Hannah Brett CBiol MSB, is an ecological consultant who works with the Heart of the Wildwood charity, Oxfordshire, promoting outdoor learning and a holistic educational approach. The Society of Biology’s Regional Grant Scheme is supporting their Forest School for children and parents, throughout 2015.
Activities at the Forest School include cooking stick bread on the fire, climbing trees, building dens, learning to use tools and mini beast hunting. We also offer some craft activities such as weaving and making bug hotels.
As Ecohab consultants are experienced ecologist specialising in botany, participants of Forest School learn about native plant species and local wildlife whilst on nature walks. We are also preparing and planting organic vegetables in raised beds on an allotment site within the reserve.
During the sessions, children learn how to sow seeds, care for growing plants and maintain the beds. As there is a pond on the reserve, children will also have the opportunity to do pond dipping. Through the experience of being out in all weathers we are hoping to show parents and carers that it can be fun and beneficial for children to become familiar with cold and rainy conditions.
All activities, including the use of tools, teach the participants new skills and the safe use of ‘dangerous objects’ such as a knife. It naturally engages little ones with older ones (help climbing over a branch), children with parents (making a bug-hotel) or parents with parents (over a hot drink, made with water from our storm kettle).
Outdoor play strengthens the immune system, helps children develop in a holistic way and shows them different ways of learning that are not taught in a classroom environment. It broadens their vocabulary, helps them to engage socially and helps children and young people to understand the relationship between us and Nature. Respect for plants and animals as well as our role in the cycle of life often has a great impact on them.
Heart of the Wildwood and Ecohab have recently set up the Forest School in Little Milton on Wells Farm Nature Reserve, part of BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxford Wildlife Trust), thanks to funding from the Society of Biology’s Regional Grant Scheme and Little Milton Parish Council. Sessions every Thursday are free for families and schools but booking is required.