As this is my final post (for the time being), I will talk about the importance of respect and appreciation in forest schools, and how I feel that a forest school that doesn’t teach these is missing a core part of its ethos.
Firstly, the environment. The natural world is at the heart of the forest school movement, the children learn about the natural world, in the natural world. There is a danger however, that children will come to take the natural world for granted, to see it as nothing special or important, as something that is just there. However this attitude, especially in a time when mankind is causing untold damage to the natural world in the name of progress, can be dangerous. Children should be taught to appreciate the natural world, that without the natural world much of what we take for granted would not be available. Whether this is through exploring where food comes from, investigating how many of the items they use daily have origins in the natural environment or simply watching nature and travel documentaries, children should learn about the infinite variety of life and environments that can be found. Much of our clothing, building materials and food would not be available without the natural environment. Children should therefore also be taught to respect the natural environment. Whether this be in small ways, learning the countryside code, cleaning up litter or learning basic gardening skills, children should learn to care for, and protect the natural environment for the sake of humanity, both present and future.
Secondly, fire. Fire has been the central theme of this blog, and in the various entries I have explored the uses and science behind it. Children should also learn at the very least the various ways fire impacts their lives. However they should also be taught to respect it. Fire can help preserve life and provide protection, yet it can also be extremely dangerous, both to people and the environment. Children should therefore learn how to safely create, work with and extinguish a fire. They should learn to admire its versatility and respect its power.
This also applies to tools. A forest school setting is an ideal place for children to learn to use tools. From using saws and loppers to cut wood for the fire or a den to using knives to prepare food or strip a stick for marshmallows, there is a large potential for tool use in the woods. This again must be tempered with respect. Tools used improperly can cause serious injury so children must learn to respect them, to use them properly and carefully. To appreciate what they can be used to create, and to respect the harm they can cause.
Finally, the people. Humanity is an integral part of the natural environment. The impact we have made on the world is enormous, and we continue to change the shape of the world every day. We should appreciate the great things we have done, and respect the potential we all have. Whether this potential is used to create or destroy, to protect or damage, we can all make an impact. Forest schools are a key place for children to learn about themselves and others in a more free environment than the traditional classroom. In forest schools children can develop new skills and learn new things to appreciate about themselves every day, yet they should have respect for their peers as they go through the same process. They should appreciate the help given, and respect others by offering help when needed.
It is my belief that unless children learn these attitudes and values, they are missing the point of a forest school. If you agree, disagree, or would simply like to learn more then please let me know! I hope you have enjoyed this blog, I have certainly enjoyed writing it and discovering more about the world I live in so I am planning to continue making entries whenever I find something that intrigues me and I want to explore it further. Until then, I wish you all the best!