A brief chat with Chester Forest Schools

Today I was the guest of Debbie Owens, who works for Chester Forest Schools. She gave me a tour of the site at Chester lakes, Doddleston and explained about her work.

“ I did my forest school qualification about 5 years ago. Its basically about children learning outdoors. You imagine what its like being stuck in a classroom all day..here you have all your different learning skills and imagination” Debbie showed me around  and explained how she works with a variety of young people aged 8-18. Last weeks visitors included a group from Chester Autistic support. “You’ve got 20 kids, the fires going, marshmallows, at the same time they’re building shelters, its great fun for them, its engaging, they’re learning, they’re cooking” Debbie involves her children Jess and Tom in running the events, who have backgrounds in outdoor education and childcare respectively. “ I put on a load of different play activities on taurpaulin mats , bowls of mud to make mud monsters.. cone creatures and a fairy tea party.. Another mat introduces kids to basic tools and they make bows and arrows” In September “Forest tots” launches, this will be an OFTSED registered parent/toddler playgroup.

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The remains of a typical mud monster

Visitors to CFS aged 8-18 take part in a confidence course. This site is managed by the experienced ex-soldier Ashley Barker. His company I-survive (/www.i-survive.co.uk/) work in partnership with Forest Schools. The mile long obstacle course is designed to build confidence and overcome any anxieties children might have. “ They might be afraid of even just getting muddy.. They’re used to sitting at home with their ipads and things” The varied course resembles a kids version of the Krypton factor “I did like Gordon Burns, whatever happened to him?” Debbie muses. But she is keen to stress that the course is non competitive, “its the energising warm up part of the session which takes us onto the forest schools which is a bit more learn and do” I had a go on some parts of the course and its great fun offering plenty of chances to get muddy if the weathers right/wrong.

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Breakfast in The Lakes café with Debs.

Thanks for your time Debbie, keep up the good work with Forest Schools!

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