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A lovely final essay by Jo-Anne Dell

Posted by FSLI on December 5, 2017

This lovely final essay was submitted by Jo-Anne Dell. We're sure you will agree that her passion and love for Forest School really shines through.

On my first day I knew what I had in store and could still feel the excitement of learning something new. I had previously enrolled in the course but due to moving and ill health was unable to complete it.

It was a nervous start for me as I was the only teaching assistant on the course. My nerves were soon put at ease and I knew this time no matter what I would finish it.

From the moment we left the classroom and walked to the Forest School where we were lucky enough to be doing our training, I felt at home. From an early age I had been outdoors, always getting muddy and making potions with mud, now I could help inspire other children to enjoy being outdoors and not always in a classroom.

When I went back to school and made changes to our existing Forest School, it just made me happy to be learning lots of new ideas, teaching the children within my school to value what is around us, and helping them develop a strong and positive relationship with their local environment.

Even on a cold and wet January day when we did our skills day I loved being there, and I knew that I would be able to enrich the lives of the children I was teaching all these new amazing skills to.

I started to lead the Forest School sessions for the reception class and it was amazing to see them exploring and working together, even the children who may find following rules challenging - to see them change over the weeks was wonderful.

Forest School was a weekly event and all the children looked forward to it, and they adapted to the changes with great ease. They loved base camp, and they especially loved the hot chocolate and biscuit.

They would even talk about the new things they learned with the older children at lunch time. We went out in all weathers and they all know that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

 We are lucky to my school to have supportive parents and carers who don’t mind having a muddy bag of clothes every Wednesday, one parent said to me as long as they have had fun, I don’t mind.

Our Forest School site is located at the back of our school and the children in Key Stage 2 would stand and watch us while on their way to break time. Later on they would ask “when can we come to Forest School?”.

My school has a week off curriculum, this is called university week and my head teacher approached me about doing a Forest School week.

I agreed and we spent a whole week out in our Forest School site. It was a huge learning curve for me and the children in year 3. They said it had been the best week of their lives and they wish they could do Forest School every week. I hope once I receive my level 3 qualification this can happen.

I hope to be the permeant Forest School Leader, so I can continue to enable children to grow with Forest School from nursery to when they leave in year 6.

For me it was a huge challenge to teach teachers to love Forest School as much as me, and it’s something I am still working on and, no doubt will continue to work on the whole time I work in my school.

It’s not something I will ever give up on as I feel the children benefit in so many ways. The skills they develop through Forest School will give them the self-esteem and confidence they will need to become independent learners, and to form positive relationships with their peers and the adults around them.

I have continuing health issues but I will not give up, and I still love going out to Forest School and seeing the children’s faces makes me love it all the more.

I had the chance over the summer to help at my schools summer club, and because of the success of university week my head teacher again asked me to do some Forest School days.

It was with children whom I had never worked with before so it was a challenge, apart from one little girl who was in year 3 and had spent the week with me during university week. She was very excited.

One girl said to me I don’t want to do it can I get a laptop and come and sit on the beach, I said no and I asked her why she was so negative about Forest School . She said my year 5 teacher takes me out and we take our maths books and do maths, I said trust me we won’t be using any maths books.

To her credit she came along and when I explained the rules and the boundaries she was surprised, she took a while but she was soon to be found in the mud kitchen/digging area making a huge mud cake.

She had decorated it with twigs and leaves, she said she had spent ages getting the mud consistency right, using a potato peeler to sharpen a stick to use as a knife to cut her cake. She also climbed the climbing tree, used the mud slide and measured how far she could reach just using water then adding soap flakes.

She had worked out that if a child was taller it didn’t mean they went further, it could also be decided by how much they weighed. When I told her she had had a maths lesson, she replied well that’s the best maths lesson I ever had.

Nothing makes my day more than when a child learns a new skill and they don’t even realise they are always learning at Forest School.