Barna woods forest school
- Angie Kinsella
- Scoil Bhríde, Shantalla, Co.Galway
- Science, Geography
September was the return to school for children, also the month where we begin a new cycle around the Celtic wheel. I started a programme in the beautiful Barna woods, Co.Galway in early September.
The first few weeks we entered into the woods and the children started to get to know the lay of the land. The forest floor still had plenty of flora present and the trees full of leaves all of which we began to explore with curiosity. Through various nature crafts and games my vision is to inspire and spark a love for nature.
As Albert Einstein once said “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better”
I was met with a huge diversity of cultures within these groups, which was such a delight, to witness the universal language of play that softly unfolds in a natural setting and with the support of the forest school principals. I witnessed children whose language skills may have been a challenge in a classroom setting blossoming in this environment.
Some of these children had never been to a forest although it was only 10 minutes away from their school. One student with a physical disability had joined us each week in her wheelchair. With the care and support of her wonderful teachers who were so determined to make this experience all inclusive. She would often spend time with other students crafting or sometimes just take time out to relax in the hammock. There was always allocated time for free play. To climb trees, build forts, whittle sticks, or simple take time to relax in the hammock and enjoy the canopy of the trees.
As September came to an end, I began to share and explore through fire side stories and crafts the meaning of Samhain, more commonly known as Halloween. I shared with the children how on this land we once celebrated ‘New year’ at this time, how we honoured our ancestors, and how it was time to prepare ourselves for the winter ahead. We made shelters, practiced safe fire lighting and learning about wild foods. We also explored how the fauna and flora of the land are preparing themselves and responding to the changing seasons.
Each week that we met I asked the children to keep a close eye and to feel into what changes they noticed in the forest. As the leaves started to change colour and fall from the trees, I could certainly sense Nature starting to drop back into the underground. As the weeks passed our activities, crafts and games flowed in harmony with the seasons change.
I recently received this feedback from a teacher who attended some of these sessions with her class. “The children grew mentally, physically and emotionally. They laughed and cried and sang and screeched and splashed and pushed themselves and explored and shared and learned so much about themselves and each other.”
Receiving these words ignites my passion further, to continue to share my love of nature. Nature is such an incredible and supportive teacher to whom I will be eternally grateful.