Martha Rose is the Senior Education Officer at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. She has been delivering Forest School sessions for eight years and has two home educated children aged nine and five.
“WE CAN ALL HAVE LOW MOMENTS IN THE winter, especially if it’s been grey and wet for several days. I find that when I’m inside at home, it often seems darker and bleaker than it actually is. Even if it’s raining, getting outside gives everyone a boost of natural light and gets brains and bodies active. Being in the wild and connecting with nature is restorative at any time of year, and kids can always be tempted outside with the expectation of fun, friends and food! The winter is a good time to spot common garden birds – there are no leaves on the trees so they are easier to see. There are lots of corvids around too, such as crows, magpies and rooks. Squirrels will be down on the ground foraging for nuts and lots of different minibeasts hiding under logs – they like the damp weather. At Forest School we run activities that make the most of seasonal natural resources and celebrate winter festivals. During early winter there are lots of leaves to collect and use. Some can be utilised straight away to create natural artworks and sculptures inspired by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy. Leaves can also be threaded and be used to make natural crowns. Pressed leaves are best for leaf lanterns and suncatchers. We make the most of the abundant water by having competitions to see who can collect the most using a range of different implements. Or we make a big bucket of muddy water then use natural materials and a cut up bottle as a filter and see how clean we can get it again. Trails and treasure hunts keep children active and warm. Use written clues, photo clues or spoken clues if you have a set of recordable devices. Children can set their own treasure hunts – help them create their own doubloons by sawing little wood cookies and spraying them gold. Use coloured chalk and sticks to lay a trail to the treasure, including some dead ends! If the woodland has a good bed of leaves, children can drag a stick behind them and leave a trail to follow. Keep kids warm and happy in warm waterproof coats and trousers, hats and gloves. Wear lots of layers and, if possible, walking boots. Even with the thickest socks, kids’ feet quickly get cold in wellies in the winter. Cold feet take a long time to get warm again and make for a very miserable child.”
“I take the same equipment with me to each Forest School session. I have a dedicated fire box, with all of the things needed to light a fire and stay safe with a fire, two shelter tarps and all the crafty kit – string, scissors, pipe cleaners, pens and so on. In the tool bag there’s a pair of loppers, secateurs, a pruning saw, a mini bowsaw and gloves of various sizes. There’ll also be an axe (for larger firewood) and billhook (to split kindling) if we’re having a fire. Lastly, we have a bag of sit mats, to keep bottoms dry if it’s been raining.”