Forest School

Observing changes in the natural environment over time

Scotland, 3-5 years old

In this setting visits to a local wildlife area are planned each week to provide children with opportunities to explore the natural environment and observe change over time for example in the weather and in the life cycles of living things. Visits are also designed to foster children’s own interests and explorations and to encourage a range of inquiry skills in particular observing and exploring, asking questions, developing skills associated with reasoning and making connections.

The school organises clothing and resources carefully to enable visits in all weathers, such as mats, blankets, thermal clothing, warm drinks and snacks. A variety of equipment is taken to support activities at the site, including tarpaulin and ropes for making a shelter, magnifiers, binoculars and a camera to support observations, collecting pots, litter pickers and spades. The explorations of one child, Ian, illustrate the opportunities to foster creative dispositions in particular motivation, curiosity and sense of initiative in his active pursuit of his own interests and observations. First he spent a long time at the pond that was covered with ice. He noticed bubbles and began breaking up the ice ‘so they (the frogs) can breathe’.

A second focus of activity was taking photographs of the different fungi on the site to add to his growing collection. In reflecting on his visit later in the day Ian highlighted these two activities (breaking ice and photographing fungi), making connections with previous visits. ‘I think I saw frogs in the summer – and before I saw frogspawn.... It was sort of jelly – and tadpoles inside the ball of jelly.... Not the kind of jelly from what you eat and got tadpoles inside it’.

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