The big premiere – staff training day!

I was asked to run a day long taster of forest schooling to our primary school staff on what turned out to be one of the coldest days of the year. I was apprehensive to deliver the session to a bunch of Londoners who may not embrace my country bumpkin ways. It is so much easier teaching children!

I am lucky to be part of a very supportive school network but I wasn’t sure how they would react to it. I knew it would be hard to encourage some to be outside all day in the freezing cold just after the coziness of Christmas. Some saw it a great start to the January detox and healthy mindset, others were a little more apprehensive.

I taught the day like a extend forest school session with these main sections:

  • Warm up games: to not only try and thaw out people’s toes but to also to warm people up to the idea and embrace the day. These were also games to show everyone ways of developing communication skills through means other than talking. For example body movements, eye contact and sounds.
  • Activities to explore the environment: it was great to see everyone leading each other around the woods blindfolded – a lot of trust needed from a colleague!
  • Problem solving activities – the photo above shows them trying to untie themselves from 2 pieces of linked string. It was amazing to watch the range of emotions coming out across the group. Frustration, anger, determination, hopelessness, sense of achievement to name a few. It was the first time I had been able to observe the whole group and watch the emotions unfold. It was a really powerful exercise and showed people’s personalities in a new situation.
  • Practical activities – nest building in small groups. I was always going to ask each group to present their nest in a range of ways from an estate agent advert to a song or dance but wasn’t sure which task I would give to each group. It was great not having any planned ideas as I was able to allocate the task based on the comments and personalities that had arisen during the day. This ability to observe and change plans to meet the needs of the groups was a point I have really taken on board.
  • Reflection – a mannequin challenge to keep it modern and relevant! I asked the staff to work in groups to sum up the events of the day with a focus on their emotions. This worked really well. You can see our video here:

We came back to school to warm up and discuss the day and how we were going to move forward as a school. I was pleased with the enthusiasm people had towards forest school and how people could see the importance of it within the school curriculum. Logistics, time and support are always an obstacle but I am hoping I will be able to make the journey as smooth as possible for everyone. I feel the biggest barrier was getting people on board so hopefully the hardest part is done!