FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Where is the forest?
A: It is located in woodland close to west Birmingham, in a private location. It is located three miles from the nearest nursery, five miles from the most distant, so every nursery is within a short minibus ride. It is accessed off a quiet country lane, via a private road and through a locked barred gate. There are no identifying marks at roadside to ensure safety and privacy. We park our minibuses off the road within the private forest area and walk the children around 400 metres to the forest school, following discreet marks on trees.
Q: How safe are the children?
A: The forest setting is risk assessed at every visit. Before children arrive the boundaries are checked. Any rubbish, tree debris, animal droppings and loose branches are assessed and any hazards removed. In the event of extreme weather the visit is cancelled. We have a closed shelter at the site for protection in case of sudden extreme weather. There is fresh water, first aid equipment and fire safety equipment. We have a rapid evacuation plan in place in case of emergency. Staff carry mobile phones (the site has mobile phone coverage) and walkie talkies. Full details of our Forest School Policies are available at each nursery.
The Forest School philosophy is to encourage challenge and discovery. They engage in what we call 'supported risk taking'.
Q: Are there toilet and nappy changing facilities?
A: We have a portable toilet and changing area in a closed shelter at the forest school site for use by children (and adults if required). We plan to develop compost toilet facilities. All toilet waste is removed at the end of each visit in a sealed container.
Q: How often will my child attend Forest School?
A: We want to ensure as many children from the age of 2 1/2 upwards get to visit forest school from each nursery. Each nursery visits on a set day each week; this will be rotated regularly. But we also run forest school sessions back at nursery, bringing the forest school philosophy and opportunities into the setting. This includes bringing back forest treasures to use in artwork, creating dens, exploring wildlife areas, and so on.
We bought the wood in September 2015. It is mostly larch, birch and mature oak, and is called Hearth Wood. The wood had not been managed for a number of years and was prepared by a team led by Forest school leaders Wendi, Simon and Debbi.
A holiday club for children of staff and older siblings of some of our children was held in Easter 2016 to "test run" the forest school and to help prepare base camp and a wood store.
Forest School uses the outdoors as an inspirational learning environment that enables young children to explore and experience the natural world at their own pace and level.
The Forest School ethos focuses on the child's learning needs rather than specific outcomes. Children are encouraged to actively explore and learn using the natural environment. They learn to respect the boundaries of the site, build dens, collect natural objects, climb trees, take risks and cook on an open fire! Forest School provides a good extension to nursery life at First Steps Children's Nursery, where we like the children to be outside as much as possible and plan activities based around their skills and interests.
Learn more about Forest School education here