We are proud to announce that we have acquired just under half an acre of woodlands to create “Monkey Puzzle Bexleyheath and Welling Forest School”.
We want to offer this generation the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful outdoors childhood that many of us were fortunate enough to have experienced but that children in London are sadly now missing out on.
We will continue to follow the core Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, and incorporate learning in a safe and secure outdoor environment, where free play, fresh air, exposure to the natural world and physical activity are an integral part of learning.
Activities in the forest can range from creating mud pies, treasure hunts, bark rubbing, mini beast exploration, experimenting with science, dressing up and creative role play to reading stories, mark making and mathematics in the forest. We are always on the move, balancing, running, climbing, coordinating and are always learning more about our world.
THE BENEFITS OF A FOREST EDUCATION
There is overwhelming evidence that getting children outdoors provides the best possible start in life and we are proud to foster this at Monkey Puzzle Forest School.
Studies demonstrate that children now know less about the natural world than ever before in the history of humankind. According to the National Trust, fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places compared to almost half a generation ago, a third have never climbed a tree, and one in ten can’t ride a bike. These increasingly indoor and sedentary lifestyles are leading to distressing physical and mental symptoms, including obesity (linked to low overall fitness levels), behavioural problems, stress and a lack of awareness of nature and its benefits.
Fortunately, increasing outdoor time for children is the simplest way to tackle these problems and a forest education offers a range of proven health and wellbeing benefits.
At Monkey Puzzle Forest School we are all about getting children outside and scientific evidence suggests that this is one of the best ways to address the inactivity that leads to obesity and other related health issues. Studies have shown that children have higher physical activity levels in greenspaces compared to non-greenspaces and that children who spend more time outdoors have better motor skills and fitness, especially balance and coordination. Being outside more also helps to prevent myopia (nearsightedness) in children. Playing outside for prolonged periods has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s development, particularly in the areas of balance and agility, but also manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity, and depth perception.
According to these studies, children who attend forest schools experience fewer injuries due to accidents. A child’s ability to assess risks also improves. Playing outdoors strengthens the immune systems of both children and daycare professionals.
REDUCED BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS/IMPROVED RESILIENCE
Behavioural problems are becoming more prevalent, with studies suggesting these may stem from children having little interaction with the natural world. We also live in complicated and stressful times and managing stress is an important life skill to develop.
Nature allows unstructured play, generating a sense of freedom, independence and inner strength which children can draw upon when experiencing future incidents of stress. Research indicates that green outdoor spaces not only foster creative play and improve interactions with adults, but also improves concentration and relieves the symptoms of ADHD. Some researchers go so far as to claim that contact with nature may be as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep.
Young people need opportunities to experience and learn from nature during their growing years in order to become citizens and future decision makers who will take responsibility for the stewardship of the Earth. Engaging users at a young age can result in lifelong positive attitudes about nature and the wider environment. People who have had frequent childhood experiences in natural places tend to feel more comfortable visiting these places alone and have a more positive attitude towards these spaces as adults. We want to raise a generation of young people that understand the benefits of the natural world and are motivated to protect it.
HOW CHILDREN LEARN AT MONKEY PUZZLE BEXLEYHEATH & WELLING FOREST SCHOOL
Our curriculum has been developed to meet the seven areas of learning as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). We do this through a variety of outdoor play activities designed to foster a love for learning through exploration.
Numbers and counting are encouraged by looking at trees and birds. Shapes and colours are aided by leaves and feathers. Nature is explored using water, air and earth. Our education is child-led and play-based, with curiosity sparked and a desire for deeper understanding arising from wonder.
MOVEMENT IN THE FOREST
Movement is crucial for physical development. In the forest we are constantly running, climbing, jumping, hopping, slithering, balancing and swinging.
FRIENDS IN THE FOREST
Early years play in the forest is a naturally collaborative and incredibly social experience. We create together. We talk together. We encourage and support one another. And we have fun together!
EXPLORATION IN THE FOREST
Allow children to play. Let them explore. Let them discover the world around them and learn an inner confidence from gaining a deep knowledge and understanding of the world. Show them the faith and confidence as an educator that you have in their ability and watch them flourish.
MINDFULNESS IN THE FOREST
We encourage our children to regularly reflect. Through our reflective sessions, we as educators learn more about the children’s feelings and desires, whilst the children themselves take time to consider their days. Reflecting upon our play leads us to reflecting upon our emotions….one step at a time we endeavour to practise mindfulness with our children. In today’s busy and hectic world having the ability and patience to reflect and to be grounded in the present is a fantastic tool for life.