When learning or indeed involved in any activity your concentration and engagement is affected greatly by your behaviour. The inherent risk involved in Forests School does require an understanding of behaviour, what effects it and how it can be managed. Behaviour is volatile, it can change quickly and for reasons you may find difficult to fathom. A significant amount of research has been done into what affects behaviour, the most common approach is to split the affects into Internal and External (Information from The Centre for Inclusive Childcare – Click here for link) .
Internal Affects: These are affects on behaviour related to the child/client themselves, these can be neurologically based:
- Poor Nutrition
- Physical disabilities
- Neurological Challenges
- Development lags
- Speech and Language difficulties
External Affects: These are affects from a child’s environment, both the physical environment around them and the people with which they interact.
- An environment that is over stimulating
- Expectations that are too high or too low
- Feeling crowded
- Witnessing or being a victim of abuse(sexual, physical, or emotional)
- Activities that demand too little or too much
- Inconsistent expectations
- Loss of a loved one
- Addition of a sibling
- Arguments with a caregiver or between parents
- Infrequent opportunities to make choices
- Being encouraged or rewarded for aggression
- Exposure to media violence
- Frequent changes in caregivers or routines
- Unmet emotional needs
- Poverty or worries about money
- Mental illness of parent or family member
- Substance abuse by family member
When a child/client arrives at a Forest School setting you have no knowledge or control over the internal and external affects that have already influenced their behaviour that day. However, you do need to consider how you may control this behaviour, that how to reduce the possibility of other behaviours developing. You need to carefully consider the program of activities you have planned and the internal/external impacts that it might have on the children/clients.
Poor in Class Behaviour: Just as an additional note, you shouldn’t let a child’s in class behaviour affect your decision to take them into a woodland situation. You may find that a child’s behaviour is completely different when put into a new outdoor context. As with much of Forest School, it is about preparation, ensure you have extra adults to hand if working with a volatile group, get to know the children beforehand and plan activities according to the group you are expecting, build up to the more risky activities.