It is likely that regular time spent playing in the woodland will give children an increased appreciation for and respect of the natural environment. Below are a few ways in which forest school can introduce children and young people to sustainable woodland management.
Like any activity, giving children and young people a say in any plans for the woodland will support their ownership of the site and their sense of responsibility to it. If you are planning on moving the site to a different area, felling trees or constructing a fence or permanent fire pit involve children in the plans and ask their opinion.
If there is a woodland management plan create a child friendly version appropriate to the age group you are working with. Involve them in any site surveys that detrmine the content of the plan.
Plant and wildlife surveys
Spotter sheets are a great way to introduce children to wildlife surveys. Spotter sheets can be created and adapted to make them suitable for use with all ages and abilities. If you prefer not to make your own there are numerous spotter sheets available on the Internet. The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website for example has a range of resources, including spotter sheets, that are categorised by season and age range.
Children generally enjoy the spotter sheets for their intrinsic value but there are a number of national surveys, such as the Big Butterfly Count, the OPAL Explore Nature surveys and the Nature’s Calendar survey, that children can be involved with to give their bug or plant hunting real scientific value.
Involve children in any planned management activities such as harvesting or coppicing and planting or felling. Involving children in the maintenance and use of tools to manage the woodland can be a way to introduce sustainable management to children. Younger children can work with loppers or shears to cut back overgrowth from paths whilst older children could use bow saws to fell small trees or to cut and clear fallen wood.
However considerately used the woodland will be impacted by forest school sessions that occur. To balance this impact on the wildlife children can be involved in identifying ‘off limits’ areas for the creation of habitats. Younger children could create log piles and bug hotels and older children build bird and bat boxes.
Teach children about traditional woodland trades and crafts such as green wood furniture making, traditional pole lathes and basket making. Whether it’s making longbows, carving spoons or making charcloth or charcoal there are activities that can be adapted to suit all ages and abilities that will reinforce the traditional importance of the woodland as a provider or a wide variety of resources.