Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Pupils grow with forest school

PUPILS at Charvil Piggott Primary School have been learning outdoor skills such as fire-building.

PUPILS at Charvil Piggott Primary School have been learning outdoor skills such as fire-building.

The Park Lane primary has been running a forest school, which teaches children about nature and the environment, since 2014, the year after it opened.

The pupils learn skills not covered in the main curriculum, including how to safely handle knives and build shelters for wildlife.

They have already built a “bug hotel” and a fire pit and regularly take trips to nearby woodland.

Rachel Chopping, who runs the forest school, said: “Forest schools started in Denmark and are all about teaching children resilience, understanding nature and appreciating the environment.

“It’s not quite survival skills but children learn how to keep themselves safe while taking risks.

“A lot of times it will be linked to what they are already learning in their  curriculum.

“When we started the topic was rainforests and it made sense to take them outside.

“It’s amazing for their self-confidence and children who are quiet in the classroom really come out of themselves in the forest school.

“We have a small physical space within the school but the idea is to get out of a comfortable environment.

“We are very lucky to be surrounded by woodland and the parish council and landowners are happy for us to use what we want.”

Pupils usually spend one afternoon a fortnight in the forest school or out on trips in groups of 12.

Mrs Chopping said: “We have our own teaching assistants for the forest school and lots of parents help out as they have really taken it on board.

“The children love it too. It’s new experiences for them and they are full of excitement every time. They always say ‘I didn’t think I could do this’ and that’s what it’s all about — trying things they’ve never had the opportunity to do before.

“It has been very well received in the village too. We see a lot of dog walkers when we are out and they are always friendly and say ‘look, it’s the Charvil forest school’. As it gets more embedded we hope to have more community projects.

“The fire pit was built with logs donated by parents and Charvil Primary School Association while the parish council helped the school get hold of willow for sculptures.

“The bigger plan is to develop the school site. We use this area to practise skills like handling knives before taking the children out into the woodland.

“We want to create more sculptures including a willow dome and have more plants to bring the area to life. Eventually we hope to have some sort of water feature.

“We are in negotiations with the council to have a forest school area in the village in the next two or three years.”

Mrs Chopping hopes to encourage other schools to take up the idea.

She said: “Berkshire doesn’t have many forest schools compared with Oxfordshire, where the idea is much more embedded.

“I’ve been talking to teachers at other schools who want to come over and see it — there’s a lot of interest.

“There are so many advantages for the children, it’s fabulous.”

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