Fountaindale School received financial support from the Alpkit Foundation to provide regular Forest School sessions with a freelance Forest Skills Tutor.
Programme Coordinator Karen Redgate takes up the story.
We wanted to build on our pilot programme by utilising a specialist Forest Schools expert to deliver workshops to our pupils. Pupils will discover nature first hand so that they can develop an understanding and respect for nature and the environment. We want to ensure that the future of our planet is in safe hands! Through the project, children will be provided with structured opportunities to get their hands dirty, share sensory stories, make sweets with berries, bird feeders and fairy gardens, create art with natural materials, build dens, catch rain and hunt for bugs.
We have created a Forest School area within the grounds of the school where the Forest Schools sessions take place. This has enabled us to offer repeated experiences within a forest environment rather than being constrained by costs, access issues, safety and the complexities of organising external visits for groups of children in wheelchairs. Rather than one-off visits, the Forest Schools area has been visited regularly, enabling us to build, strengthen and develop skills gradually.
All pre-formal learners in school access Forest Schools. Our pre-formal learners (pupils with profound and complex needs who need a very special approach to their learning) have been exposed to a variety of multi-sensory stimuli from the forest and given the opportunity to experience some bush craft techniques.
Our formal learners (a group of 9 pupils) are working towards the John Muir Award that encourages people to connect with, enjoy, and care for wild places.
Feedback gathered from the children and young people who have benefitted from the grant includes:
• They have enjoyed being outside and learning new skills.
• They find Forest Schools exciting and enjoyable.
• They enjoy making things and cooking them in the fire.
• They like to keep trying at things that are new and a bit difficult.
• Some pupils find it calming being outside and meditating on the flames.
The Forest School project enables our pupils to learn in a different environment, applying their learning in a very different way. Some of our learners are learning independence skills and the Forest Schools sessions add to this curriculum greatly. The sessions support the pupils to develop their social and emotional skills, working in teams, building confidence and self esteem."