Our forest school and woodland nursery sessions take place in the woods on our doorstep of the playgroup. These woods form part of the Esher commons, which cover 360 hectares – 4% of the borough of Elmbridge. They run from Esher to Cobham, Oxshott to West End and are said to date back to Medieval times. They contain a wide range of habitats, including woodland, heathland and wetland and support a variety of wildlife, including rare butterfly, beetle and reptile species.
In 1995, The Esher Commons were designated by the Government as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their wildlife diversity. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites. There are over 4,000 SSSIs in England. SSSIs support rare plants and animals that now find it difficult to survive in the wider countryside. To find out more about SSSIs and why it is important to maintain them, see the Natural England and Forestry Commission websites.
At forest school we take a group of children to a clearing which has been designated for us by the Elmbridge rangers in these beautiful woods. Once there your little ones are free to explore the woods and the wonders of nature under the watchful eye of our fully qualified early years educators and forest school leaders.
At the beginning of the year in September when we have a lot of new starters, the focus is on safety and learning all about the hazards that we might encounter, such as the fire circle, looking at but not touching fungus, noticing trip hazards and being carful around water. Children quickly understand the few important rules and in no time they are making mud pies and building their very own 'fire' in our forest school.
In the winter at forest school we use the fire to keep warm we may even have jacket potatoes or some other yummy treats which always go down well with a warming drink of hot milk. If it rains we snuggle under the canopy for our lunch and then, with appropriate clothing of course, we carry on playing and learning.
In summer we often run a forest school summer camp which means that as well as children who currently attend we are often able to welcome back children who have previously attended our woodland nursery school sessions but have now moved on to big school. For more information about the forest school summer camp please contact us.
The benefits of forest schools and woodland nursery sessions are now well known and you may find the following articles useful reading.
"Collecting my son from forest school is magical - the memories of this are so special and will stay with me forever. All the children look so happy, carrying flowers and sticks - and it’s so clear they have all had a fantastic time."