Thanks to support and funding from Shift, Sarah Bennett – a local mum from Bolsover – has embarked on a thrilling journey to become a Forest School Practitioner. Her passion for introducing children to the outdoors, adventure and nature led to the creation of a Nature Explorer’s group. It meets once a month and gives local families the opportunity to be active together. You can find out more about how the Nature Explorers came about and the people who run it here
Here, Sarah tells us about her experience of Forest School training and why it means so much to her….
‘The outdoors brings me alive’
This morning I stepped foot on Chatsworth ground, the first day of my Forest School journey officially begins.
As I walked passed Chatsworth Farmyard a memory triggered going back 30 years to when I was just five-years-old on my first school trip. I was an anxious child at school but somehow the outdoors brought me alive and melted those feelings away. This school trip was a good memory for me; being outside, watching goats being milked, having an outdoor picnic and my friends sandwich being stolen by a passing bird were just highlights of my first school adventure.
Thirty years on I have returned to a different kind of school next door to the farmyard. I almost feel myself skip with a huge smile on my face as I walk towards my Forest School.
Taking me back to my childhood
Our first activity took me right back to being a child. We walked through the woods following our mentor ‘Forest Phil’ who led us to colourful wool hanging off tree branches. Wool? Wool? No! Forest Phil tells us it is dragons breath! We each pair up and make a forever forest bracelet for each of us to wear throughout our journey.
Next we have to rebuilt a miniature village that the dragon burnt down. Grown adults working together collecting sticks and making igloos out of the heavy snowfall from the night before. We build a pub, houses, community hall, a church and even made a road to each one. All 16 of us had only known each other for less than an hour but we were already working as a team and having so much fun being stripped back to our childlike selves.
This is what Forest School is all about!
The best experience of my life
My first initial training week was the one of the best experiences in my life. I will never forget it. I have lots of hard work to put into practice now but I hope to pass before the end of this year then I will be a level 3 Forest School Practitioner. I hope to go freelance in many different areas. My Nature Explorer group is growing and I am going to expand into new areas this year to suit all ages.
Forest School isn’t just about learning skills but most of all it’s a fantastic way to learn about yourself, reflecting on what you can achieve. There are no expectations in a forest school setting, we are all different and there is no right or wrong way. You work to your own ability in your own way and your best will always be good enough.
My ultimate aim is to make the outdoors fun and allow children and adults to appreciate nature, believe in themselves and be inspired.