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Garden of Knowledge - Forest School Opening

The first forest school nursery in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is due to open in April.

The first forest school nursery in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is due to open in April.

The Woodland Nursery is the brainchild of mother-of-three Tracy Kennedy, who believes that outdoor learning is crucial to a child’s development. “I’ve believed in forest school education for a long time, ever since I read about it starting in Scandinavia in the 1950s,” she said.

“I believe it should be available to all young children, but instead of complaining about it I decided to go for it myself. I have a staff of one at the moment but there has been a lot of interest and I can get more people as we go along.

“The benefits of outdoor education are there for all to see. Children become more confident and self-aware, as well as learning great lessons about teamwork and individual responsibility.”

Tracy, who lives in Kidbrooke, got the idea after working for three years as a child minder and realising how children develop more positively outside of four walls and a ceiling.

“There’s been a lot of research and it’s been found that children who spent a lot of time outside, especially smaller children, have a greater sense of self-esteem and are more able to assess their own risks,” she said, “and in forest school classes the ratio of adults to children is much lower and they are able to have more one-to-one time.

“We will be using local woodlands like Oxleas Woods, Woodlands Farm and Maryon Wilson Park but we’re also looking at all the open spaces in the borough, including the ecology park in the Millennium Village – and even days just spent in Greenwich Park.”

Tracy took her forest school leadership course at Widehorizons Environment Centre in Eltham. “I’ve been a child minder for three years so I’ve had a lot of experience with young children already,” she said.

“Outdoor nurseies give children freedom to choose their own learning. We lay out games and equipment for them but it’s very much child-led. They are out in the fresh air and everyone knows that lots of physical activity is good for you.

“They become more aware of their environment and the seasons and are generally happier and more helpful among themselves.”

The Woodland Nursery intends to be out in all weathers. “There’s a good Swedish saying,” said Tracy, “that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Our children will be dressed appropriately but they will get dirty and muddy.

“Also, the forest school ethos is that children should be allowed to assess their own risk. We won’t lift a child on to a tree, for example, but let them decide when they want to try and climb it after we have done a quick risk assessment.

“Children are naturally good at this and we should encourage them to become even more confident, not tell them to keep away because it’s dangerous. We also keep parents involved in their children’s progress and make sure their activities are age appropriate.

“I used to work in the City but this is something I love and hopefully it will help me do a great job.”

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