Bramblefields is a nature reserve in the city of Cambridge, managed by the City Council and tucked away behind the school and between houses. It is true to its name and offers many places to hide as well trees to climb and some open spaces. CCI first met the space in 2011 when we invited families to discover it alongside CCI artists through a series of after-school workshops. Since then CCI has worked closely with the school to support a commitment to outdoor learning that reaches across the school:
When our EYFS Leader was first approached about Forest Learning, I was interested but also rather sceptical. Allocating half a day to outdoor work in our local nature area and the rest of the day to follow up activities back at school represents 20% of the week! Can we afford the time? I thought. What about coverage of all the areas of learning? How will we fit it all in?
I am now an avid supporter of the forest learning experience ... we have extended the forest learning programme to our Year 1 pupils so that they can continue to build upon all the skills they learnt in YR. In addition to this, discussions have started about introducing the programme to our Nursery children from next year.
I have seen for myself how the forest learning evolves from the needs of the child and includes the child’s interests. It provides a real context for using language and inspires and motivates them to use their early reading and writing skills in the classroom when back at school.
The forest learning programme provides experiences that cannot be offered in the classroom or most primary school EYFS outdoor learning areas. Our local nature area gives the children the opportunity to move out of their comfort zone, take risks, make mistakes, try things out, try and try again whilst remaining in a safe and controlled environment.
Angela Leach, Headteacher
In 2015 CCI worked with the City Council and the school to identify a part of the reserve that could be licenced for sole use for educational projects.
This short film introduces the space and in particular how it has ignited an interest in storying for a class of four and five year olds and their educators from Shirley Primary School
This continuous celebration and encouragement of stories has encouraged reluctant writers to engage. It may be the informal chance to write what they want how they want, the wish to hang their story books on the story line or to hear their stories during a circle time. It may be that they want an adult to scribe or the fact that they can take a home-made book to a quiet place in the woods, or lie on the rug in the centre of the woods, but what ever it is this combination of experiences and opportunities has encouraged the class to become authors and story tellers. Reluctant writers have been picking up pencils and mark making or phonetically writing single words or sentences. This is one of the major successes of the project; story writing.
Jane Taylor (Teacher, Shirley Primary)
The original project was commissioned by the Early Years Service at Cambridgeshire County Council. CCI artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Deb Wilenski worked alongside the 30 reception children and their educators Jane Taylor, Julie Chambers and Anita Kozicz, going out to the reserve for morning each week throughout the term and spending time each afternoon creatively exploring their questions and discoveries back in the classroom. The posts below document some of these visits.
Our publication A Story of Smallness and Light: discovering detail in the woods focuses on the particular fascinations of some of these children.
An evaluation of the original project can be read here.