We’ve been delivering a new Family English and Maths course based on Forest School principles and with a significant component of outdoor learning. The course has been designed and delivered by CLC lead tutor Louise Gray, supported by children’s tutor and CLC adult assistant tutor Sue Burd and was delivered at the Spinney on Clapham Common – the old one o’clock club there that is now being managed by Clapham Manor Primary School and Children’s Centre. The Spinney aims to become a Natural Thinkers setting, not only for its nursery and the families who attend stay and play there, but for other schools and settings in the Clapham and Larkhall Collaborative.
Our course introduces adults to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework so that they understand the key areas of learning and development for pre-schoolers. It also explores new ways of supporting children’s development through fun activities in the outdoors. Participants have also been encouraged to create a Nature Nurture learning resource sack for their families to use at home to support developing literacy and language.
Among the many exciting activities in which families have participated, were the creation of transient land art, photography, rhyme times around a Kelly Kettle campfire, learning about forest animals in their natural habitats, making dens, planting, hunting mini beasts and making stick people puppets to support the reading of ‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson, the children’s laureate. Families also went on a very successful trip to Oasis Nature Garden and the team is currently planning their second away day. It is testament to the engaging content that families were still prepared to venture into our outdoor classroom every Monday even with the recent wet weather: they really embraced the principle that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing!
One parent attending commented that ‘I have only been here for a few months from France and I’m learning lots of English words on this course. It is also good to support my child to become more independent through gradual separation from mum as on this course’. Another learner said it had been ‘‘fantastic that I can come here and learn lots of games and rhymes in English as I have no family around me to teach my son games and rhymes in our language’.
Lead tutor Louise Gray said, ‘The Forest School environment provides endless opportunities for children to develop skills in all areas of the early years framework. This course therefore provides a great opportunity for parents and carers to learn ways to support their children’s education whilst developing new skills themselves in a fun environment for both children and adults’.
We have already had interest from other children’s centres that are near to Lambeth’s parks and green spaces and we plan to develop further the course so that we can really maximise the learning potential of these outdoor areas.