It’s been a whole month since my Forest Schools assessment and development week and I’ve only now found time to sit down and share my experience with you. It’s that time of year where diaries become a bit of a pickle and to-do lists seem endless, anyway I digress. My original intention was to do this week over the summer but the dates clashed with a holiday. However, the first week of November was filled with crispy leaves, sunshine and blue skies.
We were based in Stand Wood on the Chatsworth Estate and used their education building ‘The Stickyard’ for the indoorsy parts of the week. I actually work in one of the Chatsworth villages and drive through the estate on my way to work – only now I have lots of memories when I glance accross at the woodland.
FSE refer to the process as a ‘development’ week, which a lot of it is, but we all know that there is the assessment element! I was feeling pretty confident and relaxed about the whole thing when the week began; you can only do your best, right? I’ve been practicing making fires, reading up on knots and run through the tool talks when I had a chance.
There was a fairly long list of things we had to demonstrate to our assessor in order to prove that we’re competent Forest School leaders. I won’t bore you with all the details – plus I don’t want to get into trouble with FSE for spilling all the beans – but we pretty much had a whole day in the woods to tackle the tasks. Some things were individual such as lighting and maintaining a 10 minute fire, whereas others were group tasks like shelter building and cooking.
The cooking was one of my favourite parts of the week because… well… food! Each group had to cook a starter, main or dessert while demonstrating two methods of cooking. My group opted for a starter of chickpea curry on mini-flatbreads. We fried onions in a pan before adding the other curry ingedients and chickpeas, then let it simmer. Meanwhile I moulded the flatbreads and dry fried them in a frying pan. We also had to boil water in a pan or kelly kettle so we multi-tasked and served chai tea too! Other groups made hot dogs, sweetcorn fritters, smoked fish, sweet damper bread and chocolate orange cakes. A delicious day all round.
Once the skills bits were over, and we’d had a good sleep, we had to show our understanding of Forest Schools by running a session with our peers. There was a LOT of confusion around this because we weren’t sure if we had to do role-play, act as if the others were children or talk amongst ourselves. Our assessor did explain at the start of the week that it was just peer-to-peer and no role-play was needed but we all became fusspots anyway!
Honestly, I was a bit grumpy on this day because I’d worked so hard on the skills day and was feeling tired. However it was a really nice day and a relaxing end to the week. Each group did their own interpretation of what Forest School means and I got to take part in some lovely activities. We had stick men, rockie friends, games and a moment to just lie in the leaves, look up and listen.
Overall I had a really great week and enjoyed the experience. I successfully proved my skills and passed everything I needed to. My portfolio and handbook got a thumbs up so I know that I’ve been going in the right direction, I just need to sit and finish it off now.