“When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, 'I just played'. Please don’t misunderstand me. For you see, I am learning as I play. I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work. Today I am a child and my work is play.”
Anita Wadley, 1974
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where does Kerkus Forest School take place?
We primarily use Deerpark, Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin. We are also able to offer an outreach programme subject to a risk assessment at your own site.
Are Forest School sites all the same?
Forest School sites will to some extent look different in different settings – but the ethos, intentions and operational features will be the same and will always reflect the guiding principles of Forest School.
What are the main benefits of Kerkus Forest School for children?
There are significant personal, social and emotional benefits for the children, including increases in confidence and self-esteem. There are also potential learning advantages, including the development of language and thinking skills.
Does Forest School have any impact on the environment?
We aim to teach children about nature and the environment and, in doing so, how to protect and care for it. Site assessments are conducted at the beginning of every session and at the end to ensure the site is left in the same, if not improved, condition. Part of the Forest School ethos is to leave no trace and make a difference!
What does a typical day at Forest School look like?
Our day begins with a welcoming activity, roll call and free play/exploration time. As with all early learning environments, cooperative play (solving a problem by working together) is a main focus. We also build community by the children & teachers cooperatively creating our rules and keeping each other safe. The curriculum revolves around the children’s interests and where their play and inquiries lead us. We act as their forest research assistants and facilitators of any challenges of the day. An artistic activity is available almost every day. The children are encouraged to self-regulate, choosing to eat when they’re hungry or add or remove clothing if uncomfortable. Mostly, we have a ton of fun in the forest together!
What activities take place?
Shelter building, environmental issues, whittling, wood carving, safe fire building, basic plant knowledge, knots, team building, self-esteem development and others – all activities are age appropriate. Children can suggest things to do and creative play as well!
Is Kerkus Forest School just for young children?
All ages of children and young people can benefit from Forest School, Outdoor Learning or Bushcraft. We focus our work with 4 year olds to 11 years. If you have an older group then we would be happy to create sessions. Forest School really is ageless - from 1 to 100; everyone can benefit from the experience.
What should children wear?
All activities take place in the outdoors and therefore it is essential that children are dressed accordingly to protect them from the inclement weather and to keep an even body temperature. Waterproofs, wellies and warm layers in the winter; sun hat and sunscreen in the summer.
Will I or my child get dirty and what can I do about it?
Short answer: "probably" and "not a lot". Long answer: mud is really good for children, and adults. It helps build up the immune system, as well as many other positive benefits. Just remember to bring spare clothes for afterwards, or a bag to sit on in the car.
All children should go to the toilet before leaving for FS activities. If a child needs to go to the toilet while in the woodland, an adult should supervise the child. A facility for washing hands (water and soap provided) and antibacterial gel will be provided on site.
Forest School activities will be cancelled in the event of:
- Not meeting the required adult/child ratio.
- If the FS Leader is absent.
- In the event of gale force winds or electric storms.
- In the event of a cancellation, Kerkus Forest School will make every effort to contact parents ahead of class times. Where feasible, cancellation notices will also be published on the Kerkus Facebook group.
Are Kerkus insured to do Forest School?
Yes, we carry comprehensive and specialist insurance cover which permits the qualified leader to demonstrate and teach all aspects of Forest School. For your added safety, Pilar and Nuria also have an outdoor paediatric first aid certificate which is a much more demanding course than the usual paediatric first aid certificate. A well stocked first aid and burns kit is on hand too. But to meet our insurance requirements we do need parents to complete our Consent Form for each child before the first class.
Is Forest School safe?
Health and safety issues are important, and safety procedures are very much part of our routine. These are shared with children, who learn to understand and assess risk for themselves. However, accidents can happen anywhere, we minimise the risk but we are in a woodland environment. Pilar and Nuria have an outdoor paediatric first aid certificate. A detailed safety procedure is set out in our handbook which can be viewed upon request.
Is it safe for young children to work with tools?
Tools are only introduced after numerous sessions. We assess the suitability of using tools with every different group of children. Every single tool is introduced with a tool talk and step-by-step instructions. All tool use is monitored closely with high adult to child ratios.
What about fire? Is that dangerous?
As with tools, fire making is introduced slowly as trust and confidence increase. We only have small camp fires which are always monitored by an experienced and qualified leader. Fires are placed in safe places and extinguished with water.
Do you have to be specially trained to run Forest School?
Yes, Forest school is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice. Both Pilar and Nuria are members of the IFSA (Irish Forest School Association) and the FSA (UK Forest School Association), are Garda Vetted and hold a current Outdoors Paediatric First Aid Certificate.
Do we go out in all weathers or cancel?
We have a saying there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothes. However, we always want to keep people safe. With safety of the children as the top priority, we cancel in high winds and high expectations of lightning. Like many other providers, we use the Beaufort Scale to determine safety and if it is above force 6 we have to cancel. The reason for this is that dead wood in the tree canopy is likely to fall to ground level without warning. We all know that sheltering under a tree during a storm is not the wisest thing to do!
Can we bring pets to the classes?
Although we all love pets, having pets (especially dogs) can cause problems so sorry no dogs or pets allowed - unless they are stuffed or a puppet.