Autumn is a wonderful time of year to explore your local woods. Every week we (a small rural primary school in Devon) are fortunate enough to explore our local woodland with children from each year group. This week we will be taking our newest children out into the woods for a walk. It will be their first experience of a “Forest School” session led by a qualified Forest School Leader, a teaching assistant and three volunteer parent helpers.
A wonderful way to introduce the children to the woods is simple. Plan to do not very much and just enjoy a walk! Allow the children to soak up at the smells and sounds of the woods. Look and look again at fallen leaves. Examine the leaves closely. Ask the children questions to explore their ideas and thinking. How did the leaves get here? Can you describe the colours? Collect the leaves then gather in a circle and listen to a story, “Leaf Man” by Lois Elhert a gentle story about, a man made of leaves he blows away, travelling wherever the wind may take him. Allow the children the freedom to explore the ideas in the story on a slow walk back to school.
Top Tips for your Autumn walk
1. If it is a wet day the leaves will feel very different to a dry day so collect dry leaves before so that they can explore different textures and sounds as the leaves will crunch nicely when they are extra dry!
2. Little baskets are great for collecting leaves but if you don’t have these each child can pre-make a sugar paper bag at school before hand and they can have a go at writing their name on the bag too.
3. We talk to the children before we leave for our walk about being “Forest School Ready”. They look at pictures of our past reception class dressed in their Forest School clothes. We support this process a lot in the early days. We even ask the children to practise putting on their waterproofs and wellington boots in the summer holidays!
4. A story and a walk is a great introduction to children about their local environment. Observe their interests on the walk and you have your next session planned.
During our session in the woods we observed some children starting to pick up sticks and poke them in the soil mushing wet leaves into their holes. We observed explorers wanting to venture a little out of our eyesight and lastly we observed the language and interactions between this new cohort of children. This will help to inform the planning of our next sessions and discussions in the indoor environment.