A couple of weeks ago I attended a CPD (Career/Professional Development) day on sharps safety and skills. It is a cornerstone of our responsibility as forest school practitioners to continue to improve our skill set & deepen our own knowledge and understanding, as well as gaining new ideas to keep our delivery fresh and engaging. These days also give us the opportunity to meet & work with other practitioners & share ideas and thoughts about our own practice and our industry as a whole.
All good stuff.
I have delivered more tools based stuff in Forest School since visiting Ed at Free Rangers nursery near Bath last year. It’s a pretty idyllic setting and so inspiring to work with children who have such a firm grasp of the safe use and opportunity of competent tool work. I (like many newly qualified practitioners) was nervous about integrating tool work into such a young group, working with Ed really gave me the confidence to start scaffolding my own learning & confidence, to then begin building this with my groups.
As I mostly work with the early years age group there is quite a large developmental range in terms of capability within my group. I have found that for many, the opportunity to learn through play & get dirty in an inspiring and engaging play space is ‘enough’. However those who have been coming to me for some time or are at the upper end of the age range are looking for more challenge.
These children have been attending forest school for some time & I have been able to scaffold their learning to develop both the physical capability and also their safety awareness to be able to use tools in an appropriate way. I have spent entire sessions with children who just wanted to split wood, creating kindling for fires to keep their friends warm or to feed a Kelly kettle for hot chocolate.
I am reminded of the Scandinavian Kindergartens, where many children have their own pocket knifes and experience childhood within a society where responsible ownership of such an object is a part of ‘growing up’.
And yet people still flinch when they see pictures of children holding a knife, using an axe or with a saw in hand…
People see danger, where in reality there is true opportunity; building responsibility, a sense of achievement, developing concentration, self esteem and independent risk assessment. Yes these tools deserve respect, yes they need to be used in a safe and responsible way but so do kitchen knives!
We have become so removed from our self reliant heritage. Knife crime is discussed in schools while knife skills are not. I believe children should be given the opportunity at a young age to learn how to use and respect these tools for their right purpose at an early age.
One thing I experienced first hand during my training day was how immersive tool work is. Whittling and sculpting wood, watching the humble stick become a whistle, a ‘chunk of wood’ become a delicate flower. There is a sense of craftsmanship, a reconnecting with a more primal part of our ancestry where we made things by hand rather than buying them, mass produced. Beautiful and unique things created from humble and ordinary beginnings.
So however ‘imperfect’ the results, the time spent making it, immersed in an activity (immersion lowers our heart rate, our blood pressure & makes us feel good) has been the true gift. Why would we deny our children that same opportunity?