goldsworthy.
Science & Forest School
Forest School offers wonderful opportunities for learning about the natural environment and links with the new science curriculum which suggests investigating changes in the environment over time. At Chiddingly, we aim to build a passion in the children for the outdoors, and an understanding of our finite resources on planet earth.
At Chiddingly, the children are encouraged to take risks and to engage in activities which extend them out of their comfort zone. Muddy play is encouraged, whether it is in a mud ‘kitchen’ or creating art work on the tree trunks. Children have the opportunity to climb trees (on a one to one basis), and make rope courses under adult supervision. All climbing trees are thoroughly checked before use, and children are able to have their feet 1.4 metres above the ground when engaging in such activities. The area around the tree is checked for any hazards, and the children remain supervised at all times but are free to explore in their own time.
Maths & Forest School
Forest School activities enable children to develop a hands on understanding of mathematical concepts and their every day uses. There are multiple opportunities to measure length, estimate capacity, count, use measures in cooking, use the properties of shape, handle data and create graphs, communicate about mathematical problems, use logical thinking and reasoning skills. All of these are underpinned by using the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Social Skills & Forest School
Forest School enables children to develop key social skills, with team building activities providing the opportunity for communication and cooperation skills to be built. Children are encouraged to participate in activities that will build high self esteem as they overcome challenges and teach others in their group. Children are taught to respect each other and to celebrate their achievements. It is key for children to develop listening skills, and the ability to follow instructions, and give instructions to others. The children are taught how to keep themselves, and others, safe.
Keeping Safe at Forest School
One of the first games we teach the children at Forest School is ‘1-2-3, where are you?’. This is a game designed to teach the children about how sound travels in different weather situations and locations. It is the call that is given at the end of sessions to gather everyone back to the meeting tree, or the fire circle. Boundaries are given to the children to keep them safe, and regular head counts are undertaken. A meeting tree is always designated at each session where children can go if they need help, or medical attention, during a session.
Drinks & Snacks
When we are out in the woods for over two hours, we will give the children a hot drink and a snack. The water for the hot drink may be boiled in a storm kettle, with strict safety rules applying. This would be supervised by an adult at all times. The children will be taught to safely fuel the fire on a one to one basis. Snacks may be cooked over the forest school fire, with specified rules for safety imposed around the hearth. This is also monitored and supervised by a Forest School trained member of staff. As with all eating activities, hands would be cleaned before eating, parents notified before hand, and notes of any allergies held by the Forest School staff. Children always wash their hands twice with soap and water when returning from Forest School, and are reminded not to pick anything in the forest or school grounds to eat, and to keep hands out of mouths or noses!
Tool Use & Whittling
At Chiddingly, we encourage children to learn whittling skills, first of all with a potato peeler, in supervised groups. Knife work will be introduced to the oldest children, on a one to one basis, when they have demonstrated that they can follow instructions carefully, be respectful of themselves and others, keep themselves safe and have the motor skills to handle a tool effectively. Green wood is used from sustainable sources around the grounds. Using wood from Hoads Wood is only permitted from natural wastage, in line with instructions from the land owner. All tools are stored securely in the Forest School hut, and are kept in good working order by the Forest School staff. Tools are always counted out and in for safety, and are kept in a designated container in the forest, under supervision. The children are trained in how to hold, carry and work with tools in an area away from other children and distractions.
Wild Food Rules
At Chiddingly, children are shown what is sustainable and can be picked (for example sycamore) and what should not be picked. We do encourage children to look closely at plants, including fungi, mushrooms and berries, but not to taste. On occasions, children may be given something safe to taste under adult supervision e.g. wood sorrel, but it is made clear that they should never attempt to find a similar plant to taste unless a knowledgeable adult has given permission. We use our skills as photographers, artists and scientists to explore plants in detail, putting them under the microscope, or viewing through a hand lens.
Gathering & Carrying
At Chiddingly, children are encouraged to fully embrace all the physical activities that can be undertaken in a woodland setting. All ages experience activities that allow them to collect fallen sticks of varying sizes from the forest floor, sorting these and creating a variety of uses for them from mini shelters to fire making to scarecrows! Children are allowed to carry sticks of an arm's length, or to drag larger sticks and light logs to new locations, negotiating obstacles along the way. Shared carrying is also encouraged, as is rolling and pulling by hand or with ropes. These activities will be supervised by an adult, and risk assessed. Sticks are not thrown at others, but can be used for a specific target practice or role play under adult supervision. We want to encourage the children to be as creative as possible in their learning-play.
English & Forest School
Forest School leads to exciting writing opportunities, both in fiction and factual writing. The children are encouraged to keep Forest School diaries, and teachers link learning in Forest School sessions to other curricular areas. Art, DT and science experiments may be written up, or historical or geographical investigations undertaken and recorded. Fantasy stories, news items, instructions, or poetry and plays may have forest school activities as the inspiration for writing.