Including my first qualification I have worked with children since 1998 in various roles and with a wide range of ages. My employment history started with becoming a nanny to four children before moving onto day nurseries and a short spell in a Children’s Centre. I am now currently employed as the manager of No.1, the 2 year old provision at Bentley High St. Primary School which provides sessional care for two year old funded children. No.1 ensures all children have the highest quality early years education as possible enabling disadvantaged families to access 15 free hours per week. Substantial research has shown that children from a disadvantaged background do not achieve as high as their peers and access to education from an early age can narrow the attainment gap.
I have always been interested in professional development and have recently graduated with a 2:1 in the BA Hons Degree in Early Childhood Studies. In addition, I have also completed the Early Years Teacher Status. After completing my degree, I originally thought I would take the natural route onto teaching. However, on reflection I decided this was not the right career path for me as teaching can be very stressful with an overload of paperwork. Upon meeting with a careers advisor, it was suggested I go onto train within Forest School as I have a passion for being outdoors and the natural environment.
In July 2015 I completed Level 3 Forest School training. This looks into the ways practitioners can support children with outdoor learning, using a natural environment, preferably a woodland for learning. When children access outdoor play on a regular basis it allows for healthier, happier children. Children become more confident, creative and greater problem-solvers when accessing the natural world. Through the use of the outdoor environment and the forest school approach, children learn about the environment and experience all weathers and seasons to gain a deeper understanding and respect for the natural world. Regular, long-term Forest School sessions supports children to develop their self-initiated play by using a learner centred approach. Exploration allows for them to develop their curiosity, creativity, confidence, social skills, and communication, empathy and risk-taking abilities.
In May 2015 I set up Forest Friends Forest School which is a woodland playgroup providing families with outdoor sessions available at Balby and Bentley. I have my own page on Facebook which can be visited at www.facebook.com/forestfriendsforestschool if interested. At present I provide 1.5hour sessions for families with young children during school holidays. I lead families on a nature walk, discovering signs of the seasons and environmental changes. Children can also bug hunt, swing in the hammock, play in the mud kitchen, build dens and participate in natural crafts such as blackberry painting, clay, or making instruments with natural materials. I also theme sessions linking them to well known stories such as ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ or ‘The Gruffalo’.
Forest Friends has become very successful as on average I have approximately 30 children attending each session, many of these being regular families. I am very proud to have set up my own small business which benefits young children and their families as it brings them back into nature using our environment to have fun and exciting adventures.
In a world that is full of technology, I believe it is important for families to go back to basics, explore nature and our environment. I am a big believer in ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing’. So…. come on! Wrap up and get your kids back to nature!