Forest School teacher training

I am currently training to be a level 3 Forest Schools teacher. The course takes around nine months to complete and then I will be able to lead group of children or families for Forest School activities in the woods. Forest School teaches practical skills like tree identification, whittling, fire-lighting and den building alongside life skills like team-work, emotional intelligence and confidence building.

I am so excited! I have been wanting to do this training for years, but have never managed to find the money or time until now. I spotted a course in the woodland near to where we have our cabin, and decided to bite the bullet and book in. I have scraped together the cash and called in favours from family and friends to help with childcare. The course takes seven practical skills days and then 120 hours of writing. I have to plan and run six sessions for a client group taking then through a Forest Schools experience in either a wood belonging to a school or other setting. I am loving the course so far and thought I would share ten photos here on my blog that I took over the past few training days.

 

IMG_5846 The morning sun shining through the leaves still clinging onto a Beech tree.

IMG_5889Making an Elder bead necklace.

IMG_5884I co-lead a session making ‘nature crowns’ as part of a presentation on educational theory

IMG_5886 Making tent pegs by cutting and whittling a piece of wood.

IMG_5626 Collecting interesting tiny items on a woodland walk.

IMG_5629 Making a home for an owl!

IMG_5638 Using viewfinders to focus in on textures.

IMG_5831Lighting a fire using a flint ready to cook my lunch.

IMG_5641 Learning how to make a ‘wood-cookie’

IMG_5649My shadow looking enormous in thermal layers and waterproof! Full days spent out doors were wonderful but cold! It was very important to dress for the weather and drink lots of cups of tea.

Snow day!

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On Boxing day evening it started snowing, the children were beside themselves with excitement. Last winter we barely had any frosts let alone snow, so Little S has never seen the snow. The snow turned to sleet overnight and had pretty much gone by the morning, the children were sad but we carried on with our plans of meeting some of our favourite people for a Christmassy walk up at our cabin. The cabin is about 10 miles from our house, on some higher ground, and here the snow was still very much covering the ground and making a winter wonderland- woo hoo! cue thrilled kids again! We had a lovely day cosying up in the cabin eating Christmas cake and enjoying a long walk through the woods. We only wished we had taken the sledge! Here is a little photo-story of the day.

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A night in the woods

We decided yesterday afternoon to go to the cabin for the night. I grabbed a bag of clothes, packed some food and collected the girls from school. Rushing to beat the traffic, we dashed out of the city to spend a few precious hours amongst the trees. The sun was setting as we arrived. I had a brief, peaceful walk to take some photos. Then we lit candles, played scrabble and cards, ate a simple dinner and had an early night. Bliss.

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Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool ZONES

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Zone 00 – The person or people involved. – My family, the other family and visitors. The cabin sleeps up to 7 or 8 people at a squash in 2 double beds and a large sleeping platform for numerous children to squeeze into together. We usually use the cabin as 2 families of 5 people each. We can fit 5 people around the table and on the sofas.

Zone 0 – The centre of activity – The cabinIMG_6821Part of the inside of the cabin, zone 0 (More photos of the inside are below)

The cabin has basic facilities for sitting, eating, cooking, washing and sleeping. The toilet and showering facilities are a short walk away. The cabin sits on a pot approximately       46 X 30 ft and the cabin itself measures  26 X 11 ft. It faces south-west.

Zone 1 – Close to the house and intensively used – Deck and sheds.     IMG_6815The cabin, zone 0 and the deck, zone 1

We store all manner of useful things in the sheds, bikes, BBQ, building materials we are hording that will come in useful one day. The deck is used for sitting in the sunshine, watching the children playing, reading the paper etc. There is a bench (rotten and falling to pieces) and a table and chairs where we eat meals if the weather is kind to us. The deck is made of wood, it is slightly too narrow to seat us all comfortably and it is un-edged, leaving us anxious that baby S will crawl over and fall down the 4 foot drop to the front garden. The deck is open to the sky providing no protection from the rain or sun. We store our boots and shoes here in a huge plastic box with a lid.

Zone 2 – Close to house, managed and used regularly – Front garden.                 The view from the deck looks out to a tiny front garden where we have a fire-pit. The area has scruffy grass, numerous trees on the boundary (See map) and some rambling roses. We have a paved path up one side of the garden leading from the gate to the steps up to the deck and further along the side of the cabin to the sheds and back door. There is a dry stone wall that requires attention along one side with the neighbours. We have put up a washing line alongside the path.

Zone 3 – Semi-managed and used less often – Immediately outside our boundary. IMG_6819Zone 3 looking towards zone 4

There is a space to park our car and a few trees where we have made a swing for the kids. There are neighbouring cabins on either side, one is well used, the other is well-kept but I have never seen anyone there.

Zone 4 – Semi-managed/ semi-wild area. The grassy area and young woodland. Then an open aspect sloping grassed area, a line of trees then a larger sloping field that has recently been planted with lots of native trees. This slopes down gently for maybe 500 metres to a stream, then gardens and one row of house then the road.

Zone 5 – Wilderness. – The woods.                                                                                The woods are a 1 minute walk away from our front door. It is a mixed woodland surrounding an old slate quarry. the quarry pit is filled up with water and fenced off from visitors. The woodland consists of lots of oak trees, brambles, honeysuckle, some holly, silver birch and hawthorn trees. The woods are carpeted by bluebells in May. The woods are open to the public and well used by dog walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders and walkers.

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Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool PASTE

This is our cabin, our tiny home-from-home in the woods. We have recently started sharing it with another family and are we are more than a little bit in love with it. It is on a site with maybe 60 other cabins dotted around the border of a wood. It is a 20 minute drive from our house but feels like another world to escape into.

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We have used it quite a lot recently. We had a lovely day there at the weekend wandering around the golden woods and admiring the autumn colours. We had four nights there over half term. The little kids and I are going up there once every week for lunch after our Forest school session which is nearby. And my husband and his friends used it for their ‘Man camp’ They meet up every year for a boys weekend of camping, walking, talking and beer drinking. They were due to go further afield and sleep under canvas but the forecast was grim so they opted for real beds, cooking facilities and a wood burner instead of muddy fields and damp tents – a good decision.

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We have been visiting the cabin for about five years. We have borrowed it from our friends for the occasional weekend as detailed in my previous post called a cabin in the woods (Sept 2013)

I have started the observation stage of my design for the cabin. I have used PASTE

PASTE (Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools, Events)

PLANTS Native woodland, largely Oak trees, also Beech, Silver Birch, Holly, Bracken, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Bluebells and Rambling Roses.  Some open grassed areas.

ANIMALS Squirrels, foxes, mice, people, dogs, horses, birds, insects.

STRUCTURES Wooden cabin build largely from recycled materials. No insulation, scavenged windows, some rotten wood. Space for sleeping, eating, cooking, playing, sitting etc. Water tank, gas cooker, wood-burner. Two sheds and a wooden deck with wood storage underneath. Paved paths.

TOOLS Various materials for future building projects, windows, paving slabs, breeze-blocks, wood. Some tools for basic carpentry jobs. No electricity/ mains water or mains gas. My husband, J and the other owners, V and S have good DIY skills and are keen to work on the cabin. Not much money available.

EVENTS We use the cabin for a retreat from our normal lives. We are aiming to come up here for regular weekends away, half term holidays and a longer break during the summer. The aim is to switch off from the busy outside world and relax and enjoy a simpler life. That is sometimes a struggle with three children to contend with. If it was just J and I, we would happily just eat, sleep read and walk but the kids do seem to need more than that! We have found that if we invite friends or family up to the cabin too, the children are happier and more content. The space is small, so that can get rather squashed.