A visit Sutton Park’s Forest School has helped bring child development theory to life for Education and Childcare T Level students at Walsall College.
The Forest School approach focuses on children’s development and learning through play in an outdoor natural environment.
The students interacted with children at the school, shadowed practitioners working there and observed the children during play and snack-time.
Students also reflected on their own vocational work experience in comparison to the Forest school approach and the impact that the different learning environments can have on a child’s development.
They then showcased their understanding, knowledge of theoretical skills and industrial requirements during a debate. Strong argument for and against the Forest school approach were made. In the end, it was agreed that the children were able to develop resilience and independence through the approach.
Through their observations, the students were able to map the children’s development to the early years curriculum.
Liz the Forest School leader commented how impressed she was with the students’ professionalism and knowledge.
Commenting on the trip, Jessica, a second year T Level student said: “We were given the opportunity to interact with the children attending the preschool. This allowed us to understand what activities the children complete on a day-to-day basis. In addition, we also recognised the differences between the children who attended the outdoor preschool, compared to children we’ve encountered at our placements.
“We noticed, in particular, how the children of Sutton outdoor preschool had an extended range of vocabulary compared to those without this experience, as well as an increased use of imagination.
Jessica added: “We also debated the advantages and disadvantages that outdoor learning has on a child, discussing factors such as the COVID pandemic, hygiene, health and safety regulations and links to the Early Years Foundation Stage to support our arguments.”
Chrissie, another student said “I feel as though the Sutton Park outdoor preschool was a good experience for me because I was able to see how the children develop differently there compared to how they do at my placement.
“I was also able to see the different challenges and obstacles that the children and staff may find and how they overcome these challenges, which shows that they have a strong hard-working team at Sutton Park preschool. I would definitely recommend this experience.”
Student, Katie said “As a result of this trip, I have learned how much the children can learn when outside, even when they appear to be at play. I also saw much resilience the children can build. In my placement, if a child falls over they will cry. However, if a child in the Forest School falls over, they will get back up and carry on as before.”