Jose Martinez has been teaching at St Hilda’s since September 2013. As well as teaching PE, Science and Spanish, Jose is trained in Forest School Education and enjoys working outdoors with children in Bluebird Nursery and the Lower School.
Two years ago I was offered the possibility to complete a training course in Forest School Education. I was very keen on the idea since I am fond of being outdoors and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to lead more activities in a different learning environment. Never did I expect it to be just as inspiring as it has been….
If you walk into my Forest School sessions, you will probably see children climbing trees, playing ‘find me’ games and carving sticks with sharp knives beside an open fire. Your first reaction would probably be to feel shocked and terrified, with an awful number of risk assessments coming to mind.
But if you take your time and look closer you will realize that the children are skillful in what they are doing. I am there to guide them; I trust them and treat them as competent in what they are doing. There is a feeling of cooperation and teamwork across the group.
Children use full sized tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self motivated.
These experiences (through self awareness) can be developed to reach personal potential. Each participant has an opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation, sound, emotional and social skills.
In addition to this, the possibilities for cross-curricular links are endless:
- Science (living things, classification, observation and hypothesis)
- Maths (geometry, adding, subtracting and the like)
- English (storytelling, debate, assemblies around the logs
- Arts and crafts (all sort of animals, fairies and many others make out of natural resources)
How about giving children an opportunity to compare natural shapes with their own shape? Feeling comfortable in their surroundings is something children need to experience starting with their own presence. Learning in outdoor spaces allows them to explore how their body feels comfortable in relation to the earth and gravity.
Then, using materials such as tree slices, bricks or bales of hay or straw, you can “sketch” a huge body on the ground and work on imagination and storytelling, or teach children about the human body by walking around the outline.
Forest Schools at St Hilda’s runs throughout the whole year in the woods (otherwise known as our ‘Spinney’ area). It takes place in all weathers conditions except for strong winds. The introduction of Forest Schools at St Hilda’s has been a phenomenal experience and has been instrumental to my teaching practice.
“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls”. Erin Kenny