Can you find some memories, a species you have learnt, or your child's name in our word tree?
We kicked off term on Tuesday 17th September and immediately had to postpone the start of our Wednesday session due to the worst haze season for four years, leading to the development of our new Haze Policy.
All sessions started at Bukit Batok Nature Park with Tuesdays and Thursdays quickly selling out. Planning was guided by a theme on Emotional Intelligence for the older children and 'What can we find in the Forest' for the younger children.
In October we had a busy month planning and delivering sessions following Deepavali and Halloween themes, and two excursions to Fort Canning Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. Wednesday afternoons were frequently hit with thunderstorms and difficulties finding shelter and getting taxis home. As a result we switched location to the Singapore Botanic Gardens and developed our new Adverse Weather Policy to guide decisions based on the weather in the future. The switch was popular, with the new location soon joining Tuesdays and Thursdays as a sell-out. We also introduced our new Forest School songs which are great for the kids who like to sing and to announce the start of a session.
November saw Kelly, a Forest School Leader from the UK, join Wildlings and a new chapter begin. We held a successful trial session in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and started our first drop-off programme on Friday mornings. November was an exciting month where all of our groups undertook their fire lighting and outdoor cooking sessions and new for this term, den building using natural materials followed by hot chocolate made on our portable stove with a story in our nature dens.
December saw the end of term and our first ever round of certificates of achievement for children who had attended at least one term of Forest School. We held a trial for new groups in East Coast Park, and regular weekly sessions will now start in January. We held three Christmas themed events, all affected by the wet weather in early December, something to keep in mind for events in monsoon season in the future.
Thank you to everyone who provided feedback, the amount of learning this term has been tremendous for our participants and also for ourselves and we go forward into our new term all the stronger for our experiences.
Stories, Stories, Stories
We love stories and so do the children. They are an integral part of any education programme. This term, we told cultural stories such as the tale of Sang Nila Utama when we were in Fort Canning Park and Nian, the Monster from the Mountains when building shelters. We also have had a lot of success with helping children to gain confidence in talking in a group through story stones.
We select stories which inspire our experiences and deepen the learning objectives of our sessions. We hope you enjoyed the stories this term, here is a list of what we considered to be the best received books that we read together across all groups for your future reference:
The Huge Bag of Worries
The Invisible String
The Invisible Boy
Have You Filled A Bucket Today? : A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids:
The Giving Tree
By (author) Shel Silverstein
The Koala Who Could
The Most Magnificent Thing
By (author) Ashley Spires
What Was I Scared Of? (For Halloween)
By (author) Dr. Seuss
The Great Kapok Tree
By (author) Lynne Cherry
The Rainforest Grew All Around
By (author) Susan K. Mitchell
WOW! Said the Owl
By (author) Tim Hopgood
Our Personal Highlights from the term
Top of the list: We've seen adults struggle to use a fire striker to light a simple fire nest, but this 4-year-old nailed it and lit our fire boat easily, at least three times!
There were many amazing moments this term which make-up for all of the difficult times and things which didn't work so well. Here are a few of our favourite moments from the term:
1. At the end of term I suggested to our Tuesday group that we make an arch for the kids to run under to receive their certificate. I had in mind using arms and bodies, maybe holding leaves to make this arch. However, after our den building session the week before, and with the temptation of lots of recently fallen materials, the arch that was created was magnificent and surpassed all expectations!
2. We like to get the adults and the children sharing experiences at Forest School and our nature mandala creations showed everyone coming together to make art works that were truly beautiful for Deepavali.
3. The moment that the younger children attending on Thursdays decided to fully embrace nature demonstrated through their new found enthusiasm for holding wriggling worms in their hands, something they refused to do just the week before. Something changed in those days and we're excited to explore this further next term!
4. The magic moment from our drop-off programme was when the children found a big stick and many seed pods from a nearby Golden Shower Tree. They 'helped' these seedpods enter the water then watched as some of the group used the big stick to try over and over to hook some pond weed from the pond. Eventually, success! And the highlight was when one of the children declared 'we did it!' even though that child didn't touch the stick, they just felt so much a part of the group and the team objective that it was a victory shared.
5. The Tuesday morning when we were surrounded by storms, heavy rains, thunder and so on, but everyone turned out and wanted to give our session a go - well done for showing such great resilience! We put up some amazing shelters and managed to have some fun, close to the park exits for safety.
6. In week one we introduced the idea of journey sticks - a stick onto which participants tie objects and associate meaning with these. The children truly made these their own, renaming them their family sticks, selecting their favourite items and securing these to their sticks, and assigning meaning to these from past experiences or the important people in their lives. The children displayed such confidence in talking about their sticks to the group we were so proud!
These are just a few of the wonderful moments from the term, there were too many to count, and it's always difficult to capture each and every moment. Thank you to so many of you who sent photos and gave permission so that we can share the wonderful experiences that we have at Forest School with our growing community.
Our next term starts soon. We're making plans and preparing our materials. We can't wait to build on our progress and spend even more time in the great outdoors with you all.
Claire is an environmental scientist by training and an environmental sustainability consultant and educator by trade (aside from being a busy mum to two young (and sometimes wild) children). Claire enjoyed a very outdoorsy childhood collecting acorns, making daisy chains and sifting dirt to get the perfect pile. Once upon a time Claire was an enthusiastic ultimate frisbee player and recently taught pre-school sports classes. Claire is on a mission to help City kids experience a wilder childhood through the Forest School approach to learning and founded Wildlings offering Forest School and environmental education in Singapore to do this.