School focus: Broomhill Infant School
Tucked away in the heart of Sheffield is an award winning wildlife garden that is helping children at Broomhill Infant School thrive.
Hidden from view at the end of the playground the Forest School focuses on creating a positive environment that supports the delivery of education while allowing the children to engage with their surroundings in a woodland setting.
Activities take place outdoors and are centred around a specific topic – linked to the national curriculum – which the youngsters will have been exploring during their timetabled lessons in the classroom over the term.
To enhance learning, staff make use of the garden as much as possible allowing each year group half a term to experience the Forest School at different times throughout the school year.
The Forest School was set up as part of the Forest Education Initiative, now known as the Forest Education Network, and is well established at Broomhill Infant School, having been in place for around eight years.
Headteacher Catherine Timbers said: “The younger children will take part in the Forest School in the summer months, and the older children when it gets colder.
“This means that throughout their three years at the school they get to experience it during every season which is quite nice.
“They are out here every Friday come rain or shine and they all love it. Lots of our children live in flats and don’t get to experience time outside in the garden so it is really precious for them.”
The outdoor classroom, situated in the Forest School, is well equipped with everything from waterproof jackets and trousers to hot water bottles and hats, ensuring that no child misses out should they forget their clothing or become too cold outside.
“One of our Year 2 students described Forest School as the ‘jewel in the Broomhill crown’,” Mrs Timbers added. “Everyone is included, our complex needs children get to explore and thrive in the garden and our English as an Additional Language (EAL) really benefit from it.
"Some of our non-verbal children have learnt to speak in the Forest School, and it is great for team building. It is just brilliant on every level.”
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This term the topic focuses around 'what would you find in a cave’, with Yellow Base – a mixed group of Reception and Year 1 pupils – currently enjoying their time in the Forest School having recently returned from a trip to Tree Cliff Cavern, near Castleton.
They will be able to visit the Forest School until the end of May, when another year group will have their turn to explore the garden.
During their time in the garden, the youngsters are split into smaller groups and looked after by a handful of volunteers and school staff to ensure their safety.
Mrs Timbers said: “We have an amazing and kind group of volunteers who help us out. Without them we’d struggle as we need a higher ratio of adults for the children.”
The children are invited to challenge their surroundings in a respectful manner, and are asked to abide by a unique set of rules tailored for Forest School and the sometimes slippy terrain – such as respecting the wildlife and environment and making sure to always walk.
Each group in Yellow Base has been given the opportunity to take part in a number of tasks – including den building, clay ‘pinch pot’ making, planting sunflower seeds and baking gingerbread cavemen – alternating over a two-week block to ensure they all experience what is on offer.
During each task they are encouraged to get muddy, find new ways of working, develop practical skills and become confident and capable people.
Opportunities are also provided to allow them to also take risks, make choices, and initiate learning by giving them challenging but achievable tasks and the time to reflect on this.
Forest School leader Naomi Woodruff, said: “It is all about the children doing tasks for themselves and is great fun. They don’t realise they are learning half the time, they are thinking for themselves and building resilience.
“It is just lovely, they are free to explore and the area seems massive to them it is like a secret garden. They can go down the mud slide and find worms and snails when they are gardening. It can be a whole other world for some of the children.”