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The outdoor nursery concept on its own would be nothing without the right team to inspire the children and help them learn. At Into The Woods we are committed to building a strong team of passionate, knowledgeable teachers who really care about children and believe in our nursery concept. Keep reading to find out more about the Into The Woods team.
I am a local primary school teacher and have been working in schools and children's centres in London for over 15 years. I have specialized in Early Years education for the last 10 years. I have always believed strongly in the importance of outdoor play and have been an advocate of it in all my educational roles.
My original plan had been to open a traditional day care nursery, but could never find premises with outdoor space that met my needs. Then one day I was speaking to my Swedish neighbour in our communal garden and she told me about the Outdoor Kindergartens they have in Sweden, where parents bring their children to a designated place in the woods and the children spend all day outside with specialised forest school trained staff. It sounded like a wonderful idea and that’s when I realised it wasn't a big room with a garden I needed; it was acres of open space with a small indoor space to go to when we needed it.
Going on forest school training confirmed for me that this was the way forward. Because not only did I expand my knowledge and understanding of the techniques and skills required to run a successful outdoor nursery, but researching the benefits of outdoor learning just crystallised for me that this is the way young children should learn.
I brought back the ethos and ideas to my children's centre and trained the staff there in the forest school ways. The response from the staff, children and parents was very positive and it has changed the way we work with young children. Staff reported to me that children are more happy and relaxed outside and quiet children begin to talk more.
It was not only my experiences working with young children in school and nursery settings that had convinced me that this approach is so essential. I am also a mum of three children aged 9,7 and 3. I feel an overwhelming urgency to take my children outside, to let them run, and shout and generally do their own thing and have fun. I can see how being outdoors and getting plenty of exercise is essential for their well being – especially for my 3-year-old boy, who has so much energy. Also I want my children to have a good understanding of nature and the world around them, and living in London, I feel we need to provide those opportunities for this to happen.
I hope that Into The Woods will provide that opportunity for many children and that they will have an amazing experience that has a lasting effect on them as learners and as people.
One week in the summer holidays when I was about 9 years old, my brother, who was 12, let me play with him and his friends — a very rare occurrence. It was 'war games over the scrumping fields'. It was a great week of building camps, working on strategies for attacking the others and defending our camp. There were no adults involved and quite a few injuries, but nothing too serious, mostly 'flesh wounds'. No need for calling in the medical corps! I remember the frustration of being called in for lunch and missing out on the action. (That was a time when lunch was not high on my list of priorities, oh how things have changed!) But it was so much fun and we talked about that week for years afterwards.
As the mother of a 5 year old boy I have spent a lot of time thinking about what children need to be balanced in our high-tech society, and this led on to an interest in the Forest School concept. I trained as a Forest School Leader in 2012 with Bridgwater College, which was really inspiring. Since then I have run Forest School family days as well as an Allotment Club at my son’s school, based on environmental art and Forest School principles. I also volunteer with the Forest School project at Highgate Primary. I come from a Steiner background, and this has influenced my ideas on childhood, development and the value of living within the seasons. My arts background helps me to encourage creativity in children as well as making beautiful crafts.
One of my favourite childhood memories is the day after a storm when a tree blew down on the green outside our house. We had the day off school and spent the whole time playing on the fallen tree making food from the leaves and seeing how the water had flooded onto the grass. There was something really special to be the first person to see what this tree had looked like further up, while usually we only see the trunks. Suddenly I could see all the branches, and climb on them, right to the tip.
I'm Alex, I first got involved with Forest Schools via the Sussex Wildlife Trust. I learnt all about the woodland creatures by exploring with children at Stanmer park. I love being outdoors. It's so awe inspiring and being able to experience that with young people is great. Every Forest School session is different and one of the great things is that the children can teach you something new every day. They let their imagination run wild by creating homes for the creatures in the woods or making up a song and dance for the rest of the group. When working for Nipperbout Crèche I would bring interesting objects in from outside. With one group we went on a walk and then made a huge tree from all the different leaves we could find. Another time we were making animals out of vegetables. Some of the children had intuitive ways of making the parts move, making the creatures come alive.
One of my favourite childhood memories was when I had a food fight with my friend. We threw jelly and ice cream until we were covered. Licking it off from around our mouths, we ran out into the rain to wash it off.
My name is Becky. I am the mother of two girls, one who is eight and a younger one who is two, I believe that it is the experience of bringing up children in London and all its chaos that has been a huge contributing factor in leading me into the woods. I trained as an artist and oil painter and I always find a great deal of inspiration and excitement when surrounded by nature, and the way that light falls is a constant fascination that I'm not sure will ever be sated. So it's not a great surprise to find myself working in the woods now and finding such satisfaction in it. Previously I have conducted short courses in painting for children nurturing their enjoyment of mark making and use of colour and guiding them through basic techniques using a paintbrush. I found working with pre-school age children incredibly rewarding and so I feel lucky to have the opportunity to watch and be a part of their flourishing in this magnificent environment.
I remember I must have been about five years old and I had been fruit picking at a local farm, with my family and a friend. It had been a great summer day riding in a tractor from field to field, eating as many strawberries and raspberries as I had in my punnet. While my parents were getting the bounty weighed up, my brother my friend and I came across a green expanse, the sun was glowing across it and it looked so inviting. My brother said, 'That's green concrete you know – go walk on it.' So I did. It turned out to be a very deep pond covered in green algae. Needless to say I was a little damp for the journey home!
After spending three years living in London and spending most of my time in the city, I started to realise how much I really missed living so close to the nature that I had grown up with. Unfortunately it was something that I had always taken for granted until I no longer had the big green spaces to roam about in everyday with our family dog. So after three years I decided to find a way to reconnect with the environment. It was then that I discovered the concept of Forest School. I started at Into The Woods in Spring 2015, the perfect season to ease myself into these new conditions. I have loved (almost!) each and every day in the Woods and it has been wonderful to watch the children grow and adapt to their surroundings. It has been such an inspiration to watch them over the past year enjoying every aspect of the natural world from the summer sun to the rain and thunder storms in the winter. Children have a way of finding the best in every situation and this is something I believe we can all learn from.
As a child I had a few cousins living in Sweden and each summer they would come to visit for a week. Once a year we would get together, pack a picnic and take a day trip in the woods. There is a railway bridge a couple of miles from my house, through the woods and across a few corn fields, the bridge goes over a wide stream. During the war a bomb narrowly missed the bridge and landed directly in the stream leaving a large pool of water. My siblings and our cousins would paddle with our trousers rolled up in the stream under the bridge and wait for the deafening echo of the passing trains. As we paddled, sandwiches in hand, my mother and her brother would tell us stories of how they would come here as teenagers and dive from the bridge into the pool. One year I found an old key in the bottom of the stream that I believed to be the key to a ‘Secret Garden’ that, much to my dismay, I never found. I always kept that key and never lost hope of finding that Secret Garden.
Hi, I'm Rosie. I have a genuine love for working with young children in a play- based environment and have been doing so for the past 13 years. I qualified as an Early Years teacher in Brighton before moving back to London to teach in an inner city school, where I was able to develop my own pedagogy and implement a curriculum that was creative and child- led. I believe access to quality outdoor provision is essential for helping to develop well-rounded and happy children, so constant access to the outside area all year round was a must. My setting was fortunate enough to have a small woodland area attached to the playground- a gem for any inner city school! Seeing how children respond when they are given time and space to explore in a natural environment, re-enforced how crucial it is that children have regular access to this kind of provision. When I came across Into The Woods I instantly fell in love! Being outdoors all day and supporting children through child-initiated learning in the woods is everything that education should be. I have always sought to escape to the green and natural spaces of London and beyond whenever I can, and getting to work in one of them is a joy every single day.
My favourite childhood memories are of time spent going for long walks in the summer, stomping through Epping Forest – kicking leaves and climbing the tallest trees, until it got dark and we had to go home. Being from the city, these frequent escapes to acres and acres of mysterious forest were always memorable. I remember the happiness when we came across the rare rope swing, which seemed like it hung from the sky! Even now when I visit, I get flash backs of this happy time.
I have worked in schools and universities delivering outdoor and environmental education for many years. Training as a Forest School Assistant more recently, and working with children in woodland settings has been a fulfilling experience. Forest School enables me to share my own interests for exploring outdoors and using natural materials to inspire and create, and to promote its benefits of nurturing creativity and independence in young people.
As well as an educator I’m also a musician, playing independently, and previously working as a composer for HArts Theatre company in London. Through fieldtrips and travels I’ve been fortunate to visit some incredible natural landscapes, including the Mojave Desert of California, Mount Vesuvius volcano in Italy, and the Lake District. Closer to home, I love visiting forests and discovering new woods in London.
My parents used to take my younger sister and I to visit ancient monuments, including Danebury Iron Age hillfort. Not the usual outings perhaps, but we got to see a lot of interesting places, and now I really value learning about history and landscapes. I remember marching round the top of Danebury hill when I was about two or three, with a very big stick, shouting out across the plains below. And running through the woods there, until mum managed to catch me!