Since October 2009 Lynette and Tim have been running a Forest Arts group at Betws Primary School, working with both year 3 pupils and the nurture class. The aim of Forest Arts is to encourage self esteem, develop skills and build confidence through working in the outdoors. The sessions take place at the nature reserve adjoining the school, where every Friday the children have been involved in a wide variety of activities. These activities include working with wood and willow, learning about the natural environment, and creating art pieces using only natural materials. During the sessions the children have learnt a wide range of skills, including working with tools such as drills and saws, and learning how to use these tools safely. Among the most popular of the activities was building survival shelters out of wood found in the nature reserve, which the group found very rewarding. The group have also been busy planting a willow arch and making a bench out of green wood, as well as creating some beautiful pieces of art using only materials found in the forest. They have particularly enjoyed making ‘natural’ paint brushes from twigs and grass and making paintings out of ‘mud paint’. A short animation has also been created by the children using models they built using natural materials. The storyline was thought up by the group, who wanted to send a message to the local community about the litter that has been dropped in the nature reserve.
The sessions have proved very successful, and the children look forward to working with us every week. There has also been a noticeable improvement in both the skills and confidence of the children, particularly the nurture group who have taken to the activities extremely well and their self esteem and communication skills have improved dramatically. The success of the project has resulted in us extending its time-scale, at the request of both the pupils and teachers at the school. There has also been considerable interest shown by local adults who also want to learn these skills and learn how to work safely in the natural environment with their own children. As a result we plan to hold sessions for the wider community in the autumn. News of the project has also reached other schools, and a number of them are keen for us to run similar projects with them. As a result we have planned to run Forest Arts schools at Tondu Primary School and Pandy Primary School.
Seeing the enjoyment the children get from Forest Arts has been extremely rewarding for Lynette and Tim, who feel that they are making a real difference to these children’s lives. Above all the sessions are great fun and the friendships and bonding within the group has seen a marked improvement in the behaviour and performance of the children during normal school activities as well as during the sessions.