If young children go down to the woods today they'll be in for a... better future!

Published: 14 April 2009 at 15:56

‘Wild’ outdoor play for young children should be an integral primary school and early years activity according to author

A Senior Lecturer from Anglia Ruskin University, who lectures in Early Years and in Playwork, has written a book which aims to increase the understanding and appreciation, particularly of young children, of the environmental, social and well being benefits of outdoor play and Forest School.

Sara Knight, who has written for Early Years Educator, Nursery World and Child Education magazine, is staging an official launch of this, her first, book ‘Forest Schools and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years’ from Sage publications, on 22 April at John Smiths Bookshop, Chelmsford.

Speaking about the new book, Sara Knight says,

“Learning outside the classroom is an essential part of early year’s education.”

“Children discover how to work together to solve problems and learn to trust each other to gain knowledge of the world around them. The essence of this ethos - which is used within Forest Schools - is explored within the book along with the history of the movement in the UK.”

“An increasing number of people with an interest in children’s play are becoming attuned to the fact that engaging children in natural outdoor spaces on a regular basis is good for their overall learning, development and general wellbeing.”

The book is for anyone working in key stage one and early years education, and for all those who care about the future of young children and the world in which they are growing up.

Issues examined within the book include the roots of the Forest School movement within the UK, its links to Montessori, Reggio Emilia and other early years approaches, how exercise, fresh air and learning outside can help counter obesity and improve behaviour and social skills.

Originally trained in drama, but with grandparents all keen gardeners, Sara found working with children in the early years or in ‘playwork’ an excellent way to combine creativity with a love of the outdoors. Sara ran her own nursery class, then worked in a Special School before moving into the FE and HE sector.  Alongside this, she has been working for over ten years with the environmental charity the Green Light Trust in Suffolk, latterly running her own Forest School sessions and being involved with training in Forest School provision.

Caring for children and young people in out-of-school settings is a growing career opportunity, with the government’s extended school programme offering care for children and young people before and after school. A new Foundation Degree in Playwork has been introduced by Anglia Ruskin University to meet the increasing demand for education provision in this area. 

Playwork has largely been a profession confined to holiday clubs and   out-of-school care, but with a growing recognition of the importance of emotional and social stability to the educational chances of young people, playwork is being more widely recognised as having a role to play in the successful development of children and young people.

The Teacher Training programmes from Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Education were rated excellent by the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) which produces quality profiles for research activity undertaken by institutions. The four HE funding bodies behind the assessment use the profiles to determine the research funding to be offered to the institutions for 2009-2010.