A day in Kerkus Forest School starts before the children arrive. In fact, it is difficult to say when it really begins to take shape. Is it from the moment the Leaders plan and think about the activities/games/stories to bring to the children? We bring plans and activities to the FS sessions but the children are always the real leaders – bringing their own ideas every time. It is their play and imagination that give shape to the sessions following their own individual pace and interests.
The arrival of the children to the woodland sets off a routine that could be described as circular. Sessions begin and end around the Grandmother Tree: in our FS site she is a big old Sycamore and keeper of the forest. We also gather at the beginning and at the end of the FS session, around the campfire, to check in with each other and talk about possible plans for the session and share highlights and stories about our time together.
Afterwards the opening it is time for play and exploration of the woodland. We normally play a game together to warm up, especially at this time of the year. Then, the children decide what game or activity they will engage – whatever catches their imagination. All of them will move and develop at their own pace.
At Kerkus Forest School the sessions are bilingual English/Spanish and the language skills are introduced in a fun and easy way. For example, we use Spanish in traditional games; children know the dynamic of the games so it is only the Spanish words that are new to them. In this way, the children begin to familiarise themselves with new sounds and words.
Today, for example, we set up a large net between four trees. One side was very vertical and the other end began to descend, working almost as a hammock. Children loved it; some climbed all the way to the top without a second thought, others were more cautious but no less involved, taking a different role. Under our supervision, children learnt to watch others as they decided to launch themselves down the net, to take care of the younger one or the ones that were more insecure. In the game, we were navigators, travellers, monkeys, spiders… The captain of our boat, who at the beginning was just watching the action from a distance, began to take part making “waves” with her crew. The other children were delighted with the new challenge and movement.
During the well-deserved break around the campfire for a food snack and for storytelling, one of the children told us a “short story, not a long one”. And of course, we like short stories too, not all have to be long ones!!
This time of the year it gets dark earlier and today we gave children torches to explore the forest. Under the beam of the torches, everything looked different and more magical. Children began to observe and comment on small details, the softness of the bark, the lichen growing on the trunk…
The session ends saying thanks and goodbye to the Grandmother tree. As the children leave, it is time to take down ropes and climbing net, to put down the fire… We gather all our gear and make sure that we leave the site as we found it. Now it is time for us to reflect and to comment about the session, to see if we have managed to meet and to understand their
needs and preferences as individuals and as a group and also to see how we can improve. Forest School is also a learning experience for the leaders as well.
Pilar and Carolina