Education and Nature: Forest School Activities for Outdoor Learning
Beckie, a supply teacher, children’s well-being mentor and forest school practitioner, shares a fun activity for National Tree Week 2021.
In an urban environment there are so many children who don’t spend much time outdoors. Forest school gives them opportunities to explore nature in an educational way!
It’s important work — I’ve supported students from city environments who didn’t know how to walk on uneven surfaces. Taking them off the pavements, onto grass, mud and sticks helped them develop confidence in their physical movements. I also believe teaching the next generation to feel comfortable in nature is essential for development and inspiring our future leaders to care for our climate and environment.
What you’ll need
With that in mind, this forest school activity is great for introducing reception and KS1 children to the outdoors!
- A4 paper
- Sellotape or masking tape
- Decorative items, colour pens and crayons (optional)
- Big tarpaulin or a sheet of plastic to sit on if it’s wet (optional)
The younger the children, the more adults you’ll want (i.e. one adult to every two two-year-olds, one adult to every four four-year-olds).
It’s important to involve the children in discussing the safety hazards and I always complete a risk assessment beforehand, looking out for:
- Hazards nearby
- If there are hazards that can’t be moved (i.e ponds or dangerous plants), set physical boundaries where they can and can’t go
- Bad weather or slippery ground
- Appropriate clothing
Safety games such as the ‘1 2 3 game’ can help the students learn about physical boundaries. I’ll say ‘1 2 3 go’ to let the children know they can run around. Then I’ll say ‘1 2 3 stop’ and everyone freezes. I then ask ‘1 2 3 where are you?’ stating a particular child’s name and they respond ‘I’m here!’. We continue playing until everyone has had a turn. To end the game, I’ll say ‘1 2 3 come back’ and have everyone return to me.
Find Five Things
Encourage the children to be selective and choose five items from the forest. For example, rather than selecting five similar leaves from the same tree, suggest they find five different items that are different colours, different sizes and textures. They can collect multiple items and narrow down their favourites later.
Explain that ‘Find Five Things’ is an opportunity for them to explore the environment. You can discuss the other learning objectives too; practicing numeracy by counting items and exercising decision making skills to choose what they like best.
You create the ‘Find Five Things’ collection bags out of A4 paper:
- Fold paper in half
- Use tape or staples to close the sides
- Use string to attach a strap if desired
- A simple collection bag has been created
- Invite the students to decorate them with natural items or pens too!
As the children look for their five items, teachers and parents should keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t put sharp nettles or live creatures in their bag. I once had a student who loved snails so much that we found snail trails all over his coat after he collected them in his pockets!
Once everyone has collected their items, we have a circle time. The children can count their items, make decisions about what they’re keeping and share what they found with the group. Enjoy!
Beckie is a supply teacher, forest school practitioner and founder of Bhumi Yoga, an independent yoga business that offers classes for adults and children. She used Zen Educate, an online staffing platform, as an alternative to supply teaching agencies to find supply teaching jobs in London.
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