As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been involved in a Forest Kindergarten Pilot training course during the past week. This involved a visit to St Paul’s Nursery in South Lanarkshire to see a Forest Kindergarten session in action.
It was quite a special visit in that it was the children’s first Forest Kindergarten session. Six children and three adults made their way to woods for an afternoon. And here they are when we first met them…
The children had undergone a lot of preparation beforehand. All of them had been on various walks into the wood so knew what to expect. As the nursery has been running Forest Kindergarten sessions for the past two years, the children heard a lot from other children and were able to see photos and big books of their activities. The book “The Gruffalo” had been used as a context to prepare them for their adventure. So various soft toy characters from the book accompanied the children.
The girl in the photo above used the sapling to let the snake slide down it. Nearby, other children had found a suitable den for a couple of the other characters.
With plenty of adults on hand, the children enjoyed the freedom of being able to explore at their own pace and in their own ways.
Aside from the soft toys, the number of other resources brought along was minimal. There were some magnifying glasses and binoculars which were popular.
This girl is using her magnifying glass and the tree trunk in a game of peekaboo with an adult. As the game progressed she hid herself further into her clothing, eventually putting her hood right over her face.
A tarp was used, for impromptu den building rather than providing official shelter. This provided lots of laughter as children took turns to hide away inside it and experience the green, green light. It also gave opportunities for lots of cooperation, talking and interaction as the children had to snuggle in together and work out if there was enough space for everyone. The photo below was taken at a child’s eye level which gives an idea of how big the woodland site must have appeared.
Snack was well received. The fallen down tree trunk was used as the snack stop. Interestingly, all the children wanted to be involved in the collective snack and came over when they saw what was going on. There is something inherently social about eating together outside as well as in.
Each child carried their snack and drink in their backpacks. The colours had been chosen by the children themselves.
Because of the low usage of this site, there is no designated toilet area. When a child needed the toilet, one of the adults went with the child to a discrete place. In Sweden, the proverb “walk seven bushes” is surprisingly apt in these circumstances.
After snack, a game of hide ‘n’ seek tag developed spontaneously. This involved a lot of counting and chasing! Tug o’war was also popular with children experiencing the push-pull of a short rope. None of these activities were adult-initiated or led.
Before long, it was time to return back to nursery. The children helped gather the bits and pieces. As there were so little props, it took no time at all. This is well worth remembering!
Then the party set off on their journey home. I thought the children would be exhausted with all their running about. However, it was clear that they really were used to walking. A brisk pace ensued up the hill.
The walk in and out of the site was definitely key part of the whole experience. It’s so important to enjoy the opportunities that arise. A great example here was one big puddle at the top of the hill. On the way in, children had been testing the depth of the puddle with sticks.
So this child absolutely knew that he could walk straight through the puddle, without it going over the tops of his wellies!
I don’t know if you have noticed, but the children are not walking in pairs. Everyone walked along as they wished. I think this is a subtle indicator of the responsibility given to children to set their own walking pace. It also emphasises the autonomy and freedom afforded by a Forest Kindergarten approach.
The child in the photo above, had paused to examine something, he quickly caught up and joined the rest of the group as seen in the photo below. You can see the school and nursery in the photo which shows how closely it is situated to the woods. Interestingly the school is in Hamilton which is part of the Glasgow and Clyde Valley conurbation and the most densely populated part of Scotland. It’s hard to believe that such wild spaces can be found in such a built up area.
What this does suggest is that wherever you are, nature can be found. Look for it and give children the opportunity to experience a little wilderness in their lives. They need breathing spaces and time just to be as much as adults do.