Dark Nights at W.I.L.D.
Forest School is a continuous process. An opportunity to adapt to the environment around you as it moves through time. We learn through the changing seasons, adapt to fluctuating temperatures, rain, wind, snow, sunshine and now darkness.
We thrive on delivering sessions that work with and get the best out of seasonal changes, finding alternatives, making do with and improving what we have to work with. At W.I.L.D. we are extremely fortunate to use an incredible woodland brimming with flora and fauna. One thing our site doesn’t have is any lighting.
Setting up the site safely in the dark was something we had to think long and hard about. Working with children in a public park in the dark is not something to take lightly and so the risk assessing and planning began in early October. Every forest school site we use is risk assessed, seasonally, monthly and daily taking into consideration every aspect of the woodland from the canopy to the forest floor. Now we’ve added in every additional risk darkness brings which means reducing the size of the site, lighting boundary lines and bringing in an additional member of staff (among many other things).
Once we had a plan, a dry run was the next stage. We visited the site in the dark loaded with various torches and lights to find out how it all worked in situ. We needed bright welcoming lighting for children and parents arriving at site as well as lanterns to light up the main areas of play, basecamp and the fire area. We wanted to create a warm, welcoming space as playing in the dark could be a little scary or least disorientating for some.
We are delighted to have Chloe join us for the remainder of the dark nights sessions. Chloe is also a Level 3 Forest School Leader and has tonnes of experience we can all learn from. Having an additional member of staff with us enables us to continue with activities like having a fire, crafts and tool work. So far we've been bat detecting, whittling, sawing tree cookies and lots of cooking on the fire.
These sessions work because we know the children and tailor the sessions to work in the dark. We meet the children in advance of the session, put on head torches and a high viz vest then walk to our Forest School Site. The same rules apply throughout the session, we practice 1,2,3 basecamp and they all understand the importance of coming to basecamp when called. They've all transitioned to the dark nights well, and mud play... whether you love it or loath it, has become a magnetic force few can resist...