At Heyhouses we are very excited and proud that we are a Forest School & Beach School.  Known as 'Wild At Heart', each child takes part in a minimum of 6 Forest School sessions and 1 or 2 Beach days per year.  Please keep reading to find out more about what Forest & Beach School is and the benefits of going outside.

Forest & Beach Schools give children space to just... be themselves... be a child... be adventurous... be creative... be mucky... be explorers... to simply be...

Wild At Heart is a unique outdoor learning experience which provides opportunities to develop the whole child. It is a chance for the children of today and tomorrow to experience the outdoors and discover the many wonders out there. To be inspired and have the confidence to investigate what is in their environment. Sparking enthusiasm for discovery and learning, whilst experiencing the thrill at seeing something and sharing that excitement with others.

We believe that the participation within the process is more important than the end result.

Forest and Beach School Policies

What is Forest School? A Quick View!

What is Forest & Beach school?

  • Uses the outdoors to help children learn
  • Is regular visits to the same place
  • Encourages children’s independence
  • Helps raise self esteem through small achievable tasks

Why does it work?

  • Learning is fun!
  • Activities are child led
  • Planning is based on observation
  • Ethos is based on sound educational theory
  • Children experience the outdoors and behave differently
  • Children learn the importance of risk taking and boundaries

Why go outside?

  • Good outdoor play benefits all children and how they think, feel and act
  • Stimulates all five senses
  • Improves communication, confidence, cooperation, happiness and health (fewer coughs and colds!)
  • Accessible curriculum
  • Calm, active purposeful atmosphere

Session Characteristics

  • Approximately 2 hours long/ Full or Half day at the Beach
  • Carefully planned-  often linked to Curriculum Topics throughout Key Stage 1 and 2
  • Well briefed adults who are supportive and facilitative
  • Child led
  • Little fixed equipment
  • Established routines
  • All year. All weathers (except high winds or teeming rain that creates irreversible damage from churning up the ground)

4 Wild At Heart Rules

There are 4 rules for children when at Wild at Heart:

  1. We don’t pick anything that is growing.
  2. We keep our fingers  and anything we collect out of our mouths.
  3. We stay inside the familiar set boundaries given each session.
  4. We are kind to all God's creatures.

Wild at Heart is a safe, secure learning environment and these rules help to ensure this.

Forest & Beach Schools – A recent History

The model of Forest School used in the UK originates from Scandinavia. Developed in Denmark in the 1980s from Swedish approach, the benefits of outdoor education in the early years were quickly noted. The Danish model saw benefits in children’s language use and competence, social skills and overall confidence. One of the aims of the Danish model was to develop in children an appreciation of the natural world and promote conservation in later life.

In the mid-1990s a group of nursery nurses from Somerset visited the Forest Schools in Denmark and were inspired to develop a similar approach in this country. Now Bridgewater College in Somerset is recognised as leading centre of Forest School education.   Authorities around the country have been keen to develop this approach and Forest Schools can be found in areas such as Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, and Norfolk and Lancashire.  The approach has been used predominately with early year’s children but has been extended across all keys stages with the same recognised positive benefits.

Lancashire & Cumbria began to develop Forest Schools in 2004, with local Cluster groups, including the Lancashire FEN Group being set up around the country.  Forest School has been supported in the UK for over 10 years by the Forest Education Initiative (FEI), which was renamed the Forest Schools Network (FEN) in July 2012.

The FEN’s priorities are to “Bring those with an interest in forest education together; promote the sharing of good practice; improve communication and help raise opportunities for, and standards in delivery.” This is also known as the Forest Schools Association (FSA).

“Learning outside the Classroom was most successful when it was an integral element of long term curriculum planning and was closely linked to classroom activities.” OFSTED October 2008

More recently, as the educational markets are becoming more creative in utilising the outdoors as a classroom, we as a nation are becoming more aware of the hidden potential of the outdoors and demand is higher than it has been for 60 years in the UK.

For those who have easy access to the 11,000 miles of shores that surround the British Isles, it is not surprising that these are becoming an inspirational learning environment and parents and carers as well as educators are seeing and experiencing very positive impacts on their children, hence the concept of Beach School was started.  The FSA set up a training programme echoing the ethos and learning aims and goals of Forest School, in a coastal environment.

 

42% of children have never made a daisy chain.

32% of children have never climbed a tree.

25% of children today have never had the simple pleasure of rolling down a hill.

46% of parents say that traffic stops their children playing outdoors.

44% of parents say they had more time to play freely and do their own thing when they were children than children today.

90% of adults played out regularly in their street as children. 1 in 3 of today’s children say they don’t play out in their street at all.

81% of adults believe that children playing outside helps to improve community spirit.

88% of parents say that children playing outside helps families to get to know each other in a community.

54% of parents only feel confident letting their children play outside if other children are playing out too.

88% of parents and 80% of children think that children are better behaved in lessons if they are allowed to play at break time. This rises to 99% for parents of 5-6 year olds.

90% of parents (87% of adults) recognise that having time to play at school helps children to concentrate in lessons.

79% of children report that having time to play at school helps them to concentrate in lessons.

Reference: Onepoll for Playday.co.uk

As growing research for Play England continues to show that outdoor play is under threat, it's even more important that the Government take action to support children's play, by insisting that local schools protect playtime and provide interesting outdoor spaces.

“We all know that outdoor play is essential for children’s health, wellbeing and happiness.” love outdoor play.

What is Play? .... Playing is a way of experiencing physical and emotional feelings by engaging with the immediate real and imagined social and physical environment in a number of ways where the player has a sense of control. Playing outdoors is great for health, for building confidence and resilience, for making friends and building connections to the community. It is a crucial part of a happy childhood. Play develops specific skills such as cognitive, social, emotional & physical. Play England defines play: “It is understood as a way of building and shaping the architecture of the brain in a unique manner, through its relationship to the body and to the environment.”

The question could have read 'What are Forest & Beach Schools?' Substitute Forest or Beach school for Play and  the links between them and play start to become very clear.The role of the adult in supporting children's learning and development through the use of play is proactive and interactive. This is an accurate description of the role of  the Wild At Heart Leaders.  All adults have the power to make a major difference to children's lives and their development by what they offer children and by how they behave towards them. Wild At Heart provides a  scaffold  for the child's learning and development by providing a structure or series of steps for the child to explore a new experience successfully and add to their experiences and knowledge.

“One of the greatest attributes of play is the opportunities it affords for learning to live with not knowing: we all learn more effectively through trial and error, and play is a non-threatening way to cope with new learning and still retain self-esteem and self-image.” National Institute of Childcare and Education

The Waldorf Research institute writes;

“Creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy children. Play helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it. It allows them to digest life and make it their own. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity, and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With creative play, children blossom and flourish; without it, they suffer a serious decline. Parents, teachers, and mental health professionals alike, are expressing concern about children who do not play. Some seem blocked and unable to play. Others long to play, but policies and practices at home and in school have driven open-ended, self-directed play out of their lives. Children no longer have the freedom to explore woods and fields and find their own special places. Informal neighbourhood ball games are a thing of the past, as children are herded into athletic leagues at increasingly younger ages. Add to this mixture the hours spent sitting still in front of screens - television, video game, and computer - absorbing other people’s stories and imaginations, and the result is a steady decline in children’s play.”

Forest School addresses these needs by allowing creative play within an outdoor environment and encourages free play and child led learning.

Freedom & Flexibility

Our Wild At Heart provision in planned carefully, each session plan is deliberately designed with freedom and flexibility in mind.  The planned activites lead onto other things through the children’s ideas and curiosity.  This freedom and flexibility is crucial to allowing the free flow of creativity from the children.  Not all children are comfortable with this freedom initially and need to be given ‘permission’ to be allowed to play. Symbolic Play, (which allows control, gradual exploration and increased understanding without the risk of being out of one’s depth) is used as they are often unsure how to play, and where to begin, which is why the structure of the session planning is needed.  Structuring activites at the beginning of the session gives the children their boundaries to work in, which in turn brings confidence to explore with ‘permission’ – they are ‘allowed to play’.

During a Minibeast Hunt with a group of younger children, one child “saw a snake”.  The snake was in their imagination, and when I asked where was the snake now? She replied, “in it’s log pile house of course silly!”  Whereupon it became obvious we were in ‘The Gruffalo’s Wood’ and we began to act out the story, building homes for the other animals in the story – an example of Recapitulative Play (that allows the child to explore stories and rhymes).

In a Science lesson studying Habitats, the temptation would be to say ‘no, we have to look for minibeasts’, at Forest School this freedom and flexibility is not only okay, but actively encouraged.

References:Waldorfresearchinstitute.org,Forest School Handbook p72

The relationship between play and learning is obvious to many however some people believe that children need to "work" not play, and that playing serves no useful purpose in a learning and development environment.

The National Institute of Childcare and Education lists the benefits of play as:

  • children approach tasks readily and willingly
  • children are open and responsive to the learning within the play activity
  • children are willing to "try", and feel that they can "have a go" without fear of failure
  • children learn easily from their peers, working as an effective group
  • children establish constructive and positive relationships with those involved
  • children explore and find out at a level that suits them
  • children can negotiate their own response to the learning situation within the play activity
  • children sustain high levels of focus and interest
  • children are able to offer their own input into the activity, feeling involved and listened to

Reference:www.niched.org

Meeting the learning and development needs of individuals.

Forest & Beach School meets the learning and development needs of individuals including appropriate risk taking, social and emotional development and the building of self confidence.

ROSPA  “Schools have a primary duty to safeguard the staff and young people in their care while at the same time creating the 'risk aware, but not risk adverse' citizens of  tomorrow .....  we should endeavour to make schools as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.”

RoSPA  talks about safety for all beginning with Engineering, Enforcement and Education.  The UK’s resources enable us to Engineer and Enforce one of the Safest Environments for our children to live and develop in.  However this does not teach them how to deal with Risks and Danger when they step outside of that Safe Environment.  As Educators, the Forest & Beach School Practitioners must create environments  for children to experience and develop their skills outside the safe boundaries of their ‘normal’ setting.  They need to be able to interact with their environment in a safe manner, developing the skills to be able Risk Assess their situation and learn to deal with it accordingly, in order to keep themselves and others safe.

For example in our Forest School environment the children will encounter nettles. This is a risk. We do not remove the nettles and thus the risk. We teach the children about the nettles and that they will sting if they brush against them with their bare skin.  We also teach them that this, although painful for a short time, will not last long, and can be treated by rubbing with a doc leaf found nearby.  In doing this, the children learn about the risk, the consequences of the risk, and how to cope with the risk. The children are then encouraged to share their knowledge of the nettles with others to help in keeping everyone safe, thus sharing the knowledge of the risk with others.

References: RoSPA.com

Promoting emotional intelligence, self esteem, appropriate behaviour and learning.

The Elements of Self Esteem

Self worth: ‘The value you have for your life and your accomplishments’

As a measure of the availability of our Spirit or Being Self to believe in ourselves. Self-worth comes from a source on the INSIDE of us. We create it through Faith, by acting on the singular belief that we matter. Self-worth is the foundation of our ability to believe in ourselves’ Characteristics of positive self-worth include;  a willingness to try new things, demonstrating a sense of security, saying that he or she is loved, showing that they are confident and capable. Many toddlers and preschoolers have a high sense of self-worth because they live in loving homes with lots of attention. Others, however, experience a very different environment and demonstrate characteristics of poor self-worth; usually sad, is fearful, irritable and never tries anything new, often suffers from unexplained pains, aches, and complaints and doesn't seem to thrive, frequently saying they feel unloved, and don't show love to others.

Self Image/Concept: ‘How you think others think of you and your accomplishments’

A person's self-image is the mental picture that they see of themselves.  This includes not only realistic features seen by others (height, weight, hair colour, etc,) but also thoughts which have been learned by that person about themselves from personal experiences or from the judgments of others. A simple definition of a person's self-image is their answer to the question "What do you believe people think about you?" A lot of articles on Self Image relate to Body Image such as the BBC News article 18260133 relating to School children needing body image lessons, but self image is more than just a body image.  It is how much you think somebody likes you, how intelligent you are, how happy you are etc.

Ideal Self: ‘Who you think you want to be?’

The Ideal Self is an idealized version of yourself created out of what you have learned from your life experiences, the demands of society, and what you admire in your role models. The ideal self represents hopes and wishes often based on role models.  Role models are a huge influence, but not always a good model to follow. During children's primary school years, they begin to think about what they would like to be like. This is sometimes referred to as the 'ideal self’. Often these ideas are unrealistic and unachievable.

Self Esteem: ‘The distance between my actual self and my ideal self’

A fluid distance – the bigger the gap the lower the Self Esteem, the smaller the gap, the higher the Self Esteem – moves in a seesaw motion.  High Self Esteem is thinking well of oneself and self-respect. Esteem can be a very favourable opinion or high regard for someone or something. However it can also have a negative effect resulting in low Self Esteem thinking negatively about oneself with little self respect.

Actual Self: ‘Who you think you actually are?’

Two different theories of the “actual self" firstly the “actual self” represents who a person actually is and secondly it represents the person that he or she believes that people in general or significant others believe them to actually be. You can be a different person to different people according to the role you play in their lives.  As a Parent, Guardian, Spouse, Partner, Child, Sibling, Cousin, God-Parent, Friend, Professional, Colleague, Student and Forest & Beach School Practitioners. To each Significant other we perceive our Actual Self differently, as a learner, equal, teacher and facilitator, role model, leader or follower.

References : Archimedes Course Training 28.9.12, Leo Bogee, Jr.1998, parenting. Org, Wikipedia.org, BBC News article 18260133, Kath Bulman 2005,

The Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Self Awareness:Having a clear perception of your personality, (including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.)

It allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. Self awareness enables you to change your thoughts and interpretations. Changing theses interpretations allows you to change your emotions. Having self awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you and lets you control your emotions, behaviour, and personality to make the changes you want.

Self regulation:The ability to control your emotions and behaviour consciously and unconsciously in different situations.

You need to be self aware in order to regulate your behaviours. Self regulation in learning is guided by metacognition- ‘thinking about one’s thinking’- strategic action and motivation.  Being able to take control, plan, monitor and evaluate your personal progress against a standard of your choice. Emotionally, self regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you're upset and cheer yourself up when you're down.

Self motivation:The ability to identify set and control your emotions to achieve both short and long term goals for yourself.

Self-Motivation is a quality that some people have naturally and some need to develop. It is the inner drive to do something independently, without a teacher, parent, or friend helping you. The quality of self-motivation is valuable in learning and at home.  Lack of self motivation can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Empathy:The identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.

It is the understanding of another person's condition from their perspective - you place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. ‘The ability to perceive and appreciate things from another’s perspective and use that to make appropriate choices’. Empathy recognizes emotions that are being experienced by another person, animal or fictional being. Empathy increases helping behaviours in children.

Social Skills:Interpersonal social skills.

Sharing, asking for permission, joining an activity, waiting your turn, persuasion, active listening, delegation, and leadership, all affect your ‘ability to influence and respond to others using appropriate verbal and non verbal communication’.  They are the skills a person uses to communicate and interact with others. The process of learning such skills is called socialisation.  These skills enable us to know what to say, how to make good choices, and how to behave in different situations. The extent to which children possess good social skills can influence their academic performance, behaviour, social and family relationships, and involvement in extracurricular activities.

References: Archimedes Observation form 2012, geekofriendly.wordpress.com,  pathway to happiness.com,  wikipedia.org 2012, psychology today 2011, inspirationfeed.com 2012, National association of School Psychologists 2002

Wild At Heart aims to raise the ‘See Saw’.  Insecurity leads to a spiral of negativity resulting in a poor Self Image, low Self Esteem, a poor view of your actual Self and consequently little or no belief in your Emotional Intelligence. All these factors fuel the feelings of insecurity further, and the cycle continues. Self Esteem, Emotional Intelligence behaviour and learning are all intrinsically linked. If one area is impacted then all 4 areas will be impacted, as no one area stands independent of the others. These impacts can affect children in a positive or negative manner, and can be a fluid movement in both directions. This affects their behaviour and learning because without self confidence and self motivation a child will not believe they can learn anything. This lack of belief can lead to either withdrawal or outbursts of frustration, neither behaviour is acceptable or enabling learning to take place. All these areas need nurturing in order for children to thrive.

However, with careful nurturing and leadership skills, as Forest & Beach School Practitioners  we seek to raise these levels. By allowing children the freedom to chose within the boundaries set, feelings of security begin to rise. Knowing that ‘Okay is Okay’ and with the praise and encouragement of  adults and peers, children’s feelings of Self Worth, Image and their perception of  their Actual self, will begin to raise their Self Esteem. This has a positive effect on the cycle, raising their Emotional Intelligence, Self Awareness, Regulation, Motivation and social skills. This in turn raises their feelings of security further and now a positive cycle is created.

Through Wild At Heart we aim to help children to feel as good about themselves as possible through:

  • Giving them the freedom of space and movement (removing the box), this allows the unacceptable behaviours within the classroom to become acceptable to the leader and the child.
  • Giving them independence, allowing them to make choices for themselves and others.
  • Consulting them for ideas, showing that I value their opinions and ideas.
  • Establishing that ‘okay really is okay’, not being critical of their efforts.
  • Giving them lots of praise and encouragement.
  • Giving them ‘permission’ to follow their ideas  and thoughts, not being held back by constraints of the curriculum.
  • Giving them sharing opportunities , both their ideas and on a practical level, to raise levels of Self Image.
  • Observing children, identifying how they can thrive and develop in unexpected areas, and areas still needing development.
  • Promoting learning through a preferred learning ‘style’, providing opportunities to learn using those ‘styles’.
  • Pairing children with similar ‘styles’ together so that they both develop increased social skills and behaviours in a preferred way.

All these approaches combine to give children every opportunity to build upon their Self Esteem by improving their Self worth and Self Image, and  increase their self motivation and Emotional Intelligence through Forest School.

All children are unique.  However they are grouped together for different reasons at different times, either by gender, age, physical abilities, interests,  families, clubs, schools, learning styles and behaviours.  At School, children are grouped by their age. The majority of children cope well with this, interacting with their classmates and teachers, regardless of gender, disability, interests and family backgrounds. However this can create problems for some children as their physical age and their mental and emotional age does not always seem to correlate, resulting in children who are ‘very young/immature for their year group, or very old/mature and this can have an adverse impact on their behaviour.

Having a physical disability can have a huge affect on children’s social behaviour depending on their individual personalities and outlook.  A child who has been told ‘you can’t do that because...’  will behave differently to a child who has been told ‘yes you can do this...’This attitude of telling children ‘you can do this..’ or ‘you can’t do this...’ has such a huge impact on their learning and experiences in every aspect of their lives.  Whether it is a parent encouraging a toddler to build a tower of blocks, or a teacher telling a child about their Numeracy task, it is vital that children are given the chance and opportunities which show we do believe in them so that they will believe in themselves.  The child who is labelled quiet, will continue to be quiet, the child who is labelled naughty will continue to be naughty, the child who is labelled poor at maths will continue to  believe this.All children have the potential to be alert, attentive, motivated, enthusiastic and engaged when  they see importance and pleasure in what they are learning , and are given encouragement, praise and opportunities to success. They must be able to apply learning in a meaningful way in their world.  Children learn in different ways and have preferred learning stylesThey also take in information in different ways – The ‘See-ers’  (visual), ‘Hear-ers’ (Auditory) and  ‘Do-ers’, (Kinaesthetic).

The children’s  immediate environment impacts on their learning and behaviour.  This impact can have a positive or negative effect.  For some children the structure of a classroom is like being contained in a box, leading to feeling like a ‘prisoner’. This in turn leads to feelings of entrapment, anger, frustration and in some cases fear which all have a negative impact on behaviour.  Conversely some children find too much ‘space’ equally frightening -such as going into the hall for exams.  They prefer the familiarity and security of the classroom.

For some children their natural behaviour is more physical and is acceptable in an outdoor space; running, throwing etc.  For these children being ‘contained in a box’ makes every day an added challenge.  These acceptable, natural behaviours are not acceptable in ‘the box’ and these children struggle to control their behaviour, often becoming labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘disruptive’.  For these children Forest School and the outdoors  puts them into an environment where their behaviours become acceptable and gives them a release from ‘the box’ and the freedom to be themselves within the Safe boundaries of Forest & Beach School.

Reference:Trevor Hawes effective teaching & learning within the classroom 1998

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