I attended an ECA workshop today at KU Ourimbah on the Central Coast. The guest speaker was well renowned Educator at Mia Mia, Janet Robertson.
The inaugural event for the proposed Central Coast branch of Early Childhood Australia, was an informative afternoon to expand our understanding of outdoor education. We had the opportunity to explore the award winning environment at KU Ourimbah Preschool.
I was invited to attend by the director, Rosanne Pugh. Roseanne has set up Forest Schools in the UK and she knows Wahroonga has a unique environment at The Bush School. I would like to learn from her and find ways we can use the bush environment at school for the benefits of the students.
A great deal of research has been written on the positive impacts on the children’s resilience, confidence and wellbeing.
Sarah Blackwell writes in her paper ‘Impacts of Long Term Forest School Programmes on Children’s Resilience, Confidence and Wellbeing’
‘Resilience in children is demonstrated in a variety of behaviours, such strong sense self efficacy and self esteem, which is characterised by positive self regard, strong belief in one’s abilities and a positive attitude. Resilient children have well developed problem solving abilities and easily resolve issues pertaining to their interpersonal relationships with their peers and adults. In addition, they demonstrate a high level of self awareness and are capable of expressing their fears and other emotions without difficulties. Children exhibit these characteristics in form of easy going temperament, good self regulation of emotions and impulses and maintaining attention. In regard to their social competence, resilient children are emotionally responsive, demonstrating empathy and care to others, have a sense of humour and they increasingly portray behaviours that makes them appeal and relate well with others. In relation to their personal goals, resilient children demonstrate a strong sense of purpose, have realistic expectations, and are self motivated and persistent.
Long term Forest School programmes enhanced resilience in children by providing self directed learning opportunities, where children participate in making their own decisions and engaging in activities which they enjoy and those within their capabilities.
The programmes encourage children to develop positive relationship with educators, peers and family members, which further enhance the child social and cognitive competence.
Long term forest programmes improved the confidence of the participating children. Children with high self confidence are characterised by willingness to take calculated risks and try new 38 things. O’Brien and Murray116 opined that self confident children demonstrate a high level of self belief that comes about when they are given the freedom and opportunities to explore and grow independently.
Self belief in children is demonstrable in their personalities, which is characterised by high levels of positive attitude, resilience, persistence, independence and self control. Moreover, confident children are curious and seek new opportunities that will utilise their abilities and are also willing to learn new skills.
Educators play a critical role in promoting children’s confidence in forest school setting. Instead of directing the learners, the educators initiate the learners’ enthusiasm, sparking children’s engagement in the process. The educators also encourage and reassure the nervous and timid learners by initiating new ideas, and providing resources that would stimulate their creativity and participation.
Wellbeing in children and human kind in general is associated with good physical and psychological health. In children attending forest school programmes, wellbeing arises from an interplay of carefully designed activities and curriculum that focuses on holistic development of the child. Research has demonstrated that playing in the outdoors is essential for physical development of the child and offers ideal physical exercises that help in reducing obesity, promoting development of a strong body and also enhancing physical agility. Interaction with green space and a wide range of fauna and flora have been found to enhance psychological and ‘A marvellous opportunity for children to learn;
A participatory evaluation of forest schools in Wales and England’, 39 mental wellbeing of children. Exposure to nature has also been found to be an effective remedy for managing ADHD. From this study, frequent and constant visits to the woodlands enable the children to become familiar with the natural setting. It was noted that during the first Forest Sessions, children normally demonstrate some degree of discomfort and uneasiness but when they become used to the natural setting, they eventually develop confidence and they blend naturally in the woods.
Development of confidence, resilience and wellbeing as the children become familiar with the natural setting could be attributed to the fact that forest schools programmes are founded on the principle of positive psychology. This implies that the curriculum is child centred, and it focuses on enhancing the learners’ strengths, interests and capabilities. Wellbeing in children promotes their resilience and confidence. Physical and psychological health is critical components that enhance coping capability and self confidence in children as well as in adults. It is therefore important for educational stakeholders to put appropriate measures and policies that promote wellbeing, to ensure that children acquire self confidence and resilience. The measures that enhance wellbeing in school include application of whole school approach and strength based approaches.’
Photos of the outdoor environment =
Photos of the indoor environment –