OBS Season 1: Desiree the Advocate

I was fortunate to be sent on a 6 week attachment to Forest School Singapore during the July-August period. During my time here, I had the opportunity to take part in several camps, observe their weekly classes, join a family walk and partake in their FSS’ coach training sessions. All of which allowed me a greater understanding and insight into the workings, philosophy and intent of FSS. My time here has been an incredibly enriching and inspiring experience on both a personal and work level. 

On a personal level, the attachment felt like a breath of fresh air. My interactions with Darren, his coaches, the kids and nature only strengthened my belief in the benefits of nature and the outdoors on our children. It also further cemented my understanding of how nature is not separate from us but very much a part of all of us. 

The experience also taught me the importance and significance of the adult’s part to play in a child’s interaction with the world. How it is about being a supportive presence rather than an authoritative one, how we can guide them rather than belittle them through our attempt to teach and how we too can learn from the children if we just put our “adult” badges down. 

My learning of how FSS’ started, its journey and its trials and tribulations inspired me with new ways of thinking and being and felt like a call to action. Week after week I had my thoughts challenged about structure, education and the current way of things. It was an enlivening process. 

Something that stood out for me was how FSS exemplifies the true essence of the age-old adage and FSS’ motto “It takes a village to raise a child”. This is seen not just in the way FSS approaches the children but in how it is run as a community as well – embracing the individuality of coaches and parents and what they bring to the table (or village) just as much as they embrace ALL children and their individual needs and desires. It is pretty amazing seeing how FSS has chosen to stick to the essence of its philosophy and beliefs – all of which I find extremely refreshing in a world prone to following norms.

On a work level, FSS has opened my mind to the beauty and possibility of a child-led approach and all that can be gained from it. It also challenged my understanding of safety, the need for curriculum and our impact on nature. I enjoyed noting the differences between the approaches of FSS and my organisation, contextualising the various circumstances and trying to find the balance of both. 

Where at first I was concerned about safety, I now leave understanding the trust one must have in the nature of our children – that they are able to care for themselves and will learn from their own experiences – and that as adults we can afford to trust that nature too will care for our children. 

Where I am used to a world of structure and course objectives, I have learnt to see the beauty and benefits of a true child led approach and the adult’s role in it. 

Where I questioned FSS’ awareness on their impact on nature, I now leave understanding that where there may be impacts in the short term, I believe on an accumulative level the contribution of the FS ways to the good of the environment as a whole – allowing children to connect with the land they are a part of – outweighs the smaller impacts. More can always be done but seen in such a perspective, it is enough. 

I end my 6 week learning journey with an expanded understanding of the Forest School approach and of education and my role as an outdoor educator. I will continue pondering about the ways in which we can learn from the FSS philosophy and practices and apply them in life, in parenting, and in work. 

Thank you Darren and the FS coaches for the experience:)

Written by: Desiree (2021)
OBS Season 1 Attache

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