Originally published on the Wildlings Forest School Blog 29 October 2017 - republished with permission.
We’ve had a lot of people ask us what we thought of the FSLI Level 3 Forest School Leader course that we attended in June and whether we thought it was worth signing up for. Coincidentally, we have just had our final observation at Wildlings Forest School where we were assessed on our ability to run a Forest School Session from woe-to-go (everything from safety sweeps, permission forms, emergency contacts, session plans, opening and closing procedures etc) and as our very last assessment we have been asked to write a reflection on the course. So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and answer that question in my reflection and, seeing as I’m an empath, thought I’d shoot for a different angle and tell you how the course made me feel from start to finish so you can judge for yourself if it was worth it…
Prior to the Course
Was this course really going to be worth the time and money and what on earth were we going to do for 5 whole days? Couldn’t this be squeezed into less days? The short answer is no. The long answer is, even if you could, you wouldn’t want to because you’ll be enjoying yourself too much!
Our first real PD as small business owners. Our first real investment in ourselves. Our first real gift to ourselves. Looking forward to having time to ‘play’ outdoors in our happy place (and maybe looking forward to having some time to ourselves without our children…).
During the Course
I found this course empowering on many levels. I’m already an Outdoor Recreation teacher yet I found this empowering because it gave me the tools to be able to do all the fun activities like fire and hand tools with all age groups, not just young adults. As a woman I found it empowering and inspiring to be surrounded by so many other passionate, intelligent, driven, knowledgeable women (and a couple of admirable men) who were so determined to change the way education and ‘play’ is being conducted in some centres (and it is being ‘conducted’. And I felt empowered creating my own crafts with my bare hands – I’d forgotten how rewarding and therapeutic that could be.
When I saw how easy it was to manage a fire and tools with littlies. When you see a program being run with your own eyes, it really is an ‘uh-huh!’ moment. We’re not giving 20 kindy kids flints and getting them to build 20 open fires in a bush fire zone. Everything is safe and manageable but still fun and achievable for all children. The same goes with the hand tools. We’re not sending a bunch of teenagers out into the forest with pen knives, we have high ratios, simple safety rules and fun tasks that illicit really interesting conversation and deep learning from otherwise disengaged children.
The course was fun. It was the first PD course I have ever done where I was engaged from woe to go and didn’t clock watch (yes, even through the WHS section – mainly because it was about fire and tools and children…). The group activities we did allowed my inner child to flourish. It allowed me to see how much fun the children would have if we were having this much fun. We were given ample time to ‘play’ which of course is the embodiment of the Forest School philosophy. Our group was a mix of ages and from different walks of life and work but we all had a little bit of mischief and a little bit of fun in us, as did our instructors – perhaps that is the embodiment of a Forest School Leader!
The course gave me a sense of pride in my new skills and the crafts that I made. A true sense of, ‘I made that’ or ‘we did that’. Again, if my chest can swell like that at 35 years of age in just 10 mins with a pen knife, imagine the sense of pride a 3 year old will have!
By how many people are unhappy with the current system but feel powerless to change it. Surprised by how many people feel like they can educate someone else’s child but not their own. Surprised by how many people don’t realise how controlled the Australian Curriculum is. Surprised that Forest School is only really just taking off here when we have the perfect environments, weather and culture for it. Surprised by how much I learnt despite already being an Outdoor Educator and Teacher.
After the Course
To train others, spread the philosophy of self-directed learning in nature and encourage others to start programs in their local community. We want to make Forest School the norm and accessible to all ages and abilities in all schools.
This was possibly the biggest surprise I got out of the course and also the best. I have found my purpose. Seriously. Who knew that I would find my life purpose in a 5 day training course at the tender age of 35?! Both Vicci and I have been in education in some shape or form all our lives. I’ve completed a Bachelor of Education (HPE & English), an Outdoor Recreation Diploma and a Cert 4 in Environmental Tourism but while I love my students and fellow staff-members, since having my own children, I have been feeling like I’m not where I am supposed to be. I had LOVED the Outdoor Recreation work I did in my twenties but it was seasonal, lecture-like, repetitive and gave the children I taught little to no freedom to learn or guide themselves in their learning journey. However, after completing my Level 3 Forest School Leader course, I came away feeling like I had FINALLY found a way that I could mesh my love of the outdoors and my love of teaching without the guilt. I could use my skills to guide children SHOULD THEY WANT to be guided. And for me therein lies the difference and my purpose. There is no cajoling, bribes, force or coercion in Forest School. Activities are offered and if children don’t want to participate, they don’t.
Children are free to learn how and when they want in and through play. Real play, authentic play, nature play. It is a true joy to watch our children learn and grow, guided only by their own curiosities, needs and desires. I can see already, the benefits of what we do at Forest School in our parents, our wider community and our little wild space.
The impacts of Forest School are wide and more far reaching than I think we will ever know. We are instilling positive change. And for that I am thankful.
My days are busy now, mainly with the administration of running a small business but they are full of purpose and the satisfaction that I am doing good in the world and hence my heart is full. I don’t know that there is any higher recommendation for a course than that…
Nature Play QLD offers a variety of Forest Learning workshops and training for professional development.
Wildlings Forest School offers Nature Playgroups, Forest Kindy, Forest School, Holiday and School Programs for children aged 0-12 years as well as Professional Development courses. These programs can be run at our own Forest School site on the banks of the idyllic Petrie Creek on the Sunshine Coast, or we can come to you to your own wild space. Freedom to choose, freedom to learn and freedom to play!