[Note: I have added updates at the end of this post] Last month, as part of my Churchill Fellowship travels, I met Viola Zürcher, the leader of a German forest kindergarten (strictly speaking a waldkindergrippe or forest crèche, which takes children aged under three). Her setting runs five days a week in a wooded area on the edge of the city of Freiburg. Like other similar settings, it has a small, temporary hut building as an indoor base.
The visit was meant to be a brief social call, arranged by Freiburg residents and play advocates Peter Höfflin and Ellen Weaver (my tour-guides-cum-translators for the day). But the conversation took an unexpected turn.
This post explores how the real-time decisions of educators, playworkers and other staff who oversee children fit into the overall risk management process, and how they are held to account for those decisions. I have written it at the suggestion of the UK Play Safety Forum. The PSF would welcome comments on the position set out here – as would I.
Bayonne Nursery Forest School session
I will start with describing a real-life scenario from a Forest School session run by Bayonne Nursery a few years ago. (Those who have heard me talk on risk will recognise it from a video clip that I often show.) A group of four-year-old children are exploring an area of woodland. After clearing away fallen branches from around a large tree trunk that crosses over a dry ditch, three girls start to shimmy across. Two succeed, while the third becomes alarmed and gives up. Forest school-trained educators, present throughout, do not intervene at any point – not even to give encouragement or warnings. This is despite the fact that at points, things look like they might be getting challenging, uncomfortable or even slightly dangerous.
Posted in Education, Learning, play, Risk
Tagged Forest school, outdoor learning, Play Safety Forum, playwork, Risk, risk assessment, risk benefit assessment, risk management
I have long been a fan of – and cheerleader for – the forest school movement. That is why I am happy to give my support to Love Trees Love Wood – a new crowdfunding initiative that aims to spread its reach and impact. And I am inviting you to do the same.
This post looks at fires, the value of fire in children’s play and learning, and the sometimes problematic attitudes and actions of the fire authorities. It starts with a personal anecdote. (Its timing on Bonfire Night is kind of coincidental, but kind of not.)
A few weeks ago I was approached by outdoor educator Mandy Tulloch, who told me that some insurers were getting into a bit of a tangle about rope swings. As you will see, her story held some revealing insights into the approach the insurance industry sometimes takes when assessing the risks that it is presented with. Her tale also showed the value of a firm, assertive stance when dealing with insurers.
This weekend saw the launch of the Forest School Association, a new national body for those working in UK Forest School settings. I have agreed to be the patron of this new body. Sadly I was not able to be at the event in person. At the Association’s invitation, I passed on a message of support, which I thought may be of wider interest: