Smithills Estate – Forest Futures forest school
The Smithills Estate is home to Forest Futures forest school. The school received some of the Holiday Activity Fund which is a government scheme to ensure needy children were fed during the school holidays. In Bolton, the local authority provided additional funding to allow these children to receive additional support. The children were given access to four weeks of activity for four days a week for four hours. The school provided nature ID, cooking, making campfires and dens, arts and crafts and climbing trees. The evaluation reported that the kids had increased confidence & resilience, developed new friendships, increased willingness to try new things as well as having a nutritious meal at lunchtime.
One of the children who attended the sessions had recently suffered a bereavement and at the start of the 4 weeks it was evident that the child was struggling emotionally, resulting in some behavioural challenges. The child attended all but one of the sessions and towards the end of the four weeks, staff noticed a big difference in behaviour, positivity and mindset. When they did experience moments of conflict or frustration, they learnt to find a quite space, relaxing in a hammock watching the sky and the trees. They particular enjoyed completing challenge activities, and going off site to complete pond dipping or sports day at the hall.
The child formed a new close friendship with another participant and they plan to keep in touch after Forest Camp. When they completed their evaluation and on conversations with the child about their experienced they stated they had loved every minute, it wasn’t what they had expected as they thought it would be like school!
By the end of the four weeks the child became much more accepting of change and less involved in argument as they learnt to negotiate and resolve conflict without using mean words or being physical. They settled in amazingly and at end of every session they had to squeeze the last bit of nature connection by climbing the same tree on the way back to the mini bus.