If you teach a child to cook...

Like all children, forest schoolers are a busy bunch.

To offset the energy output they expend during a day at forest school, children need nourishing food to keep going. We have a fantastic group of parents who do a wonderful job sending healthy, balanced, litterless lunches and snacks for their children every day.

High Five, parents!!!

The Sussex Forest Explorers enjoying lunch in the sun!

The Sussex Forest Explorers enjoying lunch in the sun!

As an extra special treat, and an opportunity to introduce and practice some essential life skills, we enjoy working together to prepare a meal and cook it over the campfire.

Last week, on Saint Patrick's Day, we prepared a yummy meal of haddock, carrots and corn on the cob cooked in foil over the fire. Some of the children helped Forest School Educator, Jess, fill water buckets for fire safety and collect and arrange dry wood in our firepit to build our campfire. 

Meanwhile, the other Forest School Educator, Sarah, worked with some children preparing the food to be cooked. After everyone washed their hands well with soap and warm water, we started by peeling the carrots.

Peelers, are a wonderful introduction to tool use for children. Although the risk of injury is relatively low compared to other tools available to use at forest school (ie. knives, saws, drills, etc.), they do have a blade, which invites some level of risk while using them. When introducing a risky activity at forest school, a trained educator must work one-on-one with a child to ensure both the child and the educator are comfortable and confident to proceed with the activity. Both the educator and child must be able to focus on the activity and exercise good communication to discuss the hazards and identify both safe and inappropriate behaviours that can come into play to safely do the activity. Through conversation with the child and simulation of correct behaviour, an educator is able to get a sense of whether the child understands and can manage the risk involved and, in turn, a child gains confidence and trust to try something new.

With clear and gentle guidance and support, tool use provides a wonderful opportunity for all kinds of learning and development to take place. Not only does a child learn how to safely use a tool, they also get to practice their fine motor skills while working to peel vegetables. It took a few tries to get the hang of holding the carrot and the peeler at the correct angle to actually peel a nice strip off, but within a few minutes of trial and error and lots of encouragement, Avery did a wonderful job!

Avery used very good concentration and practiced safe behaviours while peeling her carrot with a vegetable peeler.

Avery used very good concentration and practiced safe behaviours while peeling her carrot with a vegetable peeler.

After Avery finished peeling the carrots, Matthew wanted to join Avery to try cutting the carrots up into bite size pieces. Like the peeler, Sarah worked one-on-one with Matthew and Avery about safely using a knife.  They discussed how to safely use the tool and the behaviour that was expected of them. Then they proceeded to check to make sure the knife was safe to use and then worked on holding the carrot and the knife properly. With some one-on-one practice with Sarah, both Matthew and Avery were able to cut the carrots using safe behaviours. As they continued to use their safe behaviours, Sarah was able to take a few steps back where she could watch and monitor closely and intervene if necessary, but at a distance where Matthew and Avery could feel independent in their work and trusted and confident in practicing their new skills.

Matthew concentrates on cutting his carrot. Well done, Matthew!

Matthew concentrates on cutting his carrot. Well done, Matthew!

The next step was to prepare the foil, load the ingredients, and then wrap the foil around to make a little "present" for cooking over the fire. Sawyer helped with this part.

Sawyer did a great job placing the cut up carrots on each serving for the fire. Sawyer indirectly practiced his math skills by taking extra effort to make sure each meal had roughly the same amount of carrots.

Sawyer did a great job placing the cut up carrots on each serving for the fire. Sawyer indirectly practiced his math skills by taking extra effort to make sure each meal had roughly the same amount of carrots.

After everything was laid out, the three children carefully wrapped up the foil dinners and carried them over to join their friends at the campfire in the forest. Jess then put the foil dinners over the fire to cook and monitored them closely while they shared stories around the campfire or played beneath the trees nearby.

When everything was cooked through, we all headed over the the shelter and enjoyed our warm meal that each of us helped to make!

Fish, haddock, and corn on the cob. What a treat!

Fish, haddock, and corn on the cob. What a treat!