When parents sign our waivers upon registering their child at Chelsea Forest School, they may be taken aback by the clause that refers to using knives, saws and having fires. Say what?!
Forest school pedagogy believes in providing opportunity for supported risk. It is only by learning how to manage risk that we can truly be safe. Tools are introduced on an as needed basis, and fire is introduced in the winter when we are talking about how to stay warm.
We recently had a real fire with our 3.5-4 year olds and the children took it all very seriously. We had been practicing since early January. We had to learn how to move safely around a fire (always walk around the outside, never across the circle), what a fire needs to burn (fuel, air, and a heat source), how to lay a fire, the need for a safety ring and how far to sit from the fire.
Math skills were used as we figured out how to make a circle around the fire with our blocks. We then learned to use a measuring tape to ensure that we were sitting 1 metre away from the fire. Lots of science was discussed as we figured out what a fire needed to burn.
Safety continued by talking about the need for a first aid kit nearby in addition to water for extinguishing the fire.
All of this was done without actually lighting a fire. We had to know how to be safe first! Finally, the big day arrived! We had practiced and practiced and now we were going to light the fire.
All of the children immediately got involved. shoveling snow to fill our fire bucket, making a safety ring of snow, sorting the fire wood by size, and then laying the fire. Some children were tasked with filling watering cans with water , while others made sure that the first aid kit was present.
The measuring tapes were retrieved and everyone very seriously made sure their carpet square was the correct distance from the fire.
We were ready. The children had done their jobs. It was up to the teachers to light the fire. Due to the lightly falling snow and slightly damp wood, and bark, it was a struggle! The children practiced being patient and learned that things don`t always work the first time. But finally success!
Next step- whittling marshmallow sticks!
by Michelle Hegge