10 things to do in Singapore in Forest School style

With the growing awareness of forest school and its style of learning in Singapore, Coach Darren’s Forest School Singapore present to you, a list of the little things we could do in Singapore, that allow us a glimpse into the forest school methodology of learning and experience.

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1. Climb a steep hill (Find one you are comfortable, that you know you will not roll down upon tumbling. Tips: Fall forward at all times during the climb, Sit down if you lose balance during the descent)

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2. Carve some wood sticks with a sheath (Sheath is basically a knife. The therapeutic feeling of having little wood pieces shave off the sticks, like losing the pressures of life from a long day. The blister at the end of it, gives so much pride as human)

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3. Build a den using just the material around you (You may wonder whether this require Bear Grylls survival skill, but honestly, it isnt so complex. All you need to do, is be creative, think out of the box, and try. The first attempt definitely looks more like a den for cats then human. But make sure you have fun.)

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4. Explore a park unrestricted (Warning – Will be judged for going into the un-trek path. Now the trick here, is to watch for path within the forest, that look like it has been walked on, usually those are safer to explore compared to the adventurous routes that require my magic machete)

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5. Throw stones you pick up as you walk (The sensation from this action is pretty therapeutic, feels like we are letting go of the burden in life, while moving forward with some Hmph and Pump. I found out about this from imitating my children in the woods, especially the hyper kids. Love them)

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6. Jump into puddles of water and mud (“The mud is dirty”…. This line, gotta change. We are  in the world now, that our keyboard has more germs and bacteria then the toilet. So for mud to be dirty, I dont think so. Mud and puddles of water along the greens, are there usually for less than a day, Singapore is so Hot… AHHHH, water “boil” off so easily, there is no chance for stagnant water in the greens, enjoy the splash and craziness in it)

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7. Come to a decision together, without a single person feeling compromise (Sounds easy, but this is probably one of the toughest thing to do, because of the last part, WITHOUT A SINGLE PERSON FEELING COMPROMISE. Most group decision, happen by compromising the group of people who doesn’t has as much power, but to make a consensual decision with no compromise is how we empathize and understand others concern)

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8. Start a campfire with just the items around you. (Maybe with some matches at most, the sensation of staring into the fire that you start, with the help of mother nature, makes one feel alive.)

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9. Stalk an animal to observe how they behave (Instead of social media stalking, why not go around the neighborhood following a cat or some monitor lizard, reliving childhood once more. Oh you can also revise your hunter instincts, for what purpose however depends on you =)

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10. Sit in a circle. Listen and Share your thoughts, without putting any shared thoughts down. (This is not a group therapy session, but a sincere sharing of thoughts, feelings, without Judgement, tough as it sounds, it actually just require one brute to discipline and hold down, the fast mouth who are quick to judge, give it a shot, find someone to role play the brute, and have a go =)

The Story: Birth of the Education Dream

Forest School

 

Im an avid lover of the forest school ideology. But to fully comprehend the beauty and impact of forest school. One has to look beyond the tip of the iceberg… and dwell deep into the philosophy and purpose of the form of education.

My experience in the humanitarian and education field taught me that education only serves its true purpose when it helps the people of the land live on their land. In Vietnam, India and the agricultural places around the world, what is math and science to them. It utterly serve no purpose as compared with farming techniques and ability to start fire to keep warm and ward off the animals at night. So for the longest time I’ve been searching for an ideology to fits all environment and humanity. Thats when I bump into Atsuko Yamamoto, she introduced me to the education of forest school. She told me the school begin in Japan largely because of the high pressured school education system over there, people started to go into the woods, and learn from the environment through play and exploration, children engage more in depth with their spiritual self. Their mind became more aware, physically more adaptable. I was amazed at how it worked and the development of the children in this school drew me closer. Up till now, I still have the Japanese Forest Kindergarten manual she gave me. But I dont understand Japanese scripts. Hahaha.

So this kick start my journey to explore and research in depth what forest school is about.

I found out that it begin in the 1950s by an swedish ex-military soldier. He started bringing children to learn from the woodlands. It grew over time into a kindergarten and school. And right now there are so many forest school in the world, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, UK, Japan, Korea, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines.

I wonder then what makes forest school tick. At first I was lile everyone, thinking that it requires children to be outdoor in the woodlands, and teaching academic subject through the environmental resources etc. Then I start to realise its deeper then that.

I join Atsuko and her family to trek the forest in Singapore, and saw how resilient her children were, even when they fall and mud themselves. The exploratory instinct, and fearless attitude. I was amazed. Even her 3 year old could do it.

I decided in 2016, to take a trip to UK to attend Archimedes Forest School Education Practitioner Level 3 Training, to 1) Certify myself, 2) Really understand further what is forest school.

And in that learning journey, I realise forest school, is basically a ideology that fits all environment no matter how tough or mundane it is. It doesnt even have to be in the forest. We can be at the space below an apartment block, and still do a “forest school”. The link went as far as a school in the war zone.

That is when it striked me.

My dream has always been about going to war zone to save children from the violence and destruction. But my experience in humanitarian work in India, Vietnam made me jaded, and question, these high moral code of education we subscribe to. So what if I save a child from poverty and child slavery, they still revert to it, because thats their environment. So what if I bring a child away from their community of violence, I didnt help them truely.

But in forest school education, there is this beauty of exploration and survival all put together into one. Where this philosophy can transcend all environment, no matter its mundaneness or devastation.

Because in “Forest School” education, 1) Learners lead the curriculum. 2) The environment provides 50% of the curriculum. 3) Learners learnt the necessary knowledge, skills and wisdom to tackle their environment. And in this whole process, they gain a competency that will validate their own self worth on earth. (Go start a fire on your own without any artificial/purchased resource, you will experience that survival competency)

So to put it in the most relatable sense, Forest School is the learning ways we apply and adopt before the idea of education (a governmental and control term was coin).

May be this style is what really makes someone postitive in life. It may be the style that keeps a being saint even when they fail and falter. Because they know they can survive regardless of the environment.

My journey took me to UK, Philippines, Australia, Japan and more to come. I found more connection with nature, the trees and the creatures. I trust them. And they have proven all the time to be protector to those who truely love them.

Maybe mankind needs more insanity from our ivoric tower behaviour to move us closer to our final destination, survival, living and death. This journey we all take.

And right now, is a start for this platform where learners and children can all embark on this path together as a community to be the human that is a part of our environment.

I aim to expand this philosophy across the southern hemisphere in 15 years. I dont know what is the true outcome. But I know i chose to live a life of dreams and aspiration. One man cant change the world, but I can try. =)

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Darren Quek (aka Coach Darren)

 

Forest School Training – Snowy Sentiments

Two weeks ago, Coach Darren LLP sent Coach Darren to Sheffield, UK to attend Archimedes Forest School Education’s, Forest School Practitioner Training Open Award Level 3, it is a recognise practitioner certification to practice and lead forest school session in UK. In this, Forest School Training Series, we catch a glimpse of the activities and experience, that Coach Darren had, during the 5 days training.

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Coach Darren – Snowy Sentiments

On the 2nd day of the course, myself and 4 of my classmates who stayed over in the log cabin, woke up to get ready for class at 9.00am. I settled into class, and started reading on the portfolio that was given for all of us, to prepare ourselves to be great forest school practitioner.

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The morning begins with a reflection for everyone, our instructor told us to go around the woods at the back of the log cabin, pick up stuff we like from the ground, and build ourselves something to represent our reflection for Day 1. It can be our feelings, our thoughts, what we learn, what we do, or what this journey means to me… Anything. As long as it comes from ourselves. Many of us shared about the things we learnt, some of us decide to share about our feelings (sentimental here), some of us share about our vision and journey. I shared about the feeling of journeying there from SG, feeling lonely, but embraced within the forest school community there, and feeling home. And how that will energise my journey back to Asia to start the Forest School Movement.

 


Then we went on to learn about tools and the forest school methodology, experience in a weather, that kind of look like its going to snow again. The wind was blowing a little hard, the chills begin to kick in. So we move ourselves into a hut, and continue our learning and sharing. Everyone chip in with our perspective and experience with children and the woods. It felt so right.

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Shaky camera caused by the wind (And yes my shivering arm)

We made our way back to the classroom to warm ourselves up and do lunch, before we head out once more to learn how to tie knots that hold under tension and releases easily, as well as a pulley kind of knot that holds well for pitching up tents in between 2 trees. We find ourselves tying knots and pitching tents in the snow gradually, this time the snow came down a lot, we even had a small bout of snow “ball” fight. Hahaha. It was crazy cool and absolutely amazing for me at the moment.
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We capped the day off with our one last tool, the billhook. We learnt to split wood using that tool and a hard wood to knock on the top of the blade. We had quite a good bit of laugh and fun there, trying out the billhook, splitting our wood. My group laugh a little too much, cos we ended up the last of the lot to end the day.

 

 

The class ended, and we kind of kick back and relax (those few of us who stayed over in the cabin), while the rest braved the weather to return home. The weather can really sap lots of energy out of everyone. A good cup of tea can really warm up the spirit and mind in those weather. After dinner (Tea – in Manchester lingo), we kind of hangout a little while together, getting to know each other, haha. But there are some tinge of silence and slow warming up there from everyone. But I still feel home =) It was warm (Though snowing)

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Coming up …… DAY 3