CHILDREN at Knavesmire Primary school have been going back to nature.

Thursdays have been designated 'Forest Thursdays', when classes head for the school's outdoor area to try out new things and learn some essential outdoor skills.

"Children have the opportunity to learn new skills unlike those they would normally do in school," says Christine Banham, a qualified forest school practitioner who has been leading the sessions.  

"For example, in year 3, children learnt how to build and light fires using fire steels.  Nursery, Reception and Year 2 have used the open fire to learn cooking skills. 

"The Year 6 children created a historically accurate Viking Forge, designed clay moulds and melted pewter to create Viking jewellery.  Years 4 and 5 are using tools and natural materials to create art such as willow weaving and wooden ornaments.

"Time in nature is beneficial to the health and wellbeing of all. Allowing the children to take age-appropriate risks has a lasting impact on their resilience and confidence - and the children are loving the new sessions."

The school's Forest Thursdays were set up as an extension of the regular early years forest school programme where reception classes visit the forest school area fortnightly to learn new skills and discover nature.

They are a response to the 'challenges posed by Covid-19', Christine says. 

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"Children’s wellbeing is paramount and our Forest Thursdays are all about fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.   

"This term we have focused on providing the children with risk based activities – predominately fire and tool work.  These activities allow the children some control over situations they perceive as risky and help them to build confidence in managing uncertainty. 

"In a Covid-19 world, where the children are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, being able to practice risk control is hugely beneficial for the children’s emotional resilience.  One child commented 'I was scared of the fire but now I love seeing it!  I’m really brave!'

"Another older child said 'being here feels normal'  It’s like covid isn’t here'."