The idea behind Forest Schools is that it is a long term sustainable approach to outdoor play and learning. It's about providing children with holistic development; it looks at every area in terms of their physical development, intellectual development and cognitive skills, also looking at their linguistic and language, both verbal and non-verbal. Forest Schools also looks at their emotional, social and spiritual development.
What's interesting about the culture in some Scandinavian countries is being in and outdoors are a part of how the family and culture works what? Sorry -I don't understand. But in Britain children are getting more and more isolated from the natural world. Forest Schools is very much about giving children the opportunity to learn in and from nature.
Forest Schools is also about free play, it's about self directed learning but it's also about allowing the children to develop freedom and choice in order to be able to become competent and effective adults.
In Every Chid Matters it states that 'every child should make an equal contribution'. (Ref). The only way that children can do this is if they have sound self-esteem and sound emotional well-being and sound social skills and function in as many social situations as they choose. Forest Schools is about allowing children given their developmental dependant age the ability to be able to achieve social comfort.
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Forest Schools is an inspirational process that allows children to access outdoor space in order to grow and develop into successful, happy, rounded individuals. There is a misconception that Forest Schools is for Early Years; some of the most successful projects have been with older young people, adults with mental health problems and children in secondary education. (Ref). The ..?........about allowing children and young people to grow with a sense of value of who they are and giving a positive contribution. It's all about using nature as the teacher as opposed to being adult lead.
LO5 - Activity Plans and Evaluation.
Plan - (see appendix .......), Rationale behind choice of activity and Learning Objective.
This activity was chosen as the reception class were looking at the Handa Surprise book and focusing on healthy foods. The day the activity was carried out a new student was present with his mother which added extra pressure for all the professionals. The learning environment offered opportunities for the children to experience tasting different fruits as the kitchen area was adjacent to the table in which the activity was carried out. The setting also had a large copy of the story so all the children were able to see the story (for Communication, Language and Literacy) and had all of the elements needed to create the masks (Creative Development).
I thought the topic would lend itself to the next day's topic of healthy lunchboxes, which the whole school were focusing on. I chose to focus on any existing knowledge the children may have of different fruits and try and extend their understanding of why fruits are good for us. This leads into Early Learning Goal (...) of '................................'(QCA, 2000).
My main learning objective, therefore, was to introduce the children to new fruits and tastes, using language and listening to each other to find out what each child thought, in an accessible and enjoyable environment, so as to encourage respect for each other's views and turn taking.
The week before carrying out the activity, I prepared the resources needed in school and discussed the other activities that my fellow practitioners would carry out. This involved printing, cutting and laminating the necessary pictures and masks. Also finding all the different fruits that were in the story. I was unable to find one fruit in particular so I improvised with a fruit drink that was made from the fruit so at least the children were able to taste the favour.
I carried out this activity with a mixed ability group of 9 children. I began by asking the children to wash their hands as they were going to be eating fruit. When all the children were back in their seats, I gave each of them a bowl and a cup. I asked the children if they could remember the fruits in the story of "Hands Surprise" which was read earlier. The children seemed to have a positive attitude about being able to remember. With a small copy of the book I asked the children which was the first fruit that the monkey took out of Handa's basket. I then cut the banana in pieces and gave each child a piece and asked questions such as 'what does the banana taste like?' 'How does it feel?' 'Do you like the banana?' The children gave mostly good descriptions of the fruit and used appropriate vocabulary such as 'creamy', 'slippery' and 'lovely'. I carried out the same routine of cutting the fruit into sections and passing a section to each child and asking them to describe what it tasted like and how it felt and whether they enjoyed it. With the Guava fruit (which was the fruit I could not purchase) I informed the children of the situation and showed them the picture of the fruit on the carton of juice. I gave each child a taste and asked their opinion, the overall opinion was that the fruit tasted 'delicious' but one child said that they 'didn't like it'. The most interesting discussion came when i asked the children what they thought the passion fruit would look like inside, one child said that 'it might look like an orange', the same child that said the banana was creamy (extension). Overall most of the children enjoyed the fruit tasting apart from one (standard) child who kept giving negative reactions to the fruit saying that he 'doesn't eat fruit at home'. I was happy that at least he had tried some.
While the fruit was being eaten I passed around picture cards of the fruit and asked each child in turn to pronounce the name of the fruit after me, most children had no problems with the pronunciations but one child struggled with 'avocado'.
I encouraged each child to have a little taste of each fruit and if they didn't like it then they didn't have to eat it and 'well done for trying' was always encouraged. The extension child suggested that 'trying different fruits was good for us', 'as fruit was good for us'. Which then led a child that was refusing to try a certain fruit to try it. At one point the dismissive child asked if we were finished and could he go and play.
Once all the children had tried all the fruit and we had discussed them and I asked the final question "which was everyone's favourite and their least favourite", the overall result being orange best, avocado worst. I then told the children that they could go put their bowls in the sinks and wash their hands and go and play.
I believe this activity resulted in all the children achieving the main learning objective of introducing the children to new fruits and tastes, using language and listening to each other to find out what each child thought and to encourage respect for each other's views and turn taking. The idea that the children's peer could influence the decision of another child ...................................
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An effective learning environment does not leave children entirely to their own devices, but builds on what they can already do and challenges them to try new things. The role of the practitioner is vital in this process and sits within the social constructivist approach to learning. This theory was popularised by Vygotsky (1978, in Smith, 1999), who identified the 'zone of proximal development', (ZPD) as being a reason why children's learning can be helped by others. Smith (1999) explained:
'The ZPD is the distance between the child's developmental level and his or her potential level of development under the guidance of adults or more competent peers' (Smith, 1999: 429).
As this was a 'hands on' activity, the children were taking an active part in their own learning progress. It was Piaget (1966, in Smith, 1999) who first postulated that the child is a 'lone scientist', processing information and constructing meaning through encounters with their world. Most of the children focused their attention on the fruits they enjoyed using positive language and engaging in using words to describe what something tasted like or felt. One child tried to extend the activity to see what the fruit sounded like when bounced on the table saying ' the orange sounded like a ball', this then encouraged the children to continue testing the sounds of fruit by knocking on them. The (extension) child asked 'if there was nothing in the fruit would it sound the same'?
The relative success of this activity highlighted that children of this age learn best through concrete experiences. When working with children of this age group it is preferable to adopt teaching strategies which allow for plenty of practical activities and exploration.
The fact that one child lost interest in the activity, implies that I might need to develop this activity in some way to keep the attention of the less able or enthusiastic children. This was particularly noticeable when asking some children to use descriptive words to describe the fruit, as some children just repeated the word that their peer before them used. The language of one child was not as developed as the other children in the group, and this excluded them from full participation.
On reflection, a different teaching strategy could have been employed to involve them more fully into the activity. It could be that they were more of a kinaesthetic do you know what this means?learner than the others, as he kept looking at the children playing, so maybe using an activity that involved movement may have kept his attention.
Also the activity was extended longer than anticipated as I had to cut each individual fruit into segments. If this activity was done again in the future maybe cutting the fruit into segments before the activity took place would be a more successful approach.
As a result of this evaluation, I would have changed my plan to include more opportunities for the children to be involved in the activity in a more physical way, perhaps by using safety acceptable knives the children could help me cut the fruit. This may help some of the children with their fine motor skills as well. Also another way of engaging less able children might include asking them to participate in the preparation of the resources by asking them to bring their favourite fruit from the story in so they feel they have a more 'personal' involvement. Finally, the only thing I would change would be to ask the children to put on aprons, as it got very messy, including me, as I too got very messy.
In conclusion, recently there has begun to be a realization in the UK that play is important. There has been a surge of initiatives funded by government, such as Arts Council projects on creativity in schools and communities. The publication of Excellence and Enjoyment by the National Primary Strategy (DfES, 2003) puts a major emphasis on the importance of embedding the Foundation Stage and the Birth to Three Matters Framework in the work of local authorities across the maintained, voluntary and private sectors.
Increasingly, research findings indicate the importance of the first years of education. Children's ability to use spoken and written language fluently and with confidence and for a range of purposes enables them to access at an early age what education has to offer. The adults working in early year's settings and classrooms have both the opportunity and responsibility to affect the future learning of their pupils in a far reaching and powerful way.
Play is, it seems, about the universe and everything. It often has to function in a hostile environment, but when it is encouraged, supported and extended, it makes a major contribution to, and sophisticated impact on the development of individuals and humanity as a whole.
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