Nada is a mum of three, two older children at Dulwich College and her youngest, Vera, at Wildlings. Vera attends our pre-school programme three mornings a week.
Nada is a movement teacher with the Pure Movement Centre, teaching at Core Collective, and living in Singapore for over 9 years.
Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective Nada. Can you start by telling us why you haven't opted for a mainstream education approach for Vera?
I very much believe in play based learning and giving children the chance to learn about life through creative play and to develop their emotional skills before their academic skills.
I had two children in the Blue House learning through the Reggio Emilia philosophy so I am familiar and comfortable with the child-led approach.
When children are allowed to play, they learn so much more through their play in a developmentally appropriate way than can be taught. It has the benefit of allowing children to love learning, they learn without realising.
What benefits have you noticed from Vera attending Wildlings?
Vera's immune system is so much stronger. She doesn't get sick being outdoors. Since starting Forest School I can count how many times she has been sick on one hand. She also shakes off sickness quickly.
Vera has also developed her knowledge and appreciation for nature. she has a great connection and understanding of the world around her. She is physically strong with wonderful motor skills.
Vera has developed tremendously in confidence. She has found her voice and is able to navigate relationships. She can speak her mind, as well as physically, she is stronger - jumping, climbing, balancing, coordination. As a movement teacher this is very important to me.
We literally do zero handwriting with Vera. I have noticed in the past that she hasn't had control over her grip and movements with a pencil, but since coming to Forest School her fine motor skills have improved without anyone specifically teaching her how to do it. Just through play, and interacting with the loose parts found in nature, she has developed this skill all on her own.
What do you value most about Wildlings?
There are so many things I value about Wildlings! Firstly, they have an amazing wild space for their programmes, and its always changing. The grounds are gorgeous and the staff are amazing. They work so hard to facilitate each individual child's learning and treat each child as unique.
The community that is being built around Wildlings is so important. There are so many ways to get involved. I often go along for community gardening, which is good for me, but I am also helping to make my child's 'classroom' better. We go along to nature play as a family, especially when they have themed events for things like Halloween and Christmas. It helps us all to feel a part of the 'school'.
What advice would you give to other parents considering making Forest School a part of their child's early years development?
Just do it. It's a fabulous environment with so many positives. To build your child's confidence and to allow them to spend so much time outdoors which is healthy for them, physically, mentally and emotionally. To help them learn about nature and respect it, to have an opportunity to build a true understanding of our world which all other pre-schools are teaching through books, videos, and once a year field trips. These kids experience it every day in real life.
The staff are amazing and I trust them 100% with my child. They are very caring and nurturing towards the children. The children will develop holistically, but don't expect phonics and maths! The children learn these things when they are ready and when they show they are interested in it.
Also don't worry about the heat, the rain, the mosquitoes, and the other things parents usually worry about. The kids are very resilient which is part of going to Forest School, they're tough. There's plenty of shade an opportunities to rest, or cool off in the water play. Wear the right clothes and the mozzies aren't going to be a problem. It's a jungle though, so these are to be expected. The rain never bothers Vera, it simply provides other sensory experiences and opportunities for risky play, like jumping in muddy puddles which Vera never would do before Forest School!
Thank you Nada!
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.