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If you go down to the woods today...

If you go down to the woods today … you might be surprised to see children from I CAN’s Meath School enjoying their learning at Willow’s Forest School. Each class are having the opportunity to use the woods to support and enhance their learning experience.

The session starts with the children, all of whom have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), gathered around and chatting openly: saying “Hello!” to Willow the Fox, talking about their week and what they want to do today, without the pressure and expectations that may come from being in a classroom. There is an emphasis on safety in every activity the pupils do, with lessons that can be applied throughout their daily lives.

They head off and make their own decisions about what they want to do. They use their imaginations and ‘cook’ in the Mud Kitchen, re-enacting and exploring what they see happening in the kitchen at home and coming up with all sorts of wonderful concoctions!

There is always a craft or skill to be learned that comes from using basic equipment and can only add to their life skills: making spiders out of conkers using a bit drill; whittling sticks using a potato peeler; making sparks using a fire-steel – just in case they find themselves in the wilderness! But the message of safety with the children’s ever increasing need for independence is invaluable.

One child in particular, whose speech and language needs affect his confidence in the classroom, comes alive in Willow’s Forest School. He becomes at one with nature and is so engaged he wants to try everything. He is a natural stick-whittler! Stripping the stick successfully before your eyes! We look at him half an hour into his exploration and he’s beaming, covered in mud and starting conversations with his friends and trying to help them: a skill so hard for him but in this environment where he is comfortable and confident, is able to take this risk without a second thought.

At the end we all come back together round the campfire to talk about what we have enjoyed. Children, who, because of their educational needs, find ‘feelings’ challenging, are able to discuss their ideas because of a shared, memorable experience.

…And the best bit of a campfire? I’m sure all the children will agree, are the toasted marshmallows and a story.

I CAN's mission is that no child should be left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding.

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