My Forest School Journey - Ella Ives, co-founder, Out There Kindergarten, Bristol

After teaching in mainstream settlings for over 9 years I decided I needed to make a different type of impact on children’s lives. I looked into all sorts of alternative teaching courses and the one that really interested me was the Forest Leadership. The thought of teaching children in an atmosphere, which I truly respect and appreciate, sounded like a dream!

I trained in Tintern under Jackie’s watch full eye, learning about a holistic, practical approach to teaching. It dawned on me that what I was learning were some childhood skills I had naturally picked up on from my upbringing. I was lucky enough to spend lots of time with my family who enjoy being outdoors, we would go camping for the whole 6 weeks of summer and any other half terms we could escape for! This had evidently given me such a rich sense of adventure and resilience towards challenging activities that the training felt like a fun, action-packed holiday!

This made me think about what I feel is most important to teach children whilst they are growing up, I valued teaching self esteem, resilience and courage, social skills and ‘real life’ skills.  With this sturdy foundation of kills I believe children will have the capacity to grow into strong, capable humans.

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After I had passed my Forest School Leadership course myself and two other women decided to set up an outdoor kindergarten in September 2017. We had had enough of working in predominantly indoor settings and felt Bristol needed some more outdoor settings, so we found a base in Brislington and set up camp!

The first couple of months were slow, we had 6 children in on a Tuesday at first! It was difficult as we were all trying to find our feet and start completely from scratch. We decided to formulate a curriculum and based it around three main themes- the seasons, worldly celebrations and real life skills. This was taught with the EYFS entwined within it. We base our kindergarten ethos on theories from Steiner, Montessori, Reggio and Forest School.

‘Real life’ skills are something that I highly value in my work practise. I feel if a child knows where food is from, how to grow food and cook the food from a young age they have a good chance of leading a healthy life connected with the earth’s natural flow. Other real life skills I teach in the outdoor kindergarten is the ability to socialise, problem solve and work as a functioning team. All of these skills I enjoy teaching and feel they are very useful and valuable to the children. Over the years I have learnt and experienced how hard it can be for people to lead a happy, successful life if they are not shown the basic needs and skills to move forward.

We are now coming to the end of our first year as a fully functioning outdoor setting and we are planning to open a second one in Stapleton this September coming. We now have 18 children daily and they all absolutely love what we are providing for them. Some parents have even deferred their children for a year so they can spend another year with us.

I feel very lucky that I have had this opportunity to start something so magical and feel a strong sense of pride when I speak about my career, this was not the case before I studied my Forest School Leadership.  Seeing what my children experience and go through everyday makes me feel so strong that all children should get the chance to be outdoors for at least one whole day a week, if not more. The many benefits of spending time outside really does show in our practise and atmosphere at the kindergarten and in the wellbeing of the children.


To see what our other trainees get up to once qualified, have a look at our directory.