Guest blog by Nicola Lynes

Here at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the majority of our full time people engagement team staff are Forest School trained and we find that the Forest School Ethos and its approach to learning in the outdoors fits much of the various work we do with children, young people and adults across the county. From Wildlings and Nature Tots through to Wildyouth.
So I am pleased to introduce a guest contributor this week; Nicola Lynes our Community and Youth Officer.

Going Wild at Wildyouth

I find that the Forest School ethos creeps into much of my delivery these days. Having worked in environmental education for many years, often having to complete worksheets, link nature to the curriculum, and reach certain objectives during the sessions, there is something very refreshing about taking a step back and allowing a session to be totally participant led.

I run ‘Wildyouth’, an outdoor youth club for 11-18 year olds based at Hams Hall Environmental Centre, and run as part of the Tame Valley Wetlands project (a partnership project led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust). For most of the year it runs weekly on a Wednesday evening, then in winter changes to a longer session on the weekend once a month (to make the most of the light in the cold months!)

Wildyouth is totally participant led. I provide the equipment and a safe environment to explore nature, and the young people tell me what they want to do. This group has been running for over a year, and over time we have done campfire cooking, whittling, tool use, rope swings, yet each week they come back with just one request – to play hide and seek! So we play hide and seek. A lot. I find it fascinating that even with the option of doing ‘cool’ stuff – whittling, fire lighting, using tools – the favourite activity is a simple game that can be played anywhere.  The participants range from 12-14 at the moment, and this shows me that the need to play does not stop when a child reaches secondary school age, yet we suddenly expect 11 year olds to sit quietly in a classroom for 6 hours a day, without adequate free time to expend their energy.

​​​​​​​Some campfire cooking at Wildyouth (Chocolate Orange Muffins)

Some campfire cooking at Wildyouth (Chocolate Orange Muffins)

Wildyouth provides a safe space for young people to do exactly that – play. There is no pressure, no badges to work towards, no expectation except to respect each other, respect the environment and respect the equipment, and to have a good time. To me, that is Forest School at its finest.

Hot chocolate

Finishing off a Wildyouth session with campfire hot chocolate