How to 'go wild' in inner cities
How to create a wild experience on an urban site was the topic for a packed seminar session led by FSLI’s Chris Dee, at the ‘Embracing Outdoor Learning’ conference held at the Hackney Marshes Centre recently.
Organised by the Hackney Learning Trust – which runs the borough’s children’s centres, schools and early years and adult education - the conference aimed to inspire early years practitioners with new ideas and practical skills for using the outdoors as a rich learning experience.
Alongside Chris Dee, conference speakers included Sara Knight (leading academic in early years experiential outdoor learning and acclaimed author), Ivor Kallin (Early Years Consultant for Hackney Learning Trust) and Biddy Hutton (nursery teacher and Early Years Lead at Clapton Park Childrens, a beacon for theForestSchoolapproach). Taking the sessions outdoors, delegates had hands-on training in knots and furniture-making, fire skills, flora and fauna, creativity with natural materials, health and safety planning and creating aForestSchoolsite.
Chris Dee commented: “Working with young children in some of the most challenged boroughs in London, I’m constantly reminded how powerful it can be for them to learn in a natural environment – week after week, I see children gain in self-confidence, speech and language skills, physical strength and co-ordination, social skills, the list goes on! It has been fantastic to share our experience with early years professionals, and the outdoor workshops have been a great opportunity for really useful, in-depth conversations to take new ideas to take back into schools, nurseries and childminding settings in Hackney.”
The borough of Hackney is embracing the Forest School approach as part of its wider strategy to improve health and wellbeing, as Biddy Hutton, conference co-ordinator, explained: “Forest School offers an incredible opportunity for young children – and indeed their families and wider communities – to benefit far beyond ‘classroom learning’. At a time where childhood obesity and children’s sedentary lifestyles are real causes for concern, theForestSchoolapproach brings many opportunities to improve childrens’ emotional wellbeing, health and overall development. And we know this can even have a positive ‘ripple effect’ within families and communities where children have the chance to learn in a natural environment.”