Rebecca is a graduate of the first Certificate in Forest School Leadership training in Rep. of Ireland in 2013, delivered by Circle of Life Training and huathe, hosted by Earth Force Education.
While doing my Forest School training I was working in an urben setting with a 10 meter square yard at the rear. I was aware that this was not ideal for connecting with nature on the scale that Forest School facilitated but I was determined, after all, when asked, our Outside Time was always the most popular time of our High/Scope Sessional day with the children.
The majority of the yard is concrete with a raised 1 meter wide earth bed along 2 sides, and a worn grass patch 8×4 meter along the other side. Growing from this we had one shrub, one small tree, & some very worn grass.
Into this space we made a willow tunnel, a tyre den under the shrub, a bark chip area under our small tree for climbing and 2 iron anchors in the boundary wall for rope climbing.
We also have free water & sand play, transportable pebbles & logs, and a digging area. Tarps were strung between the small tree and the back gate, and tractor tyres laid on the bark chip provided balance opportunities. In this small, urbanised yard, we created with the children a place to spot & feed birds, find snails & woodlice, meet worms, butterflies, bees & ladybirds, and feel sunny days, snow days, frozen, icy & windy days, and see all the colours of autumn & spring.
I remained outside with my key children for the majority of the day with our flexible and responsive routine & curriculum. It was our policy that children wear waterproof over trousers/dungarees, wellies, & appropriate clothing layers, coats & hats. Magnifying glasses, chalk, spades, wheelbarrows, & footballs were also materials always available outdoors.
Following from this inexpensive development experience, the time was right for my manager to actualise her rural site and we spent the next year developing key experience & interest areas on her 1 acre site near Ballyfoyle. This was all done with little or no budget, but with a dedicated and resourceful team. The most important element in this development was the interaction & consultation between child and adult.
We asked the children what their favourite stimuli outside was & simplified our ideas accordingly. We wanted to keep the site as natural as possible, introduced immature native trees, and kept an area of long grass called ‘the meadow’. Log rings, tyres, pallets & willow structures make up the rest of the structures on site with plenty of space for sit spots, music in nature, den building and reflective chat. We are a High/Scope setting but as I learned more from my Forest School training, I was delighted to discover how similar their founding principles are. With genuine interaction and child led content to foster resilience, resourcefulness, promote problem solving and appropriate responsibility, I felt Forest School could be practiced in any outdoor setting, even our little yard, if its principles and quality standards are authentically practiced and believed by the adults facilitating the space.
Author Rebecca Wright, Forest School Leader and GrassRoots and is involved with the outdoor pre-school at Ballyfoyle, Co. Kilkenny.
To contact this pre-school:
GrassRoots PreSchool, 1 Ríoch Court, Kilkenny
The Garden Outdoor PreSchool, Ruthstown, Ballyfoyle, Kilkenny
Bridget Dowling: 086-8920034