Caldicotes Primary Academy was awarded an ‘Artie Star’ for their amazing and unique Forest School programme developed and delivered by their two fantastic teachers: Christine Vaughan and Claire Welsh.

Following their involvement with Hearty Beats forest school programme Claire and Christine decided to develop several outdoor spaces at their school, using a child led approach, themed on curriculum topics. Initially the two Caldicotes teachers were trained on the Hearty Beats Forest School training course this was followed with eight weeks of forest school sessions delivered by Hearty Beats which were supported by Christine and Claire. Having experienced a few sessions they wanted advice on developing their outdoor space and how to run sessions. So were provided with on the job training and progressively took more and more of the lead of the sessions, and the touch paper was lit!

What they did then was truly amazing. They started providing something absolutely unique and singular in Middlesbrough and probably farther afield too! They, with great support from their school, set up their own forest school department. They did their level three accredited Forest Schools course, and in their own words created a role for themselves so fun that they could never have imagined it could be a jI ob!

They plan and deliver forest school sessions to every age group in the school on each class’ curriculum topics. The children’s favourites so far being ‘The Fire of London’, ’The Stone Age’ and ‘The Solar System’. The children do a morning outdoor session getting lots of exercise, fresh air and developing many holistic life skills. Then in the afternoon they do research, planning and write ups.

The staff have noticed the children gaining a much greater ability to work in groups, perform positive self criticism and plan improvements. They have gained in confidence and developed a desire to share ideas with the group as well as caring attitudes to each other and the outdoors.

Some children in particular have grown hugely through the approach. Whereas in the past they were quieter, less confident or less engaged in their classroom than their peers, they have flourished in the outdoor setting and brought that confidence and engagement back in with them.

The lessons are curriculum based and the children are involved in planning. They have learnt to use carpentry tools as well as gardening tools, make things, safely construct fires and care for nature. Claire and Christine explained that a downside of their new role has been they have found themselves slowly turning into Steptoe and Son, constantly sourcing this or that thing and recycling it into materials for their class. The children have become quite adept at dismantling pallets and in one instance took the backs of two wardrobes, reinforced them back to back to create a Narnia-esk entrance to their forest school area.

 

This is not the only area the children under the guiding hand of their forest school teachers have constructed. They have developed a firepit, story space, habitat area with a walkway, pond, meadow, allotment, and den building area.

 

Currently under construction is their wattle and daub Saxon Roundhouse and adventure swamp.

Having achieved a unique and inspired quality of forest school provision Claire and Christine have decided to set their sights further and now having completed their coastal schools training, they are now about to start organising lessons in the most engaging environment there is for children: the seaside.

Just like the children; I found Claire and Christine were proud of their achievement but positively critical and seeking to reflect and improve on an already fantastic achievement. Having seen the benefits for the children of their school they’re keen to offer advice and show teachers from other schools what they have accomplished in the hope of passing on their experience and helping others bring quality outdoor curriculum based lesson to their pupils.