Member Update, May 2020

Dear member and friend, 

Greetings from the IFSA ACORN. We hope that you and your families are well and safe at the moment. We extend our sympathies to any of you that have experienced bereavement over the past while. 

We are conscious that for many Forest School practitioners, the continued closure of schools and services has meant that you are unable to earn a living at the busiest time of year for many of you. For the moment, we are experiencing a pandemic that has kept us physically distanced, and while connecting virtually is a lifeline for many of us, we need connection to nature now more than ever. 

The exact outcome for recommencing Forest School sessions is unclear still. We imagine it will be in line with the reopening of crèches and early years services which is proposed to commence on 20th July. See here for the most up to date details. We will update members as more information becomes available. 

What we do know is that being outdoors in nature is a plus and being in small groups is a plus and Forest School fits the bill on both scores. We know Forest School fosters resilience and provides opportunities for dealing with uncertainty and for creativity. We know the long-term nature of Forest School fits well with the kind of response we need to put in place in our education and care settings going forward. We know that Forest School leaders are well used to assessing risk – many are already use tippy taps for handwashing, for example. We know being outdoors in nature is very healing, whether that is Forest School or other nature-based activity. We know that Forest School is about fun and spontaneity and we certainly need lots of that right now. When we are allowed to be in-tune with the changing elements, to get muddy and wet, get curious about insects and wildlife, discover and explore our connection with nature and with human nature, meet new challenges and integrate experiences, we are improving our resilience, mental and physical health and feelings of joy and well-being. 

Our Response Together As we move towards re-opening, we offer some advice and opportunities to stay connected and share your creative responses to this unique challenge. 

In preparation for opening up again, we are advising people to think about ways that your Forest School setting can meet the public health requirements. Communicating well with parents how potential risk is controlled, as well as ensuring Forest School leaders and staff are protected is essential. Think about how you can manage regular handwashing, social distancing, provision of food and drinks, management of tools and equipment. Talk to your insurance provider. Check out whether your usual site is open and make contact with the owners. It may also be a good time to contact local schools and early years settings to offer your services as a Forest School leader, outlining the benefit of Forest Schools as they open up again. This link to an article about Scottish outdoor preschools may be helpful. 

We know that one positive outcome from this crisis will be more consideration of nature- based activities such as Forest School in our schools and childcare settings. We will be writing to the government and to relevant public bodies to promote Forest School as one important part of education provision going forward. We encourage you to get in touch with your local representatives as well. We will circulate a sample letter for you to adapt shortly.

The IFSA ACORN

May 2020