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Childhood Development, Forest Schools, Get Children Outdoors

Risk and its Importance in Forest School Programmes for Learning and Development

February 7, 2017
Forest School Learning and Development

Risk and its Importance in Forest School Programmes for Learning and Development

“It is argued that taking risks can have positive implications in terms of children’s developmental, social and emotional needs, as well as their overall health. By providing the opportunities for children to manage their own risks in a controlled environment, they will learn vital life skills needed for adulthood, and gain the experience needed to face the unpredictable nature of the world.” (Gill, 2007)

Excellent quote from Tim Gill; But what does it actually mean for us? You know that I am proponent of the idea that we assume nothing presume nothing.

So what exactly do you, I, we understand by this; what is a controlled environment for example; what does it mean specifically, how controlled, how free; what do we expose our children to; what do we do to protect; what do we allow; what do we manage and what do we allow children through different age cohorts to manage for themselves – specifically?

These questions are fundamental to our understanding and then to the relationship that we have with the environment, with our staff, with our school governors, with our parents and with our children themselves.  They are key to how we then go about supporting learning and development through our programmes over the course of their schooling years.

Forest School has a core ethos regarding child-centered learning and the offer of play to children whilst they are attending our programmes. But how can we actually incorporate the principles of play and is this process in a reasonable and acceptable and totally realistic way? How do we incorporate free play experiences that we are able to plan for, and offer our children at our Forest School programme throughout each session, or if this is planned can it actually be free play at all?

Play Wales (2008) states that play means ‘…providing opportunities for all children to encounter or create uncertainty, unpredictability, and potential hazards as part of their play. We do not mean putting children in danger of serious harm.’

It was Play England in 2007 that can maybe answer this question for us

‘Good risks and hazards in play provision are those that engage and challenge children, and support their growth, learning and development. These might include… loose materials that give children the chance to create and destroy constructions using their skill, creativity and imagination.’

So we are in the woods, out in the wild unfettered environment and we are allowing our children to go and explore and investigate and to get into their deep learning states that promotes learning and emotional connections. Excellent, we need to do no more, our session is sorted! We just sit back and observe and monitor what’s happening and all is well that ends well. Our Forest Schools leader role is complete. Our children go to play and to find and to build and to destroy and to jump and pretend and imagine and fantasies, and rough and tumble, jump, climb and role play and recapitulate and dramatise.

Oh but hang on

‘Bad risks and hazards are those that are difficult or impossible for children to assess for themselves, and that have no obvious benefits. These might include sharp edges or points on equipment, weak structures that may collapse, and items that include traps for heads or fingers.’ (Play England 2007)

But how do we know what a bad risk is for one child and the exact same thing may not be for another?

As a forest School Practitioner qualified to Level 3 you are the Safety Officer. That means you are responsible under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to eliminate exposure to significant risks that could cause harm to people, the environment and to things or equipment.

But how will you actually know what is significant, or unsuitable for your group to be exposed to?  You will base your decisions on the physical, cognitive and linguistic skills of your children, individually. How do you know what these are? It is through your baseline assessments and through Procedural documentation and Risk Assessment processes. But of course these will be balanced by your Benefits Analysis carried out against each identified hazard as well. These are provided to evidence that as a qualified Level 3 Forest School practitioner you thought about, assessed and monitored any identified significant risks to your group. But your job is to balance this and not eliminate all risks entirely.

‘Children and young people themselves recognise that ‘you can’t make everything safe’ and that a balance is needed between risks and fun (and the opportunity to be put into situations that may contain risk, but that without this exposure learning could not take place in any dimension – SB (2105) . Children recognise that knowing about risks and how to manage them is an essential part of growing up… Through play, children are able to learn about risks and use their own initiative. If children and young people are not allowed to explore and learn through playing and taking part in positive activities, they will not learn how to judge risks and manage them for themselves. These skills learnt through play and other activities can act as a powerful form of prevention in other situations where children and young people are at risk.’ (Play England, 2007)

Dweck (2000) states that:

‘encouraging children to enjoy challenges rather than to shy away from them could also increase their persistence and learning abilities.’ And we are reading more and more to support this view in the papers and in the news. Children are becoming so mollycoddled and protected that certain traits like independence, resilience, creativity and confidence are being eroded away.   

Playwork Principle 8 says:

‘Playworkers choose an intervention style that enables children and young people to extend their play. All playworker intervention must balance risk with the developmental benefit and well-being of children.’

Principle 8 allows us as Forest Schools Practitioners make a decision based on the prescribed process of risk-benefit analysis or assessment. TO reiterate what we mean here, if there is an identified hazard, what is the benefit or good that a child or group of children will gain from exposure to that particular hazard in the course of our experiences that we offer as part of the Forest Schools programme? Also, does the benefit outweigh the detrimental affects that this hazard could have on the child or group if they were exposed to it whilst in our care? Is the hazards affects serious or life threatening and if so how can these be managed in such a way that the child can still be exposed to due to other learning benefits that may be available.

Hazards provide opportunities for learning and development.

‘In a playground, (woodland – SB 2015) bumps, bruises scrapes and even a broken limb are not necessarily warning signs of greater dangers, as they might be considered in a factory or office environment. They are to be expected as part of everyday life for children growing up.

Providers need to decide for themselves what level of risk is appropriate in their provision, because the type and style of provision must be responsive to local circumstances … However, there are benefits from this approach at all levels and for all those involved in play, but above all for the children, who will have happier and more satisfying experiences of childhood with richer opportunities for healthy growth and development into competent and confident adults.’ (Play England, 2007)

What Are the benefits children, young people, and others will gain as a result of this experience?

Consider Physical, intellectual, Linguistic, Emotional, Social and spiritual.

Think creatively and identify IN DETAIL

What are the options of enhancing those benefits and what are the pros and cons for each one?

  • Increase the opportunities for engagement (with good risk).
  • Do nothing.
  • Monitor the situation (including supervision).
  • Increase the reach of the benefit.
  • The benefit is not significant enough compared to the risk involved

What are the Risks that children young people, and others will be exposed to?

What are the options for managing the risk, and what are the pros, cons and costs of each?

  • Decrease the opportunities for engagement (with bad risk).
  • Do nothing.
  • Monitor the situation (including supervision).
  • Lessen or manage the risk.
  • Remove the risk.

So we are now considering the consequences of our actions and one thing that Forest Schools Education gets asked quite often is about the Risk and likelihood of harm occurring and what is done to safeguard children. Well. In answer to that every probably and possible precautions, protections and insurances are put into place. These include deep level and constructive training processes that ensure that trainees follow procedure and process when opening an opportunity to encounter the riskier experiences. This includes safe working practices and these are to be unconsciously understood and participated in before any adult is permitted or entitled to use their skills with the children. Archimedes ensures that this is the case and as such we are confident in the preservation of child safety and wellbeing. We are not saying, however, that children will not encounter risk or acceptable harm along the way.

‘It is highly unlikely that a competent play worker will ever be taken to court and successfully prosecuted for negligence because the safeguards that we put in place to protect both ourselves and the children are sensible and show that we have a professional approach to risk.’ – (Play Wales, 2008)

Many of our children are building up their skills in terms of physical strength, dexterity, their resilience to be able to cope with failure and things that don’t go quite right for them, to understand altruism and awe and wonder, to be allowed to encounter Risk as Tim Gill suggest, sound judgment about themselves and others and the world around them develop as a consequence of being given opportunity to work at and to problem solve and to reflect on their experiences appropriately.

It is exactly the same with us as an adult or a Forest Schools Practitioner and as a result, we will be finding our own feet as we develop our skills in this new and flourishing industry we find ourselves. We need to feel comfortable and we need to feel able and flexible in our thinking in order to allow children to explore within their boundaries and for us not to be fearful to empower children in their play and leaning at Forest Schools. However, this comes with experience and as experience develops so does a broader understand of empathy and common sense can begin to prevail. ,

There is a pressure point where society influences the decisions and choices of parents and educational establishments and it is the responsibility of the Forest Schools practitioner who has a broad picture, the correct training and a personal confidence to balance this potential ‘cotton-wooling’ of our generations. Creativity comes from the explosion of thought and innovation, this will inevitably contain some aspect of risk and this is to be positively encouraged at Forest Schools. However this also needs to be managed well in order to allow children to be entrusted into our care and one of the best ways that this can be done is simply through enabling adults and decision makers to encounter Forest Schools for themselves as there is no boundaries to it no restrictions on age, culture, location, gender and ability.

Risk is not a scary thing when it is a perceived risk and when the Forest Schools practitioner, thought their own experience and understanding of the individual child, the group and the environment understands the extent of the risk and the consequential harms that could happen. They also have a deep understanding of the processes involved in minimizing those risks and as such can allow children to experiment within safe and acceptable boundaries of behaviours.

Research is showing that Forest Schools extends thought processes, encourages freedom, allows the development of creativity, understanding of self and others and the world around them

Extended Reading

Play England (2008) ‘Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide’
www.playengland.org.uk/resources/managing-risk-in-play- provision-implementation-guide

Play Wales (2008) ‘A Playworker’s Guide to Risk’
www.playwales.org.uk/login/uploaded/documents/INFORMA TION%2 0SHEETS/playworkers%20guide%20to%20risk.pdf

Simon Nicholson’s ‘Theory of Loose Parts’

Bristol Scrapstore’s PlayPods project
www.playpods.co.uk

Play Englands ‘Play, Naturally’ project
http://www.playengland.org.uk/media/130593/play-naturally.pdf

References

Dweck (2000) ‘Self-theories: their role in motivation, personality and development’

Gill (2007) ‘No Fear: growing up in a risk adverse society’

Play England (2008) ‘Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide’ Download from http://www.playengland.org.uk/resources/managing-risk-in-play-provision-implementation-guide

Play Wales (2008) ‘A Playworker’s Guide to Risk’ Download from
www.playwales.org.uk/login/uploaded/documents/INFORMATION%20SHEETS/playworkers%20guide%20to%20risk.pdf

Childhood Development, Get Children Outdoors

Early Years Toolkit – Supporting Childrens’ Development

March 16, 2015

cropped-7550_254248858069574_675983131_n.jpg

It is the Education Endowment Foundation that has created this new Tool Kit to assess effectiveness of using a variety of different learning strategies through research.

Cost and Effectiveness are always being balanced in education

The Foundation has developed guidance on how Early Years Professionals to use the resources to aid improvement in learning for disadvantaged children, and the tool kit led by Professor Steve Higgins has been produced along with academics from the School of Education at Durham University.

Forest Schools Education bases its developmental ethos on enabling children to develop self awareness and self regulatory strategies, thus enabling them to understand the town behaviours and learning. The foundation found that these strategies had a very positive impact on disadvantaged children, as well as those from more socially economically sound backgrounds.

We know that the understanding and practice of self regulation leads to self motivation and as such has a lasting effect on learning at school, resilience and the ability to persist during life long learning because of a change and development in positive social behaviours. 
So many wonderful things to make with mud

So many wonderful things to make with mud

The researchers suggest that this self regulation can in some children lead to an average of seven extra months of progress.

The report says, ‘It is not possible to tell from existing evidence whether providing extra hours (at nursery) is a more promising strategy for three-year-olds or four-year-olds.’ However, where the integral ethos to the nursery as it is at the Forest School Nursery, is to promote these aspects then it could have a positive benefit

Research has been formulated from 1,600 studies and the toolkit addresses the following topics

  1. Communication and language,
  2. Earlier starting age in early years education,
  3. Early literacy,
  4. Early numeracy,
  5. Digital technology,
  6. Extra hours,
  7. Parental engagement,
  8. Physical development,
  9. Physical environment,
  10. Play-based learning, and
  11. Self-regulation strategies.

 

The new resource was launched by Dr Collins at 4Children’s Early Years Matters conference in London this month.

Steve Higgins, Professor of Education at Durham University, acknowledges that evidence is now available to enable early years professionals to make important decisions around their every day planning and strategy. He is hopeful that the Early Years Toolkit helps to bridge the divide between research and practice and will enhance a more effective early years provision for all children.

  •  The Early Years Toolkit can be found here

 

Childhood Development

Forest School Education China

March 11, 2015
Forest Schools in China

Archimedes Earth and Forest Schools Education (FSE) Founder and CEO Sarah Blackwell recently spent time in China developing partnerships and introducing the Concept of Forest Schools Education in China to delegates at the International Montessori Association Conference, to University Principles, to Students, to Early Years Professionals and Outdoor Centre Managers. The trip was arranged by highly recognised and well regarded Chinese Business Owners and Early Years Trainers

Chin photo 3[3]

The Global Focus of Archimedes Earth  is to introduce the concept of Forest Schools Education worldwide.

China photo 4[2]FSE seeks to expand the ethos and aims of  its unique and transformational educational model Forest Schools. Forest Schools have been running in the UK since its inception in 1994 and is now widely accepted in the UK. Inspired by the strong cultural outdoor history in the UK and compliment by the Scandinavian education system.

China photo 3[1]There are many research findings and anecdotal evidence to show high levels of success and increased wellbeing of learners and this development of higher levels of self-confidence improves performance levels in school and life.

The Archimedes Forest Schools Education Model and ethos is largely based on the importance of nature as a teaching tool and medium, the understanding of the trained practitioners in supporting unique learning styles, multiple intelligences, schemas and other child development techniques.

Pin badgeThis approach to education has been developed to encompass and exemplify the work of educational theorists, developmental psychologists and other leaders of education and learning. The highly influential and scientific pedologist Maria Montessori, others such as Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner and Vygotsky  have all provided a strong base for children to learn through and from nature and it is these individuals whose work threads through the amazing work of the Archimedes Forest Schools Model.

China photo 1[3]The successes of Archimedes Forest Schools Model, having now reached a global scale, is based upon research that demonstrates that when practitioners adopt independent,  child lead learning philosophies, that children are able to experience greater opportunities of self exploration, self discovery and a much more successful learning experience. Research shows that this way of working can develop creativity, problem solving and mastery for effectively and efficiently than one that is rigid and teacher lead.

China Teacher Training CollegeThus the principles of Forest Schools encourages an outdoor natural learning environment, loose parts and an environment that offers multi-sensory experiences and opportunities where children are recognised as unique and this individuality is cherished and supported, whilst developing a sense of respect, accommodation, empty and nurture for others and the culture that practitioners work within.

Chin photo 1[4]Are you in a position to support the expansion of this highly acclaimed educational methodology with us in China?

Archimedes Earth is committed to supporting you through consultancy, educational lectures, Public speaking events, and meetings with those within schools, government and official positions in China. We are the Experts in our field, no one has been training longer that our staff, we have a combined culmination of over 75 years in the field!

China photo 5Our expertise extends to speaking with Government Officials, Ambassadors, Education Ministers, Environmental Ministers, Research Fellows, University Professors and principles and   through our professional and experienced team, supporting press conferences and informational seminars to a wide range of individuals and groups within the educational sector.

China photo 2The unprecedented level of interest experienced by the Archimedes Forest Schools Model in Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Beijing, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US shows how the need for a global understanding of a range of cultures and educational influences can support children learning and educational development in an every changing world. Parents, teachers and educational providers are iincreasingly open minded with a desire to education and support their children academically though innovative, but proven systems for their children.

We are building ever increasingly important relationships with Education Companies, Early Years Providers, Colleges and Parents. We offer a full package of support and this is delivered, as in other nations, in three very separate but distinct ways.

Chin photo 5[1]Firstly: We work in collaboration with companies and individuals  who are in the process of developing schools or early years settings form inception to delivery and we ensure that the central ethos, curriculum, setting, environment and education of  their entire establishment can be modelled towards  delivering the Archimedes Forest Schools Education Model. We also support with the Archimedes Forest Schools Quality Mark.

China photo 3Secondly: For those settings and Schools already established and wanting to train staff in the Forest Schools ethos our experts, qualified and experienced Forest Schools trainers come from the UK to China and deliver our specialised and highly successful training course at the setting of your choice. All course content, resources and learning resources are fully translated so all Chinese teachers ands students have a full and  complete knowledge and understanding of the course and the requirements.

CHina photo 3[2]Thirdly: If you are a setting or school or organisation in China who has a cohort of students – students teachers, or nursery teacher – up to 20 at a time then  you can come to the UK to participate in our training course here in the UK. (it is possible at the same time as attending the Archimedes Forest School Training Course, clients can get an opportunity to explore the wonders of the UK and  receive additional English Language training if required.

We are the most experiences in the Forest Schools arena. We have trained over 6500 teachers worldwide and we want to work with you.

Please get in touch with us via our website  www.forestschools.com

You can contact us at info@forestschools.com

You can see our Forest Schools Kindergarten here www.forestschoolskindergarten.com

Childhood Development, Get Children Outdoors

Children are nurtured by the natural world just like seeds

March 7, 2015

We are all becoming increasingly aware of the scientific research in early childhood development. Children require connection with nature in order to support their brain function and holistic development in intellectual, cognitive, creative, linguistic, emotional, social and physical processes.

Shutter stock Thank you for the photo that represents our children as they grow in nature

Shutter stock Thank you for the photo that represents our children as they grow in nature

 It is the joy and exuberance that becomes so noticeable when children are playing in nature, becoming co-inhabitants of the space and totally integrated with the cycles, interrelationships and magic. It is the awe and wonder that connects, surprises and gives children that sparkle in their eyes. Without this connection, life can be very different, and I believe all the poorer.’

Sarah Blackwell – Forest Schools Kindergarten – Founder

Celebration Day 28th March 2015

Becky Joy Photography will be at the event capturing beautiful moments for parents

Childhood Development

Autistic Children and Natural Play

January 17, 2015
Autism in the Outdoors

I think that, reading what the physicians and psychologists are saying, Autism is on the increase and this is confusing professionals as to what the reasons for this can be.

Life is an adventure, exploration, discovery and challenge brings out the best in all of us!

Life is an adventure, exploration, discovery and challenge brings out the best in all of us!

There is too little time over the last 15 years, that has seen the marked increase in ASD diagnosis to blame genetical changes, so the only other conclusion is the environmental atmosphere and conditions in which we live.

There is research into metals in the air, electromagnetic waves impacting on synapses and neurotransmitters, the calcium imbalance decreasing the filters that will inhibit hypersensitivity to natural stimuli. Resulting in anxiety, stress and overstimulation.

We are overly impacted and exposed to technology and manufactured objects and ‘things’ and stuff’ that all looks the same and these can be found everywhere we look. In the home, schools, nursery, shops, and walking out in the streets. Much of this modern technology engages but also can remove our sense of place and self as we become more and more isolated communing more intently through our computers, phones, iPads, and tablets.

All of this isolation is of course removing us form the interaction with the natural environment
and we see it everyday in the press and even in schools and the local community, that many
people see the natural world as something to possess, something that will bend to our rules and desires and something that we look at from a distance. There is after all an increase of the nature programmes on TV. unfortunately this does not increase or produce environmental attachment, i.e. the inner compassion for nature that will engender a passion to love and care for it in the future.
Grow
Autistic Children and Adults, irrespective of the cause of the condition, tend to have an ability to become overly stressful, fearful, nervous and research is revealing the health benefits to all of us of and being outside allows us to be influenced by the rhythms and flows of time, seasons and for natural curiosity to take place. We all acquire a sense of calm, a sense of place and it is a place where all trees, plants, leaves, every molecule is different and unique, in the same way that we are and as a result we are automatically in a place of balance and non judgement. We are not open to criticism and we can be the masters of our choice and in control of our own moment.

We know that there are both physical and mental benefits and helps us to build an understanding of the world and a sense of ourselves within it
This is as important for Autistic children and adults as it is for us that think we are not affected by ASD!
The value of being ourselves, being in the wildness of outside and though a repeated opportunity to visit and potentially connect with nature for the firs time this will develop a range of life skills essential for adulthood where knowing and understanding that simply being in nature soothes and heals, and that when in a stressful state we can visit and be to help to make ourselves well.

Autistic children and adults need to understand that they have the capacity to feel well, to be well and how to become well in times of overwhelm and stress in the modern world that we all live

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Forest School Nursery is a way for ASD children to begin to understand themselves and how therapeutic the natural environment truly is
Forest Schools Kindergarten has been a conduit for peace and calm over many years and had a positive impact on children

for more information then please contact Forest School Nursery Sheffield – Middlewood Nature Nursery – Forest Schools Kindergarten www.forestschoolskindergarten.com and Book a visit, we would love to meet with you