If you go down to the woods today…
Well in the woods in Millfields Park, Hackney on Wednesdays and Fridays what you’ll find is Free Range Urban Kids – the borough’s first 100% outdoor nursery for 2-5 year olds! Run on Forest School principles, the emphasis is on fun and play, some learning through nature and lots of simple enjoyment. And being outdoors. every day. Come rain or shine. Despite the fact these children live in the heart of urban East London.
Well if they can do it in Sweden, and even in Scotland, surely we can do it here in Hackney?!
Yesterday Free Range Urban Kids ran their first ‘taster’ session with about 13 kids dropping in with their parents to see what it would be like to be outdoors. It couldn’t have been a better first day – crisp autumn sunshine, lots of leaves and sticks to play with and parents quickly discarded as the kids just had fun.
One of the founding partners, Hayley Mitchell said “It was fascinating to watch the child who arrived and refused to put waterproofs on, demanding to go home, and then by the end of the session joining in and having a great time. A true Forest School transformation.”
Children who are unaccustomed to getting their hands dirty tentatively – with no doubt some peeking at parents – began to enjoy the mud. Serendipitous findings of mushrooms and spiders, cue awe and wonder at what can be discovered just a short walk from their own front doors. This was very different to the usual childcare rooms, despite commitments to 50% outdoor time and ‘freeflow’. This was ALL about the outdoors.
As well as simple free play, Hayley described how the children could choose to do art, this time using the leaves around them for pictures. The session was led by Henry, an experienced teacher and forest school leader, who will also mange the volunteers who are all experienced childcare professionals currently studying the Forest School approach. There was an area with musical instruments that the children could pick up and play, and big fat brushes so they could ‘paint’ the trees with water. They made flags for their boundary fence out of sticks and old fabric decorated with mud and leaves. These children will know, despite the fact they will need to clear up every night, that during Free Range Urban Kids school this is their place.
Snack time soup was served and hands could be washed using piping hot water from flasks kept for that purpose (flasks provided by Outdoor People :-))
At the end of the session, fed and watered, there was just time for a story – appropriately ‘We Are Going on a Bear Hunt’.
Hayley, who is undertaking her Forest School training here in Hackney, finished up by saying “It was wonderful to see the small transformations over the morning, it was truly magical”.
Every single one of the children that came to the taster sessions has now been signed up to come regularly, and there are a few places left across the autumn term (running up to the 19th December). Drop in sessions are £18, or £16 per session for a block of 6. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.