As seen in the video, Beat Baby is a fun way to introduce rhythm which supports development in the areas of communication, physical development and literacy as well as encouraging attention, concentration and use of memory.
It is a fabulous resource to have and is great to use at forest school or within the setting. There are a number of publications relating to these activities written by Ros Bayley and Lynn Broadbent and a variety of Beat Babies for the children and adults to use.
Linda & Dan
Bayley, R & Broadbent, L. Helping Young Children With Steady Beat. Lawrence Educational Publications: Walsall.
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The United Kingdom has a history of recognising the importance of implementing learning from nature . An example of this are the educationalists McMillan (1911) and Isaacs () as cited in Ethical living education (November, 2012). their foresight transformed pedagogy early in the Twentieth Century.
However, childhood within the 21st Century has been increasingly dominated by new information including Information Technology, environmental factors and the overwhelming protectiveness "cotton wool theory" of modern day parenting. As practitioners we know and realise the importance of being outdoors. The freedom of the great outdoors releases natural stimulants that inspire the children's literacy and numeracy. Ofsted (2013) have changed focus on attainment within the National Curriculum. Their actions have re-launched the phenomenal importance of how within the EYFS framework (2014) outside learning covers all aspects of development.
The outdoor learning environment provides children with the opportunity to move freely. Ouvry (2003) maintains children develop a deeper level of creative thinking. Essentially, the benefits of outdoor learning develop confidence in their skills and self esteem in taking risks effectively. Internationally, reports from Scandinavia demonstrate children appear healthier, play more flexibly, have increased gross and fine motor fitness along with improved balance and co-ordination. We need to provide the affordances of various outdoor seasonal environments to create a diverse and stimulating learning area.
Looking back to the sunny weekend in September we can see how much has been learnt about forest schools
including the historical context, the benefits to all including the importance of promoting risky play, the role of the practitioner and how to go about planning.
It was interesting looking at the development of outdoor play through history and the theorists who promoted this type of learning. Working with other practitioners on this blog has brought together knowledge, experience, skills and interests which have supported our continuing development and exploration of forest schools. The research has shown that all children can benefit from these activities and that they promote learning in all seven areas set out in the EYFS Statutory Framework (2012).
We hope that reading this blog encourages other practitioners to have ago and take part in forest school activities.
"The best-kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky"
Margaret McMillan (cited in Davy 2012)
My initial thoughts towards creating a forest school were of uncertainty, although just one weekend of team work made a huge difference in terms of confidence. Two months on, and my mental knowledge has caught up with the practical knowledge I learnt on that day. I now feel far more knowledgeable in the theory and history of this subject, and although a forest school leader requires a level 3 qualification, I believe I feel able to assist with forest school sessions. Additionally, I am far more likely to pursue forest school training in the future.
As my first piece of research, I felt inspired by Sara Knight's 'Forest School for All'. With so many case studies included in the book, what really came through were the passion of the practitioners, the advantageous learning to children and adults alike, and the sense of achievement and purpose for all in seeing a finished product after each session.
Likewise, working in a group to produce this Blog was truly an enjoyable experience. All members shared their talents and i was able to learn so much about subjects such as planning which I felt I lacked skills in.
I have helped to compare Forest School in other Countries, and although we are not the forerunners, through research i have observed a great deal of excitement and encouragement of this subject. Knowledge about Forest School in Britain is certainly growing and in time, I believe outdoor learning will become the norm.
The process of creating this blog has increased my knowledge and understanding on the concept of Forest Schools. This module positively challenged my own view on children’s learning. By being given the practical opportunity to learn outside one weekend in the woodland environment, helped to shape my own way of thinking towards the possibilities of learning in the outdoor environment.
From the research carried out by myself and the group members we were able to put together our findings and develop our blog. This journey has been invaluable to our own individual development. Personally, I have been able to practice academic skills such as skim reading. Allowing me to quickly identify key pieces of information also working alongside others allowed good practice to be shared.
As a resource, the book “Developing a Forest School in Early Years Provision” (Doyle & Milchem, 2012) gave me a real introduction into Forest School ethos. The clear and concise chapters within the book allowed me to as a beginner add to my knowledge as I wished.
Having started this topic with very little knowledge, I can safely say my confidence on the topic has improved and I cannot wait to share this information with other Practitioners and participate in future Forest School sessions.
Since creating and developing this blog I have personally learned that the strength of a forest school in the Early Years is the promotion of a healthy understanding of the outdoors. Furthermore, it assists in helping a young child's early developmental needs. A forest school environment can provide risk and challenges for the children and provide a chance to take part in new and more exciting activities in an outdoor environment and I personally feel that I now understand how to use forest school as a tool in my setting. Forest school is a relatively old idea and has been thought about in the past by the early learning theorists. I feel that every practitioner needs to allow every child to access a forest school environment as it is a fun and exciting way to promote health, well being and boost their early development.
In 2011 the ethos of the UK Forest School Community agreed to six principles of good practice. The criteria to meet these standards are for Forest School to be a long term process in a woodland or natural environment. As it develops the relationship between learner and the natural world, to promote the holistic development of all involved, by fostering resilience and to take supported risks. Practitioners are suitably qualified by continuously developing their professional practice and in the process is learner centred to develop learning. These ethos blend into Bruner's (1957) scaffolding theory and Vygotsky (1978) theory of extending children's competence as cited in Veale (2013), as the child is invited to question and find the answers themselves.
It is important that forest school sessions are planned for in the areas of staff ratios, resources, age and ability of children accessing the area and conducting the risk assessment. Activities are planned for covering learning in all seven areas of development and are informed through observations and assessment. These plans need to be flexible so that children's interests can be followed which may lead to a different outcome to that set out in the planning.
The DfE (2014 p.g. 9) states that "in planning and guiding children's activities, practitioners must reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in their practice." Our planning allows us to promote the characteristics of effective learning allowing the children to play and explore, learn in an active way and to create and think critically (DfE 2014)
An example of Linda's planning
A plethora of activities can be linked to Forest School, such as these beautiful hedgehogs. The children at nursery went on woodland walks for a week, collecting materials such as leaves and sticks along the way. The children had a sheet showing different types of leaves allowing them to search and match, and they spoke about safety when they discovered berries hidden in the bushes. When they returned to pre-school, they created these hedgehogs from clay and the sticks they had collected; although this type of activity could likewise be accomplished during the outdoor session.
What do you think of the children's outdoor inspired crafts?
Introducing and establishing a Forest school area could be daunting. However, imagine happy children enjoying the element of freedom and space, being free to explore, take risks in a less constrictive way. It is stated within the Early Years Framework (Dfes, 2014) “wherever possible there should be access to an outdoor play area” creating a Forest area is taking the next step. Ouvry, (2005, p15) supports this by stating “In this heavily structured world when are children to play and socialise freely outdoors”.
Establishing a Forest school at your setting will be challenging, time consuming and comes at a cost around £850-900. Forest school Leader Award to level 3 would be required along with outdoor first aid training, this award is carried out over 5 days as well as completing a portfolio including policies and procedures. Suitable all weather clothing should be purchased by yourselves or parents, be sensitive to family circumstances regarding the buying of water proof clothing, is there provision to be made that you can offer? Likewise the setting needs the facilities to dry and store clothing and wellington boots.
Buck & Nettleton (2006) state having understanding, supporting parents may help with the conversion of your chosen area, as they may volunteer their muscles and time; saving some money. Conduct a skills audit, find out how people can help, make a list of what is currently outdoors. Involve the children in raising the profile of what you are planning in the setting, it is important to have everyone’s views. Encourage parents to attend any meetings as this will allay any fears they may have as well as promoting the ethos of Forest School.
Before the Forest school is running a risk assessment should be carried out, ensuring that practice is consistent throughout the setting. Health and Safety procedures are paramount in accessing Forest School, Buck & Nettleton (2006) list the necessities needed: a first aid kit, mobile phone should be carried at all times, ensure adult ratios are appropriate to the number of children accessing the outdoor area. Take into consideration legislation related to policies and procedures this applies outdoors as well as indoors, obtain liability Insurance, be inclusive ensure all children are able to attend Forest school.
“When children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons-what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over and fall from!”
Cornall, P. Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, (2007) Forest School Wales
FOREST SCHOOL SAFETY SWEEP EVIDENCE
Before each Forest School session there will be a safety sweep of the forest school site to look for and assess immediate risks. Safety sweeps will be recorded and filed by the forest school leader.
Name of F S Leader: Weather:
Check list: Comments:
Tool area roped off
Other hazards identified:
Linda's Forest School Safety Sweep
In the Statutory Framework for the early years foundation stage, the DfE (2014 pg28) reminds us that, "Providers must determine where it is helpful to make some written risk assessments in relation to specific issues, to inform staff practice, and to demonstrate how they are managing risks."
Knight (2011, pg110) states that, " the life of a risk assessment is only as long as the conditions stay exactly the same, which for some things may be on a single occasion." It is therefore essential that all adults, practitioners and parents, are aware of the possible hazards, needs and abilities of the children involved and the desired outcomes of the session ensuring an appropriate balance between acceptable and non acceptable risk.
Enabling parents to be involved with their child’s outdoor learning is essential. In order to do this, effective communication plays an integral part. Practitioners and parents need to have an established clear path of communication (this may be different for families), this will help pave the way for support, encouragement and involvement from the parents.
Parents may know very little, or perhaps a lot on Forest School, involving the parents and using their knowledge is a positive first step. Invite the parents into the setting, tell them what the aim of Forest School is, explain, and provide workshops and information sessions. Gather parent reps who can support and provide valuable assistance. Parents will often talk amongst one another via face-to-face, text or email, this will help to convey the message. There are a number of ways in which you can further promote this learning; letters, posters, leaflets and websites. Using examples of other local schools or practice within the community / county could prove useful to.
By the parents being involved, this will add a great sense of joy to the children’s learning. Also, provide the opportunity for parents to take part in Forest School sessions, majority of children would respond to this extremely well. Parents would be able to see for themselves their child’s development. Parents want to take active interest in their child’s learning and making this accessible for all parents and families is key.
We live in an increasingly diverse society and it is important that we look at the individual child and adapt practice allowing all to achieve their full potential. Herbert & Moir (1996, pg. 56) informs us that, “it is the right of all children to be given the opportunity to grow, to play, to socialise and to learn alongside their friends with their local community.”
Within the forest school environment opportunities are made available for all to be involved in their own way. Reflecting on what has been researched previously in this blog we have seen the holistic nature of learning within this enriching environment and how the individual’s skills and interests are used to inform planning and to develop activities. The freedom offered in the outdoor environment allows exploration and experimentation in ways appropriate to the individual so promoting development, taking into consideration individual learning styles.
The nature of forest school allows all individuals to have ago either approaching an activity on their own or as part of a group. The activities and resources can be adapted to the specific child’s needs such as the provision of visual clues to support communication, the deployment of adults to facilitate extra support where necessary and providing appropriate equipment to support the individual’s physical needs ensuring access to forest school for all.
The learner centred approach promoted in forest school means that all have access to this learning environment irrespective of gender, culture, language, special need, ability or experience. Children and staff are all provided with the opportunity to learn from each other.
The Forest School Association in its principles for good practice states the “forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.” They suggest that the forest school leader should link experiences with forest school, school, home and pre-school. All areas of development are promoted including the spiritual characteristics of the individual.
Constable (2012) informs us forest school was initially set up in the United Kingdom to support the promotion of self-esteem and self-confidence it has evolved in such a way that all areas of development can be supported in this environment. Which is what holistic learning is all about. Constable (2012, pg. 8) states “forest school as we know it now is not just about the environment, it’s about the opportunity and empowerment given to the children taking part.”
We can also use the characteristics of effective learning (DfES 2012) to think about the holistic benefits of forest schools. We understand that children are motivated when provided with new and unusual opportunities to explore particularly when these are of interest to them. In the area of creating and thinking critically children involve themselves in activities exploring the environment and focusing for extended periods. Within the area of physical development stamina is improved and opportunities made available to develop gross motor skills.
Looking at the theory behind the holistic approach to learning we find the first mention of it in the writings of Froebel in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, (Constable 2012) His opinion was that opportunities should be made available allowing exploration showing how ideas and subjects were linked. He encouraged children to take responsibility in choosing activities and so build on their experiences. Constable (2012, pg. 2) suggest that, “Froebel didn’t want learning to be compartmentalised into specific subjects but rather an opportunity to explore how all things are linked and fit together.”
Taken from ‘Forest Schools in Great Britain: an initial exploration’ this article outlines the key aims, approach and ethos of Forest School and its relevance to young children. Drawing upon the potential benefits of outdoor play. Maynard and Waters (2007) note, this type of environment encourages development and learning across all areas of the EYFS. Forest School provides an exciting place for children to explore, play and take risks. Children instantly feel ‘free’. Ouvry (2003) states, children have the space to move around freely. Bilton (2002) notes that movement has long been described as the most natural and crucial mode of learning for young children. That said, it seems agreeable that children who can explore and play outside by their own means, will grow and develop in a way which is natural and individual to them. A key factor in this having positive experience is having knowledgeable Forest School leaders / practitioners who can support children during their journey.
Forest School environment makes a suitable setting for Practitioners wanting to observe their key children. Being able to record how that child is playing, who with, what with, adds to an invaluable current picture of how the child is learning.
Child- led learning outdoors allows the child to make their own decisions and set their own challenges. Practitioners may see the children in a ‘new light’ and observe new or different learning styles. Also, Forest School provides a sound environment to learn new skills and increase their knowledge about the world around them. Following the child’s interests allows Practitioners to plan and support with next steps. This type of environment allows children to practice all of the areas within the EYFS, and ultimately deepen their knowledge, skills and understanding of the areas.
Forest school creates a certain sense of adventure maybe a sense of danger, the affordance of a certain layout can develop and promote self-esteem and confidence. The psychologist Gibson (1979) suggested that observation of objects affords to what the object actually does. The theory of affordance was developed by Gibson (1979), this concept is a component in his ecological approach to psychology. Gibson’s (1979) theory is loosely based on Turing (1936) theory, which is a natural movement for exploring and questioning matters that arise in ecological psychology. Characteristics of affordances are seen by Gibson (1977) to be properties that examines the relationship of an animal and the environment, however, it was Gibson’s wife that developed affordance research further with her work on child development.
For example, a child, moving an object affords to carrying and lifting, creating a fire pit affords warmth and burning, and using tools affords grasping and the benefits of this outdoor environment affords behaviour. The theory of affordances also has its critics, Chemero (2009, p9, as cited in Dotov et al. 2012) argues that non-specific information affects the perceiver’s judgment therefore creating a non-reliable source of behaviour.
“An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subjective-objective and helps us to understand its inadequacy. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behaviour. It is both physical and psychical, yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to the observer.”
Gibson (1979) as quoted in Dotov et al. (2012)
Interestingly, a 2010 study made a surprising discovery when testing how aged 3-5 year old children used possible affordances in free play. The study compared play in a playground environment with natural environment, and found that "there is no difference in the level of physically active play" between the two environments. (Storli & Hagen, 2010, p.1) The study found that physical activity from day to day was unique to the individual child, irrespective of the setting. This seems to indicate that the environment does not hold a large affordance for the children's physical development potential. this is interesting, as a natural environment is known for it's rougher terrain compared to a playground setting.
The children were studied for six months, which enabled a large amount of data. However, only sixteen children were studied, potentially rendering the results unreliable due to the small target audience. Additionally, the study only focused on physical activity, and although the results were surprising, it did not enlighten any other opportunities which the environments afforded. such as social and imaginative affordances. The study cites Kytta (2004) when it argues that "children’s ability to perceive affordances develops systematically as they grow and learn new physical skills" (Storli & Hagen, 2010, p.4)
Children in today's modern world lack the element of risk in their play, this links to cotton wool theory. This theory outlines that modern day parents wrap there child up in cotton wool, not allowing them to take the risks they need to to develop. An example of this could be a parent keeping their child inside, this could be because of headlines in the media that are effecting a parents judgement, but doing so the child lacks the chance to take risks and explore the world around them. Forest school is an excellent way in which children have the chance to explore a natural environments, bring many risks with it but also this rich environment is used as a stimulus for there play. The Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2012) states that being outdoors has a positive impact on children's sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children's development. The statutory guidance states that "Providers must ensure that there is a balance of adult-led and freely-chosen or child-initiated activities, delivered through indoor and outdoor play." (DfES, 2012). This ensures that childcare providers must provide access to a stimulating outside environment, hence the positive idea behind forest school. A forest school environment is a stimulating environment allowing risk, challenge and adventure.
Waite (2013) offers some perspective to the decline of the outside classroom. Waite paints the picture of a time when children gained most of their learning from being outdoors, although, she views the UK as one of the countries more recently known for restricting children's exposure to nature. A main reason is a change "in lifestyle and parental work patterns" (Fjortoft, 2004, cited in Waite, 2013, p. 21) Similarly, Waite believes that the use of buggies to speed up the journey, and plastic protective clothing to be detrimental to children's exposure to the natural environment. This is why practitioners roles in providing a challenging outdoor learning environment are so important. The learning which many children receive in Early Years Settings could be the only chance they have to experience nature, risk, and the learning and health benefits which the natural landscape can provide.
Waite believes that instilling children with the view that the outside world is dangerous and dirty could give them "negativistic views" (Wait, 2013, p.22) And this goes against their natural desires; as Worpole (2003) found that "94% of children would want to spend more time out of the house" (Lester & Maudsley, 2006, p. 23) On the other hand, A recent survey for Persil discovered that 64% of children voted watching television as their favourite activity, closely followed by playing computer games (Morton, 2014) The same survey found that two thirds of the 2,000 parents that took place actively discouraged their children from taking part in messy activities such as sport and baking. This clearly had a knock- on effect to their children, as one third felt that looking 'cool' was more important to them than having fun outdoors. (Morton, 2014) This survey highlights the effects of role- modelling, parental influence, and social status to modern day children.
According to Moyles (2010), 'rough and tumble' play, such as the play seen during Forest School sessions, can make a "significant contribution...to supporting social and emotional development" (Moyles, 2010, p. 174). Moyles makes links to the minimal "adult gaze" (Moyles, 2010, p. 175) used in Forest school; allowing child- initiated play to develop. This reduction of adult involvement, along with the freedom and confidence which it provides to children, may be one of the contributing factors of increased social development. Indeed, Moyles believes that rough and tumble play can support holistic development perfectly (Moyles, 2010) However at the time of writing her book, the EYFS (DCSF, 2008) did not include rough and tumble play, meaning that Practitioners often missed this area when planning activities for children. Recent changes to the EYFS (DfES, 2012) mean that risk is viewed as important for children's development, and now that it is in the Curriculum, it will be practised more. The EYFS (DfES, 2012) emphasises the importance of 'Enabling Environments' to a child's learning and development, and clearly states that we must offer "support for children to take risks and explore" (DfES, 2012, p. 2)
Similarly, Bilton (2005) states 'outside is a natural environment for children, there is a freedom associated with the space that cannot be replaced inside'. Societal trends are having a negative impact on children's health and well-being. It now common to hear parents not wanting their child out of their vision, therefore the child is not learning how to access and manage taking a risk. The child is then not equipped to play independently but looks to adult input to manage tasks. Friedmans (2006) report stated 'Nature is crucial for total development of the whole child, regardless of stage, ability or problem'.
What are your thoughts on risky play? Do you incorporate risky play at your setting?
Forest schools can have many beneficial effects on a child's early development. What makes forest school unique is its emphasis on learning outside of the traditional classroom and having the freedom to explore the ever changing environment. To take risks and “assess risk for themselves” (Lindon, 1999, p,11) is paramount, in providing them with a sense of success and raised self esteem, linking to personal development. Forest schools also provide social development For example taking part in activities that include the element of team work. This then begins to develop a child's language skills in their communication with each other. Interacting with peers regarding special interests allows the children to become motivated to use real language in real contexts, ensuring that language is meaningful. There is the element of risk with forest school and the chance is greater for a child to harm them selves, for example tripping over branches or falling from trees, but a child needs to have these risks and challenges in their life so they are able to grow in to a more resilient person in the future.
Forest Schools should be used all year round and the seasonal changes will enhance the opportunity for children’s understanding of the world around them. Doyle and Milchem (2012 , pp. 57, 58) state that in autumn there will be many more leaves on the ground, more seeds, spider webs will become more noticeable. During the winter, the weather will be cooler. The trees will be bare, there may be frost around, this will lead to conversations on how does this affect the animals and their habitats can be discussed. Seasonal changes may affect the Practitioners planning in various ways or help influence. Accessing Forest Schools throughout the year will provide rich, colourful opportunities for the children. The level of risk needs to always be considered before children are allowed to explore. A risk assessment should always be carried out first, to pick up any potential dangerous hazards. Children should be encouraged to help with this, they will feel valued and learn skills to self-assess for themselves. The level of risk will be influenced by the environment your Forest School is taking place is, the current season and the weather.
It is important to consider the level of risk alongside the benefit of allowing the freedom to develop and learn through undertaking exciting and challenging activities. Providing these opportunities will promote the individuals confidence, self-resilience and emotional well-being. It will also give them an understanding of their personal capabilities and boundaries. Without exposure to risks children may lack understanding of being safe and not acquire essential life skills. Children have a natural need and interest in taking risks in play and show a sense of pride when they have accomplished something. Tovey (2014, pg. 21) states that, “the willingness to take risks is an important characteristic of an effective learner.”
Who do you think was the most important pioneer of early outdoor education?