Learning how to learn again by Keeping it Wild Trainee Shahnoor

 

Credit Catherine Cullen

My time as a Keeping it Wild Trainee at Walthamstow Wetlands has been great as I've been given the opportunity to experience so many new things in the wildlife conservation sector.

One of the activities I have been helping with is Forest School sessions. This is an approach of specialised learning for outdoor education which offers children the opportunity to have a hands-on experience in a natural setting, developing confidence and achieving things that can’t be done in a normal classroom.

Working with a group of children was a totally new experience for me, they differ in age depending on the sessions. One is a group of 3-5-year-olds and the other 6-11-year-olds. Even though the age range isn’t that big, the experience and interaction with both sets is so different. For example, the older children are more practical and love to hold a conversation, but on the other hand, the younger group have this amazing sense of imagination and innocence which allows them to see certain things in a totally different perspective.  

Child looking into pond dipping tray at Walthamstow Wetlands

Fiona McGain

Forest School is a set ethos of informal outdoor learning which is underpinned by the following six principles: 

  1. Has to be led by the participants. 
  2. The sessions are held on a regular basis. 
  3. The sessions should ideally be done in the woodlands  
  4. Holistic - this means that not only does it focus on education but also all aspects of the participants’ health and wellbeing.  
  5. The session must be led by a qualified practitioner 
  6. The session must provide opportunities for the participants to partake in an activity that holds a suitable amount of risk (e.g. building a fire with supervision). 

During my first session, I was advised to just observe the activities to see how the children behaved in this sort of environment. I was surprised by how the session played out as it was totally different from a school class which is generally very formal, and usually involves the children having a set task to complete. With Forest School, the lessons are run by the children and they are in charge of the sessions. We watch over them and help them to follow their interests and keep them safe. Some of them have such creative minds and in sessions like these we are able to see how brilliant they are, there’s no limit to where their imagination may take them. 

Children playing in mud kitchen at Walthamstow Wetlands

Sunitha Amos

I could really relate to some of the children and their experience of Forest School. During my first session, I noticed a boy called Johnny. I think it was his first time as he was very reserved and quiet while all the other kids were loud and excited. I kind of felt like I knew what he was going through because I was just starting my Traineeship. I was also very reserved because I didn’t know anyone and it was a new environment for me just like Johnny. I understand how overwhelming it can be for a new kid in the sort of environment as this was also my first Forest School session, but thankfully Fiona and the other volunteers made him feel more comfortable. As I helped the team with their Forest School sessions on a weekly basis my confidence grew, and I got to know the kids better. Just like me, Johnny grew in confidence as the weeks went on. I would see him talking to other kids, answering questions and even helping with group activities like building a fire. As the weeks went I was able to help my colleagues with their sessions as I was confident enough to do so, and just like me, little Johnny grew in confidence as the weeks went on and has become a leader of his own journey. 

I hope when my Traineeship ends I can continue in this field and work with people who have the same passion to help protect wildlife as I do. With the new skills I've learned like outdoor education, practical conservation and species ID, I can now take these with me wherever I go. 

Family wildlife activities

Family visiting the Westhay Nature Reserve, Somerset Levels, June 2011 - Paul Harris/2020VISION

Outdoor Education at London Wildlife Trust

Find out more about the different sessions that we run, where children can find their wild side at our nature reserves. 

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Volunteers working at Hutchinson's Bank

Keeping it Wild Trainees at Hutchinsons Bank Credit Ella Cox

About Keeping it Wild

Keeping it Wild is an ambitious project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, that will empower and inspire 600 young people aged 11-25, from backgrounds currently under-represented in natural heritage, to gain vital skills while discovering, conserving and sharing their experiences of the capital’s wild spaces. 

Find out more