Like many Forest School practitioners, since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, our Forest School sessions have come to a very sudden halt. While we are adapting to these unprecedented times, we are all missing being out in the woods running sessions and further more, the connection with the children we work alongside.
The National Forest School Association (FSA) have worked tirelessly to ensure that the Forest School world has been supported through this time, by not only providing H&S documentation, forwarding relevant government guidelines, but also hosting online Zoom gatherings, as a platform to connect and support providers from all over the UK. During these meetings practitioners have shared what they have been doing to support the children they work with; from videos of storytelling and activities to sharing links of nature connection activities etc. It was during one of these sessions that the idea of a Virtual Forest School session came to mind.
We are currently running weekly virtual Forest School sessions, co-hosted with From the Ashes.... filmed from our gardens, with children joining us online from their homes and gardens. We invite the children to come prepared with the resources needed for one nature based craft activity, which we can all do together on screen. We have played the 'Name Game' at the start of sessions, changing the names on each child's screen to their chosen name - this has been a lot of fun with some chaos thrown in for good measure. The session also includes a story linked to the theme that week.
This is obviously not Forest School as we all know and love it, but what we are aiming to provide is a time when the children can connect with school mates, who they may not have seen since school closed aswell as us, their Forest School Leaders. One child exclaimed 'This is like a reunion!'- that said it all :) We also aim to inspire the children to go out in their gardens, or when out walking, and connect with their natural surroundings, for the goodness of both their mental and physical wellbeing.
Who knows how long we will be doing this for. We cant wait to be back running full blown Forest School sessions, but for now this has proven to be a very valuable and well received offering and one which we certainly never imagined ourselves facilitating before.