It all started on 10th October 2016 during a particular sunny week in Ham, London and I would go as far as saying it was one of the best weeks of my life. 18 strangers turned up to start the forest school training. We entered as rabbits in headlights and came out 5 days later as ‘The Choo Choo Tribe’ (forest school ref. a clan of small creatures whose town had been decimated by Dragon Sneeze).
As a Devonshire Dumpling who moved to London 5 years ago, I knew that this would be right up my street and I would have a good time but I wasn’t quite ready for how much I would enjoy it. It was like a week of therapy for country bumpkins with withdrawal symptoms. It heightened my awareness of educating in a way that I had lost in the stress and pressure of primary school teaching in London.
At my idyllic primary school in Honiton, Devon I had the best education. I came away not secure in my times tables or many other facts but was rich in outdoor countryside experiences. I spent many an hour with Newton the Newt, (a very creative name for a 6 year old!) hunting out badger footprints and creating parachutes for teddy bears to throw off the local tower. I look back at these times with great fondness and appreciation of such a wonderful childhood, covered in mud, making flower potions and literally looking like a girl who had been dragged through a hedge backwards (one of my mum’s favourite sayings).
Through the training I learned many skills such as knots, putting up shelters and using tools safely but this was not the most important part to me. It was the way in which I felt I had opened up an old muddy door in my brain and out charged a childhood that I want to give to other children.
As a primary school teacher, everyday I feel that I’m having to push the children too hard and can’t give them enough time to develop as little human beings. Emotion intelligence and positive experiences are barged out of the way by SATs, progress, data and knowledge. It is an insane way to educate a child and sadly is not counterbalanced by weekends and evening of outdoor experiences. The age of the iPad and busy working parents in an urban setting limits this greatly.
So anyway, enough of my waffle. I CAN’T WAIT to go back to my school and try to build these experiences into the curriculum. I know it is going to be a battle and I can hear the teacher and parent voices in my head already but I’ve got to give it a shot.