2020 in review: Hibernate & rediscover

2020 was a memorable year, a pandemic year in a sense. Amidst the impact that Nature has for us, we progress. Here is our story for the year of the pandemic.

In January, we started our new format of forest school weekly, with a permanent afternoon session together with the splitting of all morning sessions into juniors (4-6) and seniors (7-12). It was a transitional stage. More ‘laojiao’ (Singlish for ‘experienced’) coaches stepped down as the understudying coaches stepped up to lead the session. Amid the changes, mistakes were made, lessons were learnt. Everyone grew from the changes. A necessary path like Nature herself.

As the month went on, the COVID-19 pandemic started to develop and affected Singapore and the region. The signs were there, change and evolution were coming.

February saw public safety measures being introduced. We were all concerned, parents and coaches. We formed our own community task force, with key coaches and key parents leading the front. We made decisions together as a community, led by our own safety managers. Forest School was able to continue…

Then came the infamous Circuit Breaker (aka Lockdown) of March 2020. Almost all establishments had to stand down and cease, to ensure the wider safety of the public from the spreading of COVID-19. At this point, we had already prepared all the admin and communication materials anticipating the lockdown.

Due to our lean operating ecosystem, we were able to step back, hibernate and allow for a natural evolution. Business definitely went down as there was no revenue coming in at all (we were fully outdoors in all our programs). We chose to not receive any funds from the central bodies of government to sustain our business, but consume our own “walnut” reserves minimalistically. We chose to go into a kind of mini-hibernation. We were clear on how long we could hibernate before Forest School Singapore had to close physically. Clarity was present.

Meanwhile, unity within the community grew. We decided to organically converse and care for each other through check-ins instead of running an online class on Nature and skills. This we decided will allow the community to rest and feel love. Something much more necessary than any gaining of knowledge.

Through the circuit breaker, our community still got together randomly online for group check-ins, discussions and exploration of new ideas. We also did some fun ideas like the “Saturday Night Live” on FB live, to continue engaging our community.

Unknowingly, the “mini-hibernation” season, was priming Forest School Singapore to a new space and growth. In May-June, connecting the dots on our fun ideas, we conceived the “FSS Training”. After so many years of training and forest school, we finally put together all the learnings to create a channel of learning for adults to better realise their potential for Forest School. FSST in a sense was the blessing in disguise, that only happened because of the mini-hibernation.

June was also the month we anticipated the re-opening and gradual return of Forest School, looking at how the greater public moved into Phase One the month before. We prepared a Restart Framework with reference from Australia’s Outdoor Restart Framework, Singapore’s Covid-19 Health Advisory Framework, together with support and advice from our own Task Force.

The Restart Framework gave us confidence and a strong position when Phase Two came about. We were ready to start forest school again. But we didn’t want to rush into the program right on  the day of Phase Two reopening. We chose to delay two more weeks and restart proper in July. A decision made with our community support. Patience was present.

July started with quite a bit of anxiety from coaches and parents, as we tested our Framework in the eyes of the public. Through watchful protection of the forest and our extended community, we pulled through the first two weeks of July, unscathed.

One blessing leads to another, the Restart coupled with the FSS Training, brought many new talented coaches into our community. We also had the bandwidth after hibernation to support the initiatives and work of many of our extended communities. Forest School, being outdoors and more receptive in a new world of preventive measures, became an antidote to the post lockdown, outdoor repressed public. Evolution was present.

We flow through August to the end of the year, with the rainbow of evolution and the struggle of growth.  We had more than double the uptake of families and people who wanted to join the community in various formats. It was a pleasant surprise. All these won’t be possible without the hibernation and in a sense the Nature enhanced society that we have inherited post-lockdown.

In the Year end holiday camps, we have a take up rate that is 5 times the usual. Another plus to being a forest school in post-circuit breaker. Of course we don’t discount the struggles we face with trying to keep to the frameworks and measures. It is not perfect, but the hibernation allows us the strength and bandwidth to evolve accordingly without as much frustration (though there are some hehe).

All in all, it has been a fruitful year, with so many exciting and rewarding events that allow us to connect deeper with our practice. But also the struggles to show us the awareness of life beyond our modern urban construct. We are very blessed, to be able to share this year with so many wonderful people in the community, from our coaches to our parents to our amazing kiddos and the wider extended community who have shown so much support and love to the movement. Thank you everyone.

For the next year we will embark on a journey of being the pillar behind the nature and education community. We look to stretch our boundaries with balance among our resources.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to raise a community.

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