Parents can meet schools that provide additional educational needs help like the Forest School at the 7th Annual Beijing International School Expo (BISE). The 2017 BISE will be held on February 18-19, 2017 from 10am-4pm at the Crowne Plaza Beijing Chaoyang U-Town. Find out more information about the event here.
When I was young we lived in a house with a forest behind it. Let me clarify: my brothers and I would open the garden gate to the forest! I never knew how lucky I was until I lived with my toddler and husband in London with no forest in sight.
I took her to Forest School playgroups in parks to do the things my brothers and I would do so many years ago in the forest behind our home. I watched with wonder how she played with sticks and leaves. It’s hard to find sticks and leaves in Beijing parks so she treasures them like they are family. Yes, she pretends sticks are her brothers and sisters. (I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.)
Karen Killeen is a Learning Support Teacher at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) 北京耀中国际学校, and we asked her what Forest School means.
She explained,“Forest School is a methodology. It started in Scandinavia in the ’70s, and now there are lots of kindergartens in Europe where children spend all day outside, learning and discovering. It is gaining popularity in the UK and many primary schools have access to a Forest School area which they use. It’s about using nature, or the ‘forest’ as your classroom and your resources. Playing outdoors supports physiological development in children and connecting with nature supports positive emotional well being.”
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Killeen has been running Forest School programs for seven years. She started in the UK running a French Forest School.
“Kids remembered the words much easier because they could recall what they were doing and where they were at the time they learned the word. This boosted kids’ self-confidence and self-esteem which is all linked in to positive emotional well-being. This in turn increases resilience and is something kids can draw upon when faced with other challenges back in the classroom when they’re presented with a difficult task.”
Killeen just completed a 12 week program where she takes six YCIS students outside in Honglingjin Park for two and a half hours per week. The activities she designs encourage teamwork, motivation, self-regulation, empathy, communication, and self-awareness. The kids climb trees, build little houses, watch birds, have bug hunts, and create things using natural resources.
High AQI days means sometimes they are forced to stay inside, so Killeen has taught the kids to sew, and they have made bookmarks and purses. She also takes out hammers, and they make pictures with nails.
Killeen explained to me that many children don’t walk through woodland and walk around parks. “My students tell me that they spend most of their time out of school either doing more academic work or inside on screens.”
This is why my daughter and I try to find sticks whenever the AQI lets us, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Pauline van Hasselt has just started working for Beijing Kids. Born in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, she moved with her husband and her 3 year-old daughter to Beijing in June of this year. Prior she lived in the Netherlands, Belgium, Paraguay, Texas, and London, studying and working as a chef. Pauline enjoys biking around Beijing, finding markets and new restaurants, reading crime and fantasy books in bed, and most importantly, turning her house into a home for her family.