Kidzrus Forest School winner of “The Forest or Beach School / Kindergarten Award 2021 at The Hilton, Metropole Hotel in London for The 19th National NMT Awards. This was attended by more than 800 people within the Early Years sector and the most prestigious event in the EY calendar. This is quite an achievement from a small family run business, we are absolutely delighted to win the award and be recognised amongst some truly outstanding Early Years providers, professionals and sponsors who work tirelessly to provide the best opportunities for all children. Helena Hales our wonderful Nursery Cook was also a finalist in the Nursery Chef category and made quite an impression on the judges, we are extremely proud of Helena too against some amazing competition and very dedicated Nursery Chefs.
We travelled to London by train on Saturday and made it quite special with treats and goodies organised by Karly our Business Manager into memorable occasion and for our staff to know they are valued and appreciated. Kidzrus Forest School was represented by Naomi Connor who is our dedicated Forest School Leader. We had an amazing weekend celebrating and we are extremely grateful to NMT and their sponsors for a fabulous awards evening. Well done to all finalist and winners,
Our outdoor area was completely redeveloped in Spring 2020 during the first lockdown and nursery closure to create Kidzrus Forest School. The aim was for children to transition post lockdown and enable them to build their resilience and confidence providing many learning opportunities outdoors. It allows child centred learning with opportunities to develop skills, interest and understanding in all areas of learning through a wide range of activities which provide hands on experiences in a natural environment.
The City of Salford is a locality of deprived areas where 19.7% of the population claim benefits, 27.1% leave school with no qualifications and 29.1% qualified to Levels One and Two. General health statistics compare unfavourably with the national averages. There is a higher than average of children in the 0-4 age range; similarly for immigration data.
Adjacent to our setting is a protected wildlife and woodland area that we incorporate into our curriculum as a vital resource to support each individual child’s fast growing mental and physical abilities. Our qualified Forest School Leader, Naomi encourages and challenges the children’s skills while providing them with a sense of freedom and opportunities to be at one with nature by den building, exploring the woods, collecting treasures and splashing through streams – all essential for Early Years education. Our latest addition is our fabulous teepee, children spend all day outdoors.
The area is designed to enhance children’s learning by incorporating an animal enclosure, classroom for all weather learning, mud kitchen, construction zone, fire pit, growing area, relaxation and quiet zones These are used to allow children to develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually whilst making an important connection with the world and how they fit in.
With support from Naomi our qualified Forest School Leader children are able to resolve issues, build their resilience and self-belief and take assessed risks in all weathers using appropriate equipment and resources and to thrive in the progress that they make as healthy, creative and independent learners.
The animal enclosure houses 8 free range hens and 4 chicks and 2 rabbits; forming part of our therapeutic and wellbeing curriculum. Children are fully involved in the day to day care of the animals including feeding, cleaning out and general interactions and have been invaluable in settling children back into the setting post lockdown. Eggs produced are used in our healthy eating menu and the children recognise the link between caring for their animals and the food that they eat.
Each of the zones in the Forest School allow our children to make connections and build empathy as they feel a sense of responsibility as members of the nursery community. The facilities are open for use by all children within the Group, alongside our Holiday Club participants, affording them a unique and alternative approach to learning and opportunities to form new relationships, connecting with the world outdoors. We have a viewing enclosure whereby children can watch the wildlife and learn so much more as well as caring for them and feeding them, offer them resources to make nests to keep warm.
The diverse activities undertaken ensure that all children have an opportunity to explore and discover, take risks and be challenged, choose and initiate their own learning and build up positive relationships with others and the world around them.
With Naomi’s direction, our children are able to follow all embedded safety rules and guidelines to build their independence and carry out a range of instructions. This also benefits them within the home environment as parents have commended the efforts of our practitioners.
Our informal curriculum is designed to turn the natural world into a space for children to use natural and human-made materials that allow them to explore creatively and learn about the great outdoors. Activities are child-led and themed so that each one is resourced appropriately for art, music, science, storytelling, mathematics, geography, engineering etc for individual and group exploration around what they are most interested in and learn through play and investigation with ample opportunity for Q&A.
Children regularly collect eggs from our free-range hens, independently, they light the fire pit using flint and cook breakfast. This is an important social time and allows the children to strengthen relationships and extend language and communication skills. We have since established strong links with The Community Champion at Morrisons, Swinton who often supplies additional resources and experiences by planting seeds and discussing the food/supply chain.
We have designated relaxation areas within the Forest School such as hammocks, bean bags and friendship benches along with the opportunity to sleep in the outdoor environment. Children’s mental health is of paramount importance; especially so as we return to a new normality following numerous lockdowns. We have discreetly embedded activities that promote positive personal, social and emotional development, wellbeing and resilience as and when children return to the setting these areas have proved invaluable in easing them back into our nursery routines.
Strong partnerships with parents are vital and we continue to support our vulnerable and hard to reach families, following the ease of restrictions, by welcoming them to weekend/out of hours sessions, to participate in outdoor learning opportunities that are otherwise restricted in their home environment, and also by holding yoga/Pilates sessions for parents alongside support from our trained/designated mental health first aid champions.
Alongside the parent and child sessions, we also understand that our Forest school is an excellent environment which lends itself to build upon our own staff team’s wellbeing and mental health. We have introduced staff team building sessions involving an assault course, which test the staff’s critical thinking and problem solving skills, aptly named ‘I’m a Childcare practitioner get me out of here!’
Following the pandemic we were really keen to invite our parents back into Nursery events safely. We have such great partnerships with our parents and know it is vitally important for the wellbeing of our children to continue to strengthen parent relationships. We arranged a sparkle and shine event both to provide an opportunity for the parents to meet each other and also to showcase our fabulous Forest School facilities. Parents feedback included: “Thank you so much for such a lovely evening, it was really nice to be doing ‘normality’ again and really good to catch up with everyone. We had a blast! And “Just wanted to say thank you for a great event. Grandparents were so pleased to have a wonderful and warm welcome and to be involved with the Forest School!”
Naomi our Forest School Leader commented, “The most important tool to use in our Forest school is a child’s imagination! A stick is not just a stick, it can be a wand or a broomstick, anything a child wants it to be!”
We’re super proud to win the award and look forward to developing Kidzrus Forest School even further in the New Year.