A walk on the wild side? – CALA staff brave the woods.
The location was Evanton woods and the instructor was Simon Harry the woods education officer who has training in forest schools and nature kindergarten. His aim for the day was to teach the girls how to run an outdoor session in the woods with three and four year olds.
Simon treated these grown women like children so they could see just how it could be done. Starting off with teaching them some simple knots, Simon then took them through a mind map process to think about the risks involved and all the health and safety issues. Once outdoors and working in twos and threes, they began collecting sticks which had to be dry so they could begin building and setting a fire, building up different sizes of sticks for maximum effect. All the time, Simon was reinforcing how to do this safely, where the children could stand, how near they could be to the fire.
The group paced out the area in the woods, marking and setting boundaries within which the children must stay at all times. They then began the task of preparing lunch. The inside of the potato was scooped out, the small egg carefully broken into it (check for allergies with any of the children before you do this!) then wrapped up in tin foil and placed in the fire pit to cook. They also made tea with a kelly kettle, pop corn and dough balls – a fabulous 3-course lunch! They then sat down to enjoy whilst they discussed all the things they could do outdoors.
It started to rain. Were our girls daunted? Not at all. They quickly worked together to put up a makeshift tent to shelter from the elements.
So what did they learn? That good preparation, careful balance of risk and clear setting of boundaries could allow the children to enjoy these same activities outdoors.
Does it meet the curriculum needs? Simon showed constantly how the learning outcomes and experiences could be addressed: measuring and comparing the sizes of sticks, looking at leaf patterns, problem-solving, cooking, working together and above all gaining independence and confidence.
The girls had a great time. Meeting them tramping back to the hall, they had rosy cheeks, smiles on their faces and a spring in their step. Isn’t that what you’d like to see with all your children?
Suggestions from the girls on how to take this forward with their own groups:
- Plan well
- Risk assess
- Dress properly
- Take a couple of extra helpers (enthusiastic parents?)
- Go for it!
The girls would like to thank the committees of Ardross Nursery, Evanton Playgroup and Fortrose Pre-School for allowing them to access this training and would thoroughly recommend others having a go. Each group intends to make use of local woods to develop their training further to enhance the learning experiences for the children in their centres.
Marion Laidlaw, CALA Childhood Practice Manager
For more information, here are a few resources to check out and then think about where you could take your children outdoors.
- Forest Education (Resources)
- Nature Detectives
- and a useful book: Sharing Nature With Children: 20th Anniversay Edition