Baseline Assessments are the initial 6 weeks of your long term Forest Schools Programme and you will deliver well planned, well prepared and well practiced
In order to run any session, especially those first 6 weeks that comprise the initial elements as part of the Baseline Assessment there are basic requirements that are needed in order to provide you with the information you require as a practitioner to assess children’s levels of development in order to provide them with the best opportunities for their life ahead.
Without this initial assessment you have no information on present levels of development in the outdoors in the recognised areas of Social, Physical, Intellectual, Communication & Language, Emotional and Spiritual. These are commonly called the areas of Holistic Development.
There are ‘normal’ ranges for children and we are not suggesting that all children are the same, but it is acknowledged that in order for children to to grow into independence and adulthood these guidelines are suitable to be used as a reference model and tool. (The handouts for Archimedes Forest Schools Education Trainees includes this information for easy reference. It includes the expected ranges of ability for babies and children up to the ages of 5 years and you can use these as your reference point during the 6 week baseline assessment evaluations)
To create your Baseline Assessment for all the areas, collate info for each child through your observations, monitor and then evaluate your findings. As a result of that report you can devise a programme to support each area of development for each child by providing resources and opportunities for the children to experience a full range of possibilities and opportunities.
This will inevitably maximise the potential for each child or learner to grow and mature appropriately giving then the best opportunity to enter into the state of the ‘Capable Learner’ to ensure ‘Personal Sustainability’
The Baseline Assessment process is essential for you as a leader and practitioner in order to find out where each of the learners starting point is at the beginning of th long term programme.
This will include what a baseline state is in terms of emotional and ‘normal’ ways of behaving for that child, regarding both neutral and positively challenging but also overly challenging situations. It includes S>P>I>C>E>S. (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Communication, Emotional and Spiritual) for that particular child. Each child is unique and each child will be different but there are ‘norms’ none the less.
- The Observation Form provided on training will assist you in collecting the information that includes:
- Wellbeing Scores of 1 to 5
- Levels of Challenge 1 to 5
- Social Language
- Eye Contact
- Behaviour, positive, neutral, negative
- Relationship with Peers
- Relationship with Adults, significant i.e. leaders and insignificant e.g. irregular visitor or volunteers
- Your Benefits Analysis Profiles
- This will include how the opportunities provided each session can benefit the child or group. It is common to use the areas of development from SPICES. (See next Article)
- Risk Assessment
- Weather and general Welfare
- Collecting Natural Material
- Using Rope and String
- Being Raised up off the ground (e.g. Tree Climbing)
- Blind Fold Activities
- Using Water
- Programme Aims for the Baseline Assessment
- Consider what the purpose of the first weeks are to achieve
- What do you want to find out
- How are you going to do it
- How will you break down the programme into sessions
- Theoretical Process
- Which theoretical processes will you be using in order to support children and have a framework for your observation e.g.
- Schema (Piaget)
- Multiple Intelligences (SMARTS)
- Play Types (Bob Hughes)
- Taxonomy of Learning
- Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky)
- Programme Planning
- What experiences will you provide in week one that will give you the information you need in order to plan for the week after (observation of child’s intrinsic motivations)
- This will include opportunities for children to explore and to have opportunities for you to observe all areas of holistic development as well as their relationship to self, peers, adults and environment
- What will your reflection processes be to find out what the children have learnt and to ensure children can transfer learning by the end of the session.
- What is your delivery methodology
- Auditory Digital (thinking about thinking)
- What Resources do you need
- Packed Happy Bag
- Completion of First Aid that covers children, adults and outdoors. (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974)
- What are the Normal Operating Procedures (NOP)
- What are the Emergency Action Plans (EAP)
- Policy Documentation and Insurance
Once the Baselines are completed for each child and the data collected evaluated after the session, it is at that point that the leaders will make recommendations for the next session in the initial 6 sessions. You will be deciding what it is that you need to provide in order to either allow children to investigate further, in order to observe behaviours and areas of development that you may not have seen in their full array and need to establish perhaps what the schema are for children, i.e. are they revisiting and developing the Schema when you provide the resources an opportunity for them to discover, experiment and investigate on their own.
After the 6 Week section, the Baseline Assessment process, you as the leader, and with your team members will sit and devise a programme for the next year that will again identify the aims for the children, each one individually, as well as a group to lead to the Transition Phase.
You will not under any circumstances write a full session designed programme for them but you will ensure that you understand the development needs for the children and you will then consider a range of opportunities for the children in order to provide them with the widest and most powerful possibility for each child or learner to (amongst other things)
- develop confidence
- self worth
- environmental identity
- a reasonable and responsible actual self
- realistic ideal self
Above all have fun, enjoy the process.
There is a skill in the process, and so with any skill, practice hard, practice well and reflect on your own practice and adjust and adapt and develop as required to ensure that the Forest Schools Programme is a transformational process.