The Chalet School, Liden Swindon
The Chalet School is a small special primary school and nursery for children with complex learning difficulties. Most of the children are diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). The children respond to structure through their day and are often guided by adults. Forest School is part of their structured day. It takes place in a safe fenced woodland garden where the children can be free to play and express themselves. The adults do guide activities and keep the children safe but do stand back to allow the children a high level of freedom which is often difficult to grant them due to safety concerns. A year -long research project observed how the children developed through Forest School. We found the most improved skills were communication and working together. All the children have amazed us with the things they can do outside. They all get very excited about “School Garden” as they call it and run there.
Occasionally volunteers from business come to help with projects in the school. In 2015 we have been very lucky to have 8 lovely people from Zurich Insurance come to help us build an earth pizza oven in the garden. This will enable the children to directly make the link between growing food and cooking and eating it by doing it all in the same place.
The “School Garden” is a beautiful place with a woodland, fruit trees, willow dome, fire circle, pizza oven, gazebo and poly-tunnel. In 2015 new accessible raised beds were built in the garden. They are now being filled with plants and seedlings by the children. Many of the plants have been donated by Wyvale Garden Centre.
The Chalet School is home to Family Nature Club which runs seasonally (4 times a year) on a Saturday morning. It is for families with one or more children with special needs to come along and have fun together improving the garden for wildlife, growing vegetables, cooking on a fire and playing and chatting.
Head teachers Quote:
"At The Chalet School, all learning is fun, with a wow factor built in! Forest Schools does this in spades and also enables the children to not only learn useful practical skills for now and for the future but in addition to this, it gives ample opportunity for the children to develop an awareness of danger and the key skill of keeping themselves safe in an outdoor environment. The majority of our pupils have no awareness of danger, so using tools, building a fire, making shelters, learning that you wash anything you are going to eat and show an adult first, knowing your own limitations - you can climb a tree, but remember you have to be able to climb down! All are invaluable skills, best taught outdoors! Forest Schools should be a statutory subject in the National Curriculum!"