Over the last eight years Wellington Prep School has been in the process of developing a unique and very precious learning environment for the young children at the school.
Initially an area of land was purchased by a charitable trust linked to the school. It is on the side of the Blackdown Hills on the Devon/ Somerset border, adjacent to an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Members of the school staff who have gone out in all weathers to maintain and improve the site, and who plan, deliver, and carry out the weekly Forest School Sessions for the children in Pre-prep, Nursery to Year 2. Pupils in Key stage 2, also use the site for open learning and outdoor sessions regularly throughout the term. The majority of the Early Learning Goals within the Foundation Stage and numerous aspects of the National Curriculum at Key Stages 1-4 are achievable through Forest School. Hence it works as an integral part of the delivery of the curriculum and becomes an extension of the classroom.
The eight-hectare site consists of some ancient woodland and a meadow area. Many developments have taken place across the site including the installation of a small shelter area and the building of an eco-friendly Thunderbox Compost Toilet. We recently received a donation of a parachute shelter, which will be located above the fire pit this Autumn in 2023.
Developing children’s environmental awareness and sense of responsibility is very much at the heart of our Forest School ethos and principles in line with the Forest School Association (FSA); as well as building on resilience and connecting with nature through a holistic approach. Care and consideration of the plants and animals on the site is continuously reinforced and modelled by accompanying adults.
• In 2019 fifty native tree saplings were planted by the children. Hedging plants were also planted and cared for by the children that year.
• A ‘bug hotel’ has been constructed.
• The children sawed, hammered and constructed three bird boxes in 2021 (which a family of blue tits used straight away).
• In 2023, as part of the RSPB Wild Challenge, Years 1-2 helped construct bat boxes and helped position them across the site.
• A team of children from Year 3 constructed some incredible mini bug and butterfly hotels which are positioned in the trees supporting the local micro-habitats and are helping to provide a diverse insect and wildlife population.
• The children and staff have recently been using a motion-sensitive wildlife camera to investigate the night-time fauna of the woodland site. The children have been fascinated to watch badgers, deer, squirrels and a varied bird population going about their business in the middle of the night or at dawn in the area.
• In 2022, the children built a small pond, and staff constructed a drainage and guttering system to collect rainwater from the shelter to refill the pond. Frog spawn and toads have now been seen in the area.
• Our project for Autumn Term 2023, is to plant more native hedge species.
The children and staff have taken ownership of the site and each week, in all weathers explore and learn about nature and the environment on the site. If visitors to the school ask the children about their experiences at the forest school site their answers are joyous to hear, the vocabulary they use expresses often delight, wonder and imagination. The school is rightly very proud of their forest school site.