By understanding the natural space that a Forest School may occur in and the flora and fauna within, we can become more familiar with changes that occur seasonally as well as those that may be on a smaller scale. Recognising these changes helps to develop a deep understanding of nature, how its different parts are linked and how a change to one may affect many others. Practitioners can create interesting and engaging opportunities for participants to assist in caring for the woodland, its ecology and its wider environment by knowing what grows in which areas and when, over the course of a year.
It’s about caring…
Forest School practitioners have a responsibility for caring for their woodland space as well as the learners using it. Some of these responsibilities are:
- Identifying the possibility for and risk of short and long term impacts on the environment and creating procedures or policies to offset, reduce or reverse these
- Identify invasive species and work to remove these where appropriate
- Be knowledgable about what can and cannot be eaten and touched
- Being mindful of risk
It’s about being responsible…
As young learners, children are hungry for knowledge. They’ll have plenty of questions about what things are and what they do. Having a strong understanding of flora and fauna, how they live and grow, is important to be able to share knowledge about the natural world.
Being responsible for children and other adults is a very important task. A secure understanding of the natural environment that surrounds the Forest School will help to be able to identify hazards and their associated risks. Practitioners should be able to identify poisonous and toxic plants and recognise their edible equivalents. Having a sound knowledge of the area will aid this. Children should be made aware of the variety of risks associated with plant-life. It should be made clear that edibility may change at different times of the year; if a plant is growing at the side of the road, close to rubbish-sites or near other contaminated areas like arable farm land where pesticides or other chemicals may be present. The presence of busy transport routes for humans (roads) and animals (tracks) may also be hazards and the risks should be discussed.
Part of the role of Forest School is to share an understanding of the importance of conserving our natural environments, woodlands in particular. Using too much of the resources present can have a negative effect. Practitioners should always consider how the site is being managed so as to make sure enough of what is needed is available all year, given the seasons:
- Make sure the same areas aren’t used for the same thing all year round
- Forage in moderation: when is enough, enough and when is it classed as unlawfully taking from nature?
- Give enough time for the woodland to rejuvenate between uses