Sustainable woodland management, do you know how to get children involved?
Sustainable woodland management is crucial to the long-term use of any woodland area for Forest School sessions. Without regular management paths can become overgrown, trees felled too many or too often.
Regular time spent playing in woodland will give children an increased appreciation for and respect of the natural environment. How you involve children in helping to sustainably manage the woodland you use will vary depending on the age and needs of the group. Below are a few ways in which forest school can introduce children and young people to sustainable woodland management.
Like any activity, involving children and young people a say in any plans for the woodland will support their ownership of the site and their sense of responsibility to it. If you are planning on moving the site to a different area, felling trees or constructing a fence or permanent fire pit involve children in the plans and ask their opinion.
If there is a woodland management plan create a child friendly version appropriate to the age group you are working with. Involve them in any site surveys that determine the content of the plan.
Plant and wildlife surveys
Spotter sheets are a great way to introduce children to wildlife surveys. Spotter sheets can be created and adapted to make them suitable for use with all ages and abilities. If you prefer not to make your own there are many spotter sheets available on the Internet, see OPAL and Nature Detectives for some great free identification guides.
There are a number of national surveys, such as the Big Butterfly Count, the OPAL Explore Nature surveys and the Nature’s Calendar survey that children can be involved with to give their bug or plant hunting real scientific value.
Involve children in any planned management activities such as harvesting or coppicing and planting or felling. Involving children in the maintenance and use of tools to manage the woodland can be a way to introduce great sustainable woodland management to children. Younger children can work with loppers or shears to cut back overgrowth from paths whilst older children could use bow saws to fell small trees or to cut and clear fallen wood.
However considerately the woodland is used forest school sessions will have an impact. To balance any negative impact on the wildlife that live there children can be involved in identifying ‘off limits’ areas. In these areas create new habitats to encourage more wildlife. Younger children could create log piles and bug hotels and older children build bird and bat boxes.
Many traditional woodland trades are sustainable activities. Teach children about traditional woodland trades and crafts such as green wood furniture making, traditional pole lathes and basket making. Whether it’s making longbows, carving spoons or making charcloth or charcoal there are activities that can be adapted to suit all ages and abilities. Learning about these trades and crafts will reinforce the traditional importance of the woodland as a provider or a variety of resources.
If you’d like to find our more about woodland crafts a the books Greenwood Crafts: A Comprehensive Guide, Coppicing and Coppice Crafts: A Comprehensive Guide and Woodland Craft by Ben Law are all good reads.