February 20, 2015

Charter Forest School Community Project

Part of my role, here in the Department of Politics and International Studies, has evolved to include community and charity liaison and to manage charity events and fundraisers as well as working and communicating with members of the local community with regards to any projects we do as a department.

Back at the end of 2014 our Director of Administration, Jackie Smith, gave me a brief to organise something for the Politics, Philosophy and Sociology admin teams to do as our input into the University's 50th anniversary celebrations. I think Jackie was thinking something like a food bank collection but, as always, I like to think big and I promptly got on with researching what we can do in the local area that would make a difference. I started off by contacting Cllr Richard Dale, who is heavily involved in the Canley Regeneration Project and is Chair of the Canley Stakeholders Committee. I thought it would be good for us to take part in a community project in Canley as this is the area where the University has the most impact. I explained to Richard that I was looking for a project to take part in and he invited me along to the next Canley Stakeholders Committee at Charter Primary School. At the meeting I spoke to the stakeholders and asked if they could have a think about any projects they would like some help with, I explained that we had a team of people and were happy to take part in fundraising and also hands on work with anything they needed help with.

At the second meeting with the Canley Stakeholders Committee I heard all of the ideas for different projects and the one that caught my attention was a project at Charter School itself, to try and turn the school into a Forest School. Forest School is a philosophy and encompasses the idea of outdoor learning, it lets children explore the outdoors and learn about nature, the environment and the seasons in a safe setting whilst improving their basic skills. For further information on Forest Schools please see the website www.forestschools.comThe Forest School would be written into the curriculum and become part of their learning and is an amazing opportunity for children to get out of the traditional classroom environment.

After deciding that the Forest School project was the one we would help with I set up another meeting with George, the Chair of Governors at Charter School, along with Georgette, the head teacher and Carla, head of science, to discuss how we can plan the Forest School project and move it forward. It was amazing to meet with such like-minded and enthusiastic people and to meet some of the children who would get the benefits of the Forest School.

The next step was for us to visit a Forest School which had already been set up and running for a couple of years so one afternoon we piled into George's car and drove to Windy Arbour School in Chelmsley Wood. When we got to Windy Arbour there was a Forest School class in progress, 8 of the reception class were outside, in their wet weather clothing and wellies, searching for hedgehogs and building bug palaces and basically having a great time. The looks on their faces were priceless and it definitely convinced me that helping to create a Forest School at Charter Primary was the right thing to do.

The plans to take this project forward include raising £3000 towards the cost of wet weather clothing and wellington boots and training for two members of staff up to level 3 Forest School practitioner so that they can run the Forest School. It is going to be hard work raising the money but we have a Staff versus Students Community Challenge and a cake sale planned in March to start us off and I’m hoping we can brain storm some further ideas in our next meeting. This is a really exciting project that can leave a lasting legacy and make a difference to children’s education for years to come.


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