Hello and Salaams (peace!),
This is a post that I will try to regularly update with all the excellent work we’ve been doing at Al Khair School to increase the awareness of the benefits of Outdoor Learning. AlhamduLillah we have already managed to make a huge difference in the land next to our school.
The story began when the headteacher told me, as a parent, that there was a vacancy for a Maths teacher (that’s my speciality!) and that he was looking for a person to send for Forest School training…My ears pricked up at this as it had been a dream of mine to learn more about surviving in the great outdoors. Anyone who knows me will know that I love connecting with our natural world on a regular basis on family holidays. I have had a love for scenic countryside whether it’s in Wales, Scotland or even picturesque parts of a England like Cornwall…this is something I attribute to being a ‘Northern Lass’ at heart, having been brought up ‘Up North’ and also the year we spent, as a family, by the Welsh seaside in North Wales. The truth is I feel more connected to the Creator when I am amidst the magnificent creation that He has made. SubhanAllah!
So, I began working at this school and went along to the Forest School training in October last year. The company I went with is Forest Schools Birmingham whom I’d highly recommend to all, as I had a fantastic experience and met some wonderful people.
As you can imagine, we had an absolutely amazing time. It was truly life-changing to immerse myself in nature day after day for a whole week. Not only was I now aware of the physical exertion it took to work (and simply sit!) outdoors all day, but I also learnt how restorative sitting in the woodland can be when I wasn’t feeling at my best (this is when I had a mid-week dip in energy levels and is a whole other story altogether!).
Coming back to school and realising we didn’t even have a forest school area, I knew that I had my work cut out for me.
However, with a bit of brainstorming with the teachers as to how we would go about things, we decided to hold a forest school fundraiser.
Meanwhile, I began to teach a weekly forest School session for the little ones…!
And then it became a treat we enjoyed every session for the whole term!We made fairy houses for these little guys!And we simply enjoyed spending time together around the fire circle…☺️
Then at the end of term we managed to hold a fantastic forest school tea party for parents and children in order to raise funds to hire someone to help with clearing the area. We all wrapped up warm and braved the cold December weather to help raise some funds for this fabulous cause…
The morning before the event,everything felt a bit overwhelming; I was rushing around all morning packing the car and then cajoling my boys to get ready on time so we could get to school early and start setting up and preparing for the day ahead. And in the typical fashion of children and the way they are, it felt like there were worse than ever in the morning (but they probably weren’t- the stress of holding such a big event pivoting on Forest School at school must have been getting to me!). Anyway, we got to school and I could feel my energy levels dropping already and my zeal slowing down. Why did I always seem to step out of my comfort zone and make life more difficult for myself? Why didn’t I just keep my life simple? Get up in the morning, look after my children, work an hour or two, come back and sort the house and sort some food out for when everybody arrives home later on..Repeat. It seems like I prefer a more complicated life! So, just as I was having these overwhelming feelings of self doubt before the whole thing, I went to deliver part of the bird feeding kit to one of the teachers, and I found this on her chair – exactly where I was heading. And even though this verse didn’t directly refer to me or what I was trying to do, I got my answer…
At another point in the day, we had an amazingly awesome moment of clarity, (giving me reassurance and a sign that God was on our side in this inshaAllah!) which I’d like to share with you now…
The thing is, I’d also volunteered to train the teachers, alongside the children on simple fire safety and firelighting tips just before the fundraiser. As it was a half day at school and we already had all the equipment ready for a fab fire, I thought it wouldn’t take much extra effort to undertake. Now I know how wrong I was. You see, that meant we had a fire going from around 10am and by the time our parents started arriving, at 12.30, my materials were literally burning out! We had to get some more fuel and fast! So one of our wonderful teachers went up to our woodland to get some timber and I stayed with the fire that was nearly dying. When they came back, with the help of our Syrian Arabic teacher (who, thankfully, had a lot more real life experience with the fire than I did!) we began to attempt to relight the fire…
Then a wonderful parent came with a Norwegian Candle and literally gifted it to us there and then!! It is this wonderful log you see burning in the fire below. This log is sold with a cross-like score right the way through the middle which makes it easier to light and the sheer size of it meant it would last for the duration of the afternoon without a problem! Allah is so Kareem! AlhamduLillah!
We then had enough money to begin to clear the area we wanted as our new forest school area. It was actually Nick Wale of the Forest School Birmingham team who came to help. After his excellent and insightful consultation, he came back to help us make the change…
This is what it looked like before:
We have a clear path!And a fire circle:
We’ve also begun to use this area to teach and had a STEAM lesson there with Year 5 and 6 students the week before half term. They made some flapjacks and apple crumble on the fire to eat at their tree party in Moseley Bog.
This trip had been planned in order to get the Woodland Trust Platinum Award for outdoor learning. The trip and the session in the woodland was a huge success aH and this means we’ll be presenting our evidence in order to receive the award soon.
Our only problem is that the ascent into the new Forest School area is on a steep slope and is difficult for the little ones to climb up to. Nick helped us make a somewhat gentler slope but need to open up the chain-link fencing in order to accommodate it. We actually have someone working on this, as we speak!…
And here is a photo of the finished gate to our wonderful woodland 😃…
So things really are happening…
And now, dear family, friends and visitors,
We will need a donation of £200 to order a skip for the school to clear a bit of land where the entrance to the woodland will be that is an eye sore for the children.
We will be transforming the land into a beautiful garden and inshaAllah I will send pics of any updates. This is what it looks like now…
We will really appreciate any kind of help..Thank you!
Just think about all the children you’ll be helping. So much of well being and great mental health is linked with spending time outdoors as is outlined in this recent article in The Guardian. Let’s spend our money on this to make a real difference!
If you enjoyed reading about what we’re up to at school please let me know and if you’ve got your own success stories of bringing the great outdoors into your life once again please do get in touch, I’d love to hear about it all!
Peace and love,