Today I began another learning journey, this time towards my Forest Leader Level 8 (Leader) qualification. Training couldn’t have begun on a more beautiful day to be outside in the stunning venue of Jupiter Artland. I’d never been there before and I have to say the day started stressfully as, despite being able to see the centre, I couldn’t find the way in! I arrived some 30 mins late – and slightly relieved to hear that others had had similar experience. The first day of any training is always challenging, in new surroundings and with new people. I became Jane the jumping jaguar joining a lynx, marmoset, monster, snake and other “animals” as we played the trying to remember everyone’s name game!
Being part of a new group is something that challenges me personally. I’m not a natural socialiser and meeting new people and going through the initial getting to know you conversations is something I find difficult and emotionally draining. At the same time however there is an excitement in wondering which, if any, of these new people I will gel with and make new friends with. Who are the people I will come to rely on throughout this new journey? For the purposes of getting to know one another I became Jane the jumping Jaguar and, believe me, Jane is not a natural jumping jaguar, that is way out of my comfort zone, but I hope that, introductions and Day 1 out of the way, we will soon get to know each other and connections and relationships will develop.
Reflecting back on day 1 at the end of the session my immediate thought was on the beauty of the day and surroundings. I am thankful to have had that experience and introduction to the course. As far as the course and learning it was good to put myself back in the position of being a learner, that is always grounding and humbling. One of the main reasons I love working outdoors with “my” children is that there is an equity of experiences. Often I am learning just as much as the children and I believe that makes the relationship between adult and child much stronger and reinforces the life long aspect of learning for children. There are always a lot of “I don’t know but lets see if we can find out” type of answers to questions and, while that at first may not sound very satisfying, on more reflection hopefully provides children with experiences which develop problem solving, patience, empathy, research skills and resilience.
One of the tasks we were given for Day 1 was to look at the 6 principles of the Forest School ethos and choose which resonated most for me personally. I chose the long term aspect of experiences, the continued and regular access to a natural space as my number 1 priority. For me it is the continuation of experience in all weathers and all seasons that brings the outdoor environment to life for children. It allows them to develop an understanding and appreciation of how things work together. I am immediately thinking of how our children are developing an understanding of the relationship between rainfall and the amount of water in the woods and how that impacts on the mud, the burn and also on the paths throughout the woodland. They have direct and relevant experiences of how the water erodes the paths and seen how paths can be build over pipes and drainage tubes to alleviate the erosion. Another direct and relevant experience is the necessity to be dressed appropriately for the conditions. No waterproofs mean you are more likely to get wet. Short sleeves and trousers reveal more skin which is more likely to get scratched or stung. Not enough layers mean it can be very cold in the winter. These experiences all contribute to children’s developing independence and resilience. Getting wet is not a disaster in the summer months but can be incredibly uncomfortable and even distressing in the colder winter months.
As far as activities on Day 1 we spent a short amount of time learning to tie 2 different knots, a simple knot and a figure of 8 knot. The figure of 8 knot was a new one to me and took some practice. We “played” a camera game