A pre-school is getting to the root of the problem by becoming the first of its kind to become a “forest school”.
Gan Alon Pre-school in Finchley, is blazing a trail after it was named the first Masorti school to be awarded the tag.
The pre-school’s full forest-school accreditation means it will embrace respect for woodland and focus on the opportunities groves and woods offer pupils and staff, like camping and cooking.
All staff members have now received Forest School accreditation, so are committed to teaching children aged three and four how to respect the forest.
Gan Alon youngsters have unlimited access to the pre-school’s private forest, within the grounds of Finchley’s Sternberg Centre.
Children are free to pursue their own interests: if they want, they can spend a session digging a hole and even fill it in again, the school says.
But children will also climb over logs and branches and learn the names of the trees, birds and beasts they see. They can learn to use binoculars or to walk on ropes between trees. And they will observe the effects of the changing seasons.
Gan Alon forest school also provides a safe space to take risks, for example by using whittling knives, using safety goggles.
And they will learn not to drop litter and not to pick leaves off trees.
Jane Pescow, manager of Gan Alon Pre-school and Forest School, said: “Forest school offers children a unique experience. Many Pre-schools have outdoor areas. But this is not the same as being fully immersed in wild woodland: a mass of living creatures. There are endless discoveries to be made in the forest: sticks, stones, acorns, feathers.
“Where else can children pick up and drag a log? Where else can they get caught in ivy while playing? Where else can they find out what earth really feels like?
“The forest pushes children well beyond the boundaries of a modern, sanitised, heated pre-school environment.”
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, rabbi of New North London Synagogue, said: ““I’m thrilled Gan Alon is now officially a Forest School, giving young children deep roots to grow up with love and knowledge of the natural world.”
Adi Bloom, whose four-year-old daughter is a pupil at Gan Alon, said: “I’ll pick up my daughter at the end of the day, and she’ll have dirt under her fingernails, she’ll have a fallen leaf or a pine cone in her pocket, and she’ll be full of stories about jumping off logs or arranging stones in patterns.
“I know that forest school is giving her an experience she’ll be unlikely to have anywhere else. And it’s given her an appreciation for the natural world that she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.”
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