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The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th January 2018

Lucy Maria Woodrow was writing her dissertation on the topic of outdoor play when she first found her interest piqued by the idea of Forest Schooling.

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th January 2018

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th January 2018

I loved the ethos of ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ and reading about the regard that the Danish people have for the great outdoors and the role it plays in children’s learning, development, health and wellbeing regardless of it sometimes being incredibly cold. Working in a Nursery years later, and experiencing Forest School style learning for myself further piqued my interest in this area. I loved watching the children participate in learning outdoors, seeing their skills and relationships with nature and each other develop and I loved seeing them take controlled risks that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to take in their everyday lives. I was desperate to do my Forest School Leader training even back then, but my Nursery couldn’t fund me and there was no way at all that I would be able to fund myself. My dream got put on the back burner, but my interest in the area of outdoor learning didn’t recede.

After having my daughter I decided that I wanted her to experience as much of her life outdoors as I did growing up. I was always playing outdoors with my brother when I was young and feel that we both gained so much from it. Emma and I thus spend a lot of time at various forest schools, in woodlands, on beach walks or visiting farms around Essex and Suffolk on weekends and her days off from Pre-School. I’m blessed with a daughter who would much rather be outdoors than in and who much prefers jumping in muddy puddles, picking fruit and vegetables with my father in law in his vegetable garden and dancing barefoot in the rain than sitting indoors and watching television. This is something that has been particularly helpful as she has grown up, as for much of her young life she has been visiting her dying grandfather - my dad - with me and keeping his spirits up as his health slowly deteriorated. The outdoors provided the peace and solace that both of us needed on those days and does so even more now after his passing away earlier this year.

It’s this time outdoors and the previous threads of my life that have been woven around the concept of Forest School coming together, that led me to seek training as a Forest School Leader after my dad had passed away. My beloved father had blessed me by leaving me a small inheritance which I wanted to use to do something meaningful and something which I wouldn’t have been able to do without his help. I chose to fund myself through Forest School Leader training and to follow the path that it would lead me on. A local Forest
School Leader whom I have become friends with signposted me to some training that was taking place in the Summer holidays when Emma’s father would be home to spend time with her (he is a Head teacher). It was then that my decision was made.

After my dad’s death I found great peace at Flatford Mill, and spent lots of time there surrounded by sunshine, flowers and bird song. While on one woodland walk with my daughter there I came across a patch of woodland filled with magnificent bluebells. It was so beautiful and serene that it ended up being the spot where my family and I scattered my father’s ashes along with my mother’s. She died ten years ago. The great outdoors and woodland then came to hold even greater meaning for me and my loved ones.

My Forest School Leader training has been a cathartic experience for me since losing my dad. I have honestly loved every minute of it. Learning how to carve, how to give children moments of mindfulness, how to light campfires and just being part of a peer group where I have felt accepted and supported in my grief has been an incredible experience for me. There’s just something awe inspiring about being outside and seeing the beauty of nature. Problems seem insignificant when you are in the vast expanse of the great outdoors and the camaraderie between those experiencing it together is something equally special. Running pilot Forest School lessons while I work towards my Leader’s qualification has allowed me to witness for myself just how much children can gain from Forest School taught skills and learning, and I am able to immerse my daughter even more in the natural world and various aspects of it for she is often with me when I need to forage for supplies or collect branches and logs from the few very generous farmers and park rangers that I have met along my journey so far. As I become more confident in my role, she is becoming more comfortable in taking risks outdoors and it’s lovely to see her pride when she learns new skills such as whittling. I know just what that’s like myself as I felt the same during my training. It really was a life changing experience where I learned skills that I never thought I would be able to master, let alone teach to others.

At my dads funeral I read a poem about looking for him in rainbows high up in the sky and many a time since then I’ve wondered what he would think about me doing my Forest School Leader training. Would he of been proud of me? Or would he think it funny that his youngest and most accident prone daughter has been taught to use tools and to light a campfire? On my way home from my last training session with the lovely ladies at Essex Wildlife Trust, with a full heart from a whole weekend spent outdoors with a lovely group of women, but a mind full of thoughts about my dad, I looked to the sky in front of me and was blessed by the sight of the prettiest rainbow that I have ever seen. I like to think that this was more than a coincidence and that it was him letting me know that he is indeed proud of the path that I am now on. One which he so generously funded. It is a path that has soothed me greatly after his passing and is one which has allowed me to give outdoor, self-esteem building opportunities to my daughter and also to many others that I will meet along the way.

Thank you dad xxxx

Lucy lives in Colchester with her husband, daughter and two cats. She’s currently finishing off her Forest School Leader training with Essex Wildlife Trust after which she wants to freelance with schools. When she’s not outdoors she can often be found at the cinema.

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