YSGOL GOEDWIG Gwarchodfa Natur Cae Poeth FOREST SCHOOL

 

One of our members. Cath Rigler, has written this report about a Forest School project she ran recently as part of her L3 training.  It could be useful reading for others wanting to set up their own project or understand what might be involved in attaining your L3 award.  If you are interested in working with Cath, please find her on the ‘Find a Forest School’ map.

YSGOL GOEDWIG Gwarchodfa Natur Cae Poeth FOREST SCHOOL

This Forest School was run voluntarily as part of Cath Rigler’s Level 3 (Forest School Leader) training. Other staff: Nelis Drost (Aberystwyth Conservation Volunteers), Anthea Cox (Play Ranger and Forest School Leader) and Nikki Reed (teacher at Ysgol Bro Ddyfi, Machynlleth)

Participants came from year 7 and were selected (officially) as high achievers, as a reward for doing well in their first year at secondary school, and (unofficially) to try and help some out with some problems they were facing during the transition period.

The first session took place in the school grounds, covering ideas, expectations, project ethics and fire safety.  [stextbox id=”custom” caption=”More details ….” collapsed=”true”]

Four sessions then took place at Gwarchodfa Natur Cae Poeth, the last being a ‘double’ session after the school had to cancel a session due to exams.

Funding for the minibus came from Dulas Engineering, a local company.

Sessions were run bilingually as much as possible. In practice, introductions and safety talks were usually in English and more informal chats between the session Leader and participants took place in Welsh.

1. The sessions.

During the sessions, we explored the site, coppiced some willow, made quadrants and looked at minibeasts, learnt to use handtools, to light and cook on a fire.

We drew with charcoal, balanced on logs, jumped streams, completed challenges, skimmed stones, toasted marshmallows, watched the tadpoles growing and the site get greener as the trees came into leaf.

We chilled out round the fire, chatted, laughed, grew as a team and learnt to support and respect ourselves, each other and the environment.

Emphasis was placed on group dynamics: there had been instances of bullying (both at primary and secondary schools) between some members of the group and hence staff were keen to establish an atmosphere where negative comments were unwelcome, where instead students helped, supported and praised each other. Gradually the group – which on the first sessions consisted more of friends working in their usual pairs – gelled as a group, with Welsh and English streams mixing. On the last 2 sessions even the chief ‘culprit’ (for negative remarks about others) was heard genuinely praising someone who on the first sessions he had only made disparaging remarks about. If the project had run for longer, we could have built on this – as it is, it is to be hoped that the positive group dynamics and shared experiences have been taken back into school life.

2.Feedback.

Feedback from participants and school was very positive. The head of year noticed how ‘upbeat’ the student were on their return to school. Session staff noted how all children became more confident, gelled as a group and enjoyed the sessions immensely.

3. The site.

Due to this project the site now has a three-year management plan – copies held by the project leader and site owner. This enables anyone who uses the site in future to know how the site is being managed and developed, ensuring continuity of care. It also puts the site more ‘on the map’ and hence more likely to be used by other groups in the future.

4. The School.

This was the first time the school has participated in Forest School sessions. Although originally we intended to work with the 14-19 Learning Pathways group, the school wouldn’t release this age group from lessons. Likewise, they felt that enough was being done for students who were struggling (academically and behaviourally) – hence their selecting participants as a ‘reward’ for doing well during the transition from primary to secondary school. The accompanying teacher really understood the Forest School ethic and was great to work with.

4. How the project could be improved.

Longer sessions, run over a longer period, would enable students to see more seasonal changes on site, to learn more skills and progress further in their own holistic and group development. Secure on-site storage would mean less need to carry all equipment down/up the hill, and also enable students to have more choice, to follow through with their own ideas rather than having to wait until the following week to start. This would enable more student-led activities to take place.

5. The future.

Both the accompanying teacher and head of year are keen for more projects to go ahead, as are the landowners and all staff. It may be possible to work closely with practitioners who are working with local primary schools, to run projects that tie in year 6 and 7 – giving continuity of educational experience throughout the transition period. Future Forest School projects will be funding dependant. Regular skillshare/conservation weekends will also continue to be held on site, open to members of the public – the next one will run on June 29 and 30, 2012.

FOREST EDUCATION INITIATIVE FOREST SCHOOL TRAINING GRANT

The grant enabled me to train as a Forest School Leader, to update my first aid qualification and to buy some equipment to add to the Dyfi FEI cluster Group Forest School tool bags.

Through the training, six Forest School sessions were run on site and a great relationship built up with a school that had not been regularly involved in Outdoor / Forest Education beforehand. Twelve year 7 pupils enjoyed the sessions immensely – an age group that hadn’t been involved on this site before. The sessions have led to further site development – rearranging the fire pit area and plans to create a new glade as a ‘kitchen’ area- to be started at the next skillshare/conservation weekend on site at the end of June.

Personally, the training enabled me to inform my practice, to forge links with other local practitioners and the school, and to get involved in the Forest School sessions currently being run for the local Outside Education group – I will be co-running sessions for them in the Autumn. It also helped me focus on using Welsh more as a medium in which to work: the students enjoyed helping me out when I got stuck and those who were in the Welsh stream appreciated the fact that sessions were bilingual, that they could use their first language and not have to communicate solely in English (Forest School sessions in this area seem to be sadly dominated by non-Welsh speakers: I am determined to keep learning and helping to redress this imbalance!).

Finally, one of the staff members is a member of Aberystwyth FEI cluster group, so keeping links between Dyfi and Aberystwyth cluster groups: it is hoped (and planned!) that these two groups can work together more in the future, to bring more Forest School sessions to more young people in the area, both via schools and via sessions open to the public.

INCOME:

Forest Education Initiative Forest School Training Grant 1,000

EXPENDITURE:

OCNLevel 3 training with Forest School SNPT 850

First Aid at Work certificate with CRT Medical 130

Cord for shelter building – added to Dyif FEI kit 20

Total expenditure: 1,000

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