2021 Newsletter

Updated: Dec 20, 2021



Well that was another odd year. When writing this newsletter last year we really didn't think we'd be talking about lockdowns and home learning once again. Despite the challenges, we have had a productive year in the forest and on the allotment.


We have taken part in the Hampton Court Garden Festival, received grants and funds for our water harvesting project and our chicken coop (more on those below). We have also received donations of garden bulbs and 8 large mature trees for our site.


OWL has become even more important, allowing the children to explore their thoughts and feelings over the last two complicated years. We have concentrated on mindfulness and having lots of fun after being cooped up at home and in bubbles. Forest School has continued to serve the children that attend very well and the allotment has grown into its new beds and supplied us with lots of different crops and allowed us to try lots of new food.


To end the year we made a short video based on a poem written especially for us, allowing us to explain some of the behaviours found in our forest. The children really enjoyed taking part and the message has been very well received locally.


Thanks to all our helpers, volunteers and supporters. Your continued support allows us to continue our work. Who knows what 2022 will bring? But we know we're ready for the challenge, knowing that we will be there whatever the virus throws at us. In the meantime, you can have a look through some of what we got up to during 2021 below.

 

OWL News



After being stuck at home and then in strict bubbles the children have found the freedom offered by our open space even more necessary. In our OWL sessions we have been spending our time learning about Zones of Regulation to help us understand all of our different emotions. We have devised lots of games to re-enforce this, including the very popular game of Zones Bingo. Outside of this the children have found time to make dens, have fun using naturally found resources to make art, study creepy crawlies using our microscope and doing research with our mini-library.


 

Forest School News



We continue to follow the six principals of Forest School and be completely child led in our two hour afternoon sessions whatever the weather. We have been delighted to welcome back Sam the Therapy Dog along with his owner Caroline. Lockdown meant he was greatly missed and it has made their work with us even more important. The KS1 group have particularly enjoyed playing search games and fetch with him. All the groups have settled back in and seem very at home making fires, cooking, building waterways and dens as well as forming new relationships and using our safe space to chill out and reflect on their thoughts.


 

1:1 Learning & Alternative Provision



We are really proud of the work we carry out in our 1:1 sessions. This is an area of our work that has grown and become more important during COVID. We encourage emotional regulation activities and equip the children with a bespoke emotional toolkit to fall back on when they experience strong feelings. We have devised positive behaviour rewards and bespoke timetables for a small number of children.


 

Our Allotment



Our revamped allotment that you helped fundraise for last year has really taken off. We now have seven raised beds, a productive greenhouse and a working potting area. All the children can help out in the allotment and they have produced an amazing array of crops this year. We have grown all the usual crops along with more unusual items such as cucamelons, heritage tomatoes and huge tromboncino courgettes creating an archway across the site. Lot of the food grown was tasted by most of the children and any surplus went home to help some of our families.


A highlight was taking part as part of The Community Brain's Crop-Ups project at the Hampton Court Flower Festival. The children planted The Three Sisters to demonstrate how crops can support and provide for each other in small spaces.



 

Funding




We have successfully applied for and received funding from School Food Matters for help with our water harvesting project. Thanks to the funds received we have been able to buy a huge water tank and solar watering system which takes the rain from the greenhouse roof and a solar pump then takes it into the greenhouse to water the seedlings and crops. We now have capacity across the site for 2135 Litres of water to be saved.

We received enough funding from Tesco to enable us to buy our chicken coop. Thanks to all those who voted with the little blue tokens after shopping there! We have put it together and will add chickens in the spring.

We were fortunate to have received 8 donated mature trees from Scotscape Group Ltd and to have them transported to our site by idverde . A big thanks to Robin at The Community Brain for arranging the opportunity. The trees have settled well and will help provide shelter and cover across the site.


We have also received donations of bulbs from the Mill Street Residents and Bulbs4Kids. We have planted over 600 bulbs around the site and we are hoping some of them will survive the squirrels and make it to bloom in spring.

 

Our Outreach and Projects



We continue to welcome King Athelstan School to our site once a week, so that they too can benefit from small groups using our Forest School. Not only is it brilliant for the children, it is a great opportunity for staff to share ideas and good practice with each other. We have had great fun with them this year and really do enjoy having them with us.


We invited Kingston University Graphic Communication students to take part in an unusual challenge. We needed to inform our local residents why it sometimes gets very noisy on our site. Our children are not being disrespectful, our site is a safe space for children to explore complicated feelings and we wanted to convey this locally. We have lots of very useful ideas to develop, but couldn't wait to turn a poem into a little film - let us know what you think.



 

Monthly Donations




We have fabulous support and lots of volunteers in the community that help us keep our projects going. Inevitably some items cost money and we operate as a non-profit organisation. We are hoping that some of our supporters may want to make small monthly donations to help us buy our regular firewood, bird-seed and hot chocolate and well as other sundries. If you wish to donate remember to click on the "make this a monthly payment" checkbox. Your information will be confidential and any amount helps.



 

Our Forest School Social Media Accounts


Please don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @forestschooling. We post daily and have lots of interest from around the world.


These sites allow us to communicate much more about day to day life in Forest School; the kind of detail that wouldn’t normally be enough for a newsletter or meeting. We believe that by using these sites, we will be able to keep parents and carers more up to date. Social media also allows us to connect with other professionals and organisations who can help the growth of Forest Schooling and therefore benefit all our children.