Forest school

Letting go of my conditioned view of education and letting her find her way.

Each Wednesday, we drive about half an hour, to our local State Park. It’s idyllic.

We found this place through a local home-school group. They have regular meet-ups at various places, on various days. It’s referred to as ‘forest school’. It’s all very informal. A parent creates an ‘event’. Come along if you wish. There are children of various ages. Get involved as much or as little as you like. This particular one, happens regularly, once a week. The other family we met are also a neuro-diverse family which was rather comforting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Forest School. What does that mean? I saw from previous posts that the children were allowed to explore their environment in a child-led manner. There seemed to be plenty of learning going on, but how was this synthesised into outcomes?

And that’s where my ‘letting-go’ needed to begin. Surprisingly enough, (not surprising at all for some of you), this experience is not at all about needing to synthesis learning into school like objectives, it is about natural learning and growth in the world around. It is about connecting with the environment and each other, following, leading, exploring. Learning to open your eyes to the environment and lifting the vale of conditioning.

The first stage for me, was to sit back and relax. Here I was not the teacher. The river was. The forest was. She was her own teacher. This environment was going to first teach us to let go of the need to control, predict, and record ‘learning’.

She delighted in the river. It was fresh, clean and not too cold. It did however have a very interesting critter which we discovered after it nipped my toes! In Australia we would call it a ‘yabbie’. Here they call it a ‘crawfish’.

Our first visit was mostly about ‘orientation’; for both of us. Taking the time to become familiar with our surroundings. Testing the depth of the water and learning how fast it flowed. Stepping on stones and feeling new sensations under-foot. Learning how long the trek in and out was, what the path was like and becoming aware of how we felt in the environment.

Our second visit, Indi was excited to go. Initially she had been unsure as she had no knowledge of the place and did not know what to expect, but now she had something tangible she couldn’t wait to head back. We met another family at the trail-head and headed in. Our new friends are local to the area so were able to share with us new insights and took us further along the river to another spot to play. This time we had packed a lunch which was lucky because before we new it, 3 hours had passed and she was hungry indeed! With a new friend, Indi was able to explore her surroundings a little more. They both have wonderfully creative imaginations and easily played. This play, is where I found she was beginning to learn. She was learning to use her surroundings in her play. She was learning to feel what felt safe and where she felt uncomfortable, she was learning to communicate with someone new and she was learning to look out for critters, (luckily the water snake was just a twig bobbing in the river but she did discover the unpleasantness of Holly Leaves!).

By our third visit, she had pre-planned some of the things she wanted to do. She took an extra container to collect sand and mud, another water bottle for collecting water from the river, she knew her friend had shovels and much to her delight, she had also brought buckets and ropes.

This week, the thing I was most impressed with, was seeing her courage increase. She was far more adventurous, no longer waiting for others to tell her what to do. She ventured further into the water (safely), she used the tools around her creatively and both shared her ideas and listened to others. She is also beginning to be more observant of the details. Her friend is wonderful at spotting things we are not yet seeing, and pointing them out to us. This is opening Indi’s eyes too. Here are some of the treasures spotted this week. Her favourite is the REAL FAIRY TOADSTOOL!

So, back to learning objectives. I haven’t fully let go yet. I still feel the need to record and justify learning. So perhaps for now it will be via blogging our adventures as I’m not sure anyone (outside of the authorities) are interested in how this is all curriculum related. And hopefully the wellbeing and self growth aspects are self explanatory.

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