There are different stages of severity of risk at Forest Schools and these go from Comfort Zone, to Play, to Challenge, to Adventure through eventually to misadventure. (Blackwell 2013). Misadventure happens when, in the wrong hands, i.e. those who do not have a full appreciation of the eventualities and consequences, or have an good understanding of the physical, linguistic and cognitive skills of each of the children, or adults that are participating, provide opportunities that end in injury and harm, and this can be physical or philological remember, according to the HSE 1974 Act, Conversely though if a child is continually in their comfort zone, then there will be lack of growth and development for that child.
Children’s brains are like muscles, oh, indeed they are muscles! If we don’t stretch them they will not grow stronger, it is through appropriately engaging challenge that growth occurs. It is the role of the practitioner, parent and teacher, to understand not only the presence of the risk but also the prevalence of any benefits and opportunities to learn new things that the child will be engaged In For example in Forest Schools, there will be muddy areas in the UK as it is common for rain to be present.
Now when we look at risk we are defining the likelihood of harm coming to pass as a direct interrelationship between, child, person, equipment or environment and the identified hazard. The hazard is the thing that could cause harm, physiological or physiologically. So in relation to the muddy ground the likelihood is that someone will slip over, and if they do, what are the consequences, i.e. twisted ankle, broken bone, bruising etc, identified on the Risk Assessment forms.
Now lets consider the benefits of walking on muddy ground; environmental awareness and the consequences of the weather and potentially seasons on the earth and the woodland that we find ourselves. We discover that our boots slide about, and if its really deep, we can make funny noises, we can dance and it can gloop. If its gloops too much, we take some of the mud with us on our boots and it erodes that particular area of woodland potentially exposing tree roots. Now tree roots can then cause a trip hazard.
But by each child becoming mindful of the ground and change that happens, then it can increase communication and language, it can develop empathy and social skills, self awareness and regulation. As a result of regulation it can allow us to problem solve and make decisions, How do I need to alter or change my initial plans?, Do I need to tell someone?, Do I need to walk around a different way?, How strong am I? Can I balance on here?, What are the other children doing?, Can I help them, support them and tell them of the dangers that are here?.
I can tell the practitioner and as such I can develop my relationship with adults as information sharers and people who value me as a person. They can give me instructions and I can then understand those, or ask more questions.