The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust delivered the Strong Roots – Better Futures project. In this project sessions were delivered after school or in lunchtimes and included: health and wellbeing, adventure, creativity, leadership and environmental sustainability, taking place in schools, parks, reserves or outdoor spaces within walking distance. Specific activities included: Den/shelter building, Bug hunting, Toasting marshmallows, Fire lighting, Natural craft, team building games, Scavenger hunts, Tree swings, tree climbing, Slackline, Clay modelling, Sensory activities (SEND) Bird feeders, building obstacle course, Cooking on a fire and Plant identification
Find below quotes from primary school staff on the success of the project:
‘Group of 14 children aged 4-8 with 2 supporting staff. 9 sessions. Activities took place on the school playing field and around a copse of trees. Included a group of children with high needs, and poor speech and language development; 4 of whom were unwilling or unable to speak and responded with nods and headshakes. They were apprehensive about all the outdoor activities. Activities were initially very guided; it took till week 6 for them to start using their own initiative, own ideas. Once they realised that they could use initiate, imagination and achieve success their confidence really developed.
Group feedback included positive impact on children’s vocabulary (impacted literacy in school) and communication, social skills (sharing taking turns). Some of the non-verbal children attempted to say they enjoyed activities. They were making decisions about how to do tasks and what to do next. They also stopped worrying about getting dirty
One child in the group, in the process of being diagnosed with ASD was non-verbal throughout and refused to join in activities initially (watching other children). On occasions he appeared distressed. In session 4 he started to engage and initiated a conversation with the Forest School leader and spent time tidying up at the end. Over the following sessions he joined in the team work and opened up conversations about his home life to the leaders. Teacher feedback at the end stated: ‘a child with possible ASD found it really hard to join in and get involved at the beginning. However, towards the end of the sessions he has become more confident and willing to get involved’.
“14 children aged 8-10; 2 school adults. Children were selected who were lacking confidence and/or exhibiting anxiety. There was one young girl who had recently moved from Italy whose first language was not English (helped her form friendship, confidence and develop language. Forest School took place around the school playground. The children as a group were engaged early on and keen to be outdoors, a few were afraid of insects – by the end realised that they were not scary after all. Den building was particularly popular, the children to work as a team, solve problems, and find solutions, share ideas.
“the children have developed more awareness of the outdoor area, appreciation of our environment, team work, stronger relations with peers and staff, perseverance and resilience”.
‘….H was a nervous boy who lacked confidence and self-esteem. He also had an eating disorder and food issues. H was too nervous to join the first session, after a conversation with the teacher attended week 2 and every week after that. Initially he was withdrawn and reluctant to interact. He struggled with group activity and spent most of the time alone. Gradually his confidence grew and by week 5 he was going to the forest school leader to say what he had found and asking what was next. His teachers were surprised that by week 7 he was tasting food cooked on the fire.“
Find direct quotes from the children themselves below:
“I love forest school”
“the best day ever”