Children are by nature curious and playful. There is a reason for that. Self-directed exploration and play are how they learn. Children were designed by nature to educate themselves by playing and exploring.
The launch of the new Forest Kindergarten Level 3 Training is a welcomed and exciting moment. Although there are many opportunities to learn how to bring the benefits of the outdoors to the early years, this training has been crafted by early years professionals, with a vast range of nature-based experience. It is aimed to provide inclusive and accessible results so that children from urban or more rural settings can explore and enjoy local nature play in their communities.
This Level 3 training that launched in England last summer, has been co-developed over the last few years, borrowed from the Scottish Forest Kindergarten model and quality place-based education. Whilst it shares many of the values and approaches from the European full-immersive experience, this approach enables early years practitioners to go out to local green spaces and bring learning alive on the way, at the site and on the way back to school.
The 3 elements of Forest Kindergarten are:
The training in this model helps you set up from scratch: the toilet tarp, hand hygiene, putting up a tarp for shelter. The aim is to help practitioners to realise that every problem or issue is a learning opportunity for the children.
Enabling local nature play involves:
- Building routines e.g games and activities to prepare children for being off-site can be practiced in advance. Boundary checks can be developed with the children.
- Finding a suitable green space that you can use on a regular and frequent basis.
- Not needing to anticipate everything – experience can provide the springboard to learning and creates meaning and often rituals arise that further develop children’s connection to the place.
- Checking you have appropriate insurance in place.
- Figuring out how you are going to get to the greenspace.
- Doing a risk benefit assessment of the area you are going to visit.
- Gathering the evidence of research that points towards children and adults needing to spend time in nature not just to survive but also to thrive.
- Children needing to feel safe and secure during their FK sessions. This mostly happens through repeated visits which enable the children to acclimatize to being in their greenspace.
The child’s right to be a child.
To offer local nature play, we practitioners need to be able to site check, meet the needs of our group, follow the interests of the group, and have in place clear routines that provide physical and emotional safety.
This in turn allows children to explore, be curious and take appropriate risks. After every session, we review, connect what has occurred to ongoing nursery work, back-link it to the early year’s curriculum and update and risk benefit assessments, dry equipment and thank any volunteers!
To hold this qualification, we have the ‘Principles’. Co-created and influenced by Professor Jan White’ s important contribution. The learning outcomes were created to enable practitioners in early years settings to see the possibilities and harness the learning and health opportunities of local natural settings. If you’d like to download the principles, follow this link.
The training supports practitioners in early years settings to feel and be safe, competent, and confident in taking young children off site to local natural settings on a regular and frequent basis. At the same time, it helps young learners to establish a robust connection with local nature.
Who is this Forest Kindergarten training for?
All Early Years Practitioners holding or working towards a Level 3 Early Years qualification or equivalent.
Forest School Leaders or outdoor practitioners with a good understanding of early years practice
Level 2 early years practitioners (will need to be supervised by a Level 2 early years practitioner in a leadership role)
If you’d like to join us and gain your qualification, please follow this link to find out more:
The next course begins in East Sussex on 7th – 9th June 2022.
By Marina Robb (Msc; MA; PGCE; Author)
About the Author
Marina Robb (Bsc; PGCE; MA; Msc; Author) is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery Community Interest Company and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, both leading organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature.
She is co-author of ‘Learning with Nature’, considered a must-have book for Forest School & Outdoor practitioners and ‘The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy’.
Marina has more than 30 years’ experience in outdoor learning and nature connection. She provides a deep understanding of effective nature education at all levels and for a range of diverse backgrounds.
Marina is a qualified teacher (PGCE) and since 1989 has studied Environmental Education (MA), Environmental Management (BSc) and Social Research (MSc). She is a leading Forest School endorsed trainer and practitioner (UK and International). Her aim is to share her knowledge and experience with teachers and others wishing to work outside the classroom.
Stewart, N. and Pugh, R. (2007) Early Years Vision in Focus, Part 2: Exploring Pedagogy
Robb, M. and Cree J (2021) The essential Guide to Nature Pedagogy. Routeledge.