What could the benefits to having regular access to nature be?
Frequent opportunities for playing in the natural environment will help to promote a sense of ownership and responsibility, as well as an increased appreciation for nature and respect for its delicate equilibrium. Regular access to nature can help people to contemplate their own position within the wider world. Children, who regularly spend time outdoors, will be able to develop insight into how certain species of plant and animal move, eat and reproduce at certain times of the year and in certain ways etc. This insight can help build a sense of rapport and to bond with nature and to see it as something to protect and conserve instead of dispose of.
How can Forest Schools practitioners help promote positive attitudes towards sustainability?
Forest Schools practitioners are in a special position to be able to work with children to develop a positive attitude towards living sustainably with nature. Simple pre-planned walks, talks and activities can be developed that facilitate explorations of different habitats/woodland areas to build an awareness of the positive and negative impacts of human activity on wildlife. These can be excellent opportunities to delve deeper into conversations that ask questions about human activity and how we, as individuals and groups, can work to reduce our negative impacts and find more ways to positively influence our natural environments.
We could do this by…
- Involving Forest School groups in discussions and activities related to woodland management planning: include children in adult’s conversations and decision making promotes mutual respect and experience sharing.
- Carrying-out plant and wildlife surveys: these are great opportunities for building an understanding of local wildlife and to find opportunities for linking with groups further afield to share information and identify trends etc.
- Using tools: children can help to clear paths, coppice wood and harvest foods. Various tools that are appropriate for different ages can be used to develop physical skills: younger children can use tools for clearing paths at low levels, while older children can use saws for cutting wood, for example.
- Create habitats: involve children in the creation of new habitats to help offset the impacts of Forest School groups using the natural environment.
- Learn woodland crafts: being able to craft using woodland tools and materials is an excellent way to build a sense of mutual benefit.
- Encouraging children to act as ‘little’ teachers: facilitating opportunities for Forest School groups to pass-on their knowledge to other adults and children can help to create a sense of stewardship and the idea of living and working in a interdependent society.
As Forest School groups build their activity over time they can also build an empathy for how nature waxes and wanes and how much effort and energy needs to be included to conserve and protect. Hopefully, this will engender a sense of responsibility to protect what is already there.