The Headteacher and staff of Caldecote Church of England Academy have always been extremely keen on Outdoor Learning. We feel that learning outside provides opportunities that are simply unavailable in the a classroom setting. Our school is very fortunate to be blessed with considerable outside space and it has been a long term aim of ours to become a Forest School. This is the story of our journey so far...
When Mr Pointon first arrived at the school in April 2018, it was very clear that the staff shared his enthusiasm for Forest School. The dream was to have a wooded area available on site that would serve as our teaching area. Unfortunately, the area we had in mind had been cleared of trees in the past. A plan was needed....
Whilst the staff had plenty of ideas, the best people to ask were the children. What should our outside space look like? What does it need to have? From all their ideas the 'Friendship Forest' was born. We had the plan on paper.
The children wanted a pond, a quiet reflection area, a place where they could build dens and bug hotels. They also wanted a place where they could sit around a fire and sing songs
The first grass cut was in June 2018.
Initially, the outside space was just a plain grass area. The children did not go into the area as it was being left and was deemed out of bounds. We started by cutting the grass to create pathways and little 'hollows' to use as workspaces. The grass was allowed to grow longer elsewhere to create a sense of privacy. Some of the original trees began to show signs of growth and things developed quite quickly.
Obviously, in woodland you have lots of trees and we didn't have very many. We contacted the Woodland Trust and registered to receive some saplings in November 2018. Later that month we planted them in the Friendship Forest. Every child in the school planted and labelled their own tree.
We hope that these trees will grow tall and strong over the next few years to provide fuel and shade for our Forest School Learners.
We will plant more trees each year for the next three years to ensure that the growth of our forest is constant.
Whilst the grounds and site were developing for Forest School use, there was the small matter of qualification. You are not able to deliver Forest School without the appropriate Level 3 Forest School Award. Mr Pointon began his training in March 2019 and completed the course in December 2019. We were very fortunate to also gain another qualified Forest School Leader when Mrs Pike joined the school in December 2019. Outdoor Learning became a fixture of our curriculum from September 2018 but Forest School was fully established from September 2019. Every child now participates in a Forest School session every week.