Forest School at Burwash School
At Burwash School every class gets the opportunity for a series of half day sessions in woodland called, Forest School. These sessions are run by two members of staff, Jayne Baitup and myself. Jayne and I took practical courses at Level 2 and 3 to become qualified Forest School Assistant and Forest School Leader respectively, in 2012. Jayne and I are supported by three regular volunteers from the Burwash Community. Each class is split in two, and each group gets five half day sessions of Forest School. We have been running Forest School since November 2012.
Forest School is an opportunity for children to learn about the natural world in their local woodland. These learning experiences help to develop communication, confidence and practical skills, as well as a greater understanding of the environment. We plan activities to utilise the children’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take managed risks, make choices and initiate learning. The setting allows the children to engage with the natural environment.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to The Glebe Estate who allow us to use an area of wonderful woodland exactly one kilometre from the school. The area is perfect, it has two streams, a mixture of trees and a gorgeous meadow. The walk to the site is an adventure in itself: we pass through beautiful countryside, over stiles and past a couple of ponds. There are many different species of trees, flowers, birds and animals to spot on the way.
Once at the site we run through safety rules and light a fire together. Then it is time for the main activities for the session. The children always have a choice of things to do: adult led activities, independent activities, time to play and explore.
Every week we have a cooking activity. This can be learning to make breads, drop scones, pancakes, jams and even curries. The children always boil a kettle and make hot chocolate. Food is very important part of Forest School. We are very grateful to the PTFA who fund the ingredients and even supply us with their home produced free range eggs.
We learn to saw, drill, split and whittle wood. The children are taught how to use tools such as a bow-saw, drill, splitting axe and knives safely. They also use natural materials found on site such as clay and twigs to make items. There are many opportunities for artwork including carving, painting and pottery.
There is time each week given to learning about nature. The children learn to recognise common bird calls, watch tadpoles develop into frog spawn, identify wild flowers and trees.
The children also make bridges and dams across the streams, make dens and shelters and play imaginative games.
We feel Forest School is an important part of a child’s education and helps them to appreciate what a wonderful place Burwash is to grow up.
Martin Sharp (Forest School Leader and Assistant Head)