dps forest initiative

Our Forest School is based in the Lancing College estate which is situated in the heart if the South Downs National Park. We operate in an area of about five acres in the beautiful Ladywell Valley. The site includes a scout cabin, a meadow, a stream and a woodland area. Children have the opportunity to learn through self-directed play and exploration. This develops their curiosity, confidence, self-esteem, creativity, empathy, communication skills, knowledge of the environment and their ability to assess risk.


We believe that children at Downsbrook should have regular, long-term access to a woodland or natural environment which provides them with inspirational and challenging outdoor learning opportunities.

Our activities will depend on the ability, experience and age of the children. Some examples of our Forest School activities include:

-Woodland management and nature exploration     -Building shelters and other structures     -Lighting fires and cooking     -Games and imaginative play
-Natural crafts     -Using tools, such as knives and saws     -Scavenger hunts and adventure     -Seasonal celebrations


jnatworkThis is photo of John Newnham at work for the British Trust for Ornithology whom we were very lucky to meet the other day at Forest School whilst he was at work ringing birds on the Ladywells estate. Following his article that was published in their local trust newletter we received a further missive from a Mr John Maskell who many of you may well remember from his time as "Year Group Leader" here at Downsbrook.

I was very interested to read of the Downsbrook pupils’ timely visit to Ladywells. Having inadvertently spent my entire professional life teaching at the same school I did much to promote avian matters. This I achieved through leading School and Year Group Assemblies and countryside walks. As a Year Group Leader I also designed a whole term’s work on flight and birds which involved visits to Shoreham Airport, Arundel Wildfowl Trust and the RSPB Reserve at Pulborough. Long standing members may recall my series of 10 newsletter articles (‘Tales Out of School’) relating some of the more amusing birding incidents that occurred during my career. I am very pleased to see that an interest in birds is continuing at Downsbrook under the leadership of my former colleague Phil Boulding. When working with children... or birds there is never a dull moment! - John Maskell

John also provided us with a copy of one of his newletter articles which dates back to the heady days of 2001; perhaps some of you out there may even remember seeing "Hopalong" and family out on the school playing fields?

One advantage of teaching in an urban school is that the grounds are a focal point for visiting birds… when the children aren’t around! I’m fortunate that my present classroom has windows on two sides and the vista takes in the playground and sports field. When not engaged in pursuing educational excellence I sometimes permit myself the odd glance outside! Most interesting is to observe regular individual avian characters. My own favourite is a Carrion Crow.

I first became aware of Hopalong some 5 years ago. This character has a deformed right leg and has difficulty walking. It hobbles in a most ungainly manner and hops on its left leg when frightened and then uses the sound limb to project itself skywards. Hopalong’s mate, whom I’ve assumed is constant, is never far away and they are clearly survivors. They visit our school grounds throughout the year, especially after break-times when “the hordes” leave behind tasty morsels from carelessly eaten snacks.

For the past 5 years “my” Crows have successfully reared five pairs of chicks. They are enthusiastic parents and have been seen dive-bombing a local “moggie” in defence of their offspring. Herring Gulls have similarly been speedily scrambled!

My casual observations have made me appreciate that injured birds can overcome disabilities and survive very well. Hopalong and Co. defend their territory most successfully. These Crows are not the raucous thugs so often portrayed but caring, resourceful and slightly roguish characters who convey to me a feeling of warmth each time they drop by. - John Maskell, 22nd September 2001

You never know what to expect at Forest School. Yesterday, whilst on a hike, we bumped into Mark and John from the BTO (The British Trust for Ornithology) who were ringing birds on the estate. We received an email from them this very morning, here's an extract of what they had to say...


During the mid-morning we were joined by about twenty pupils from year three at Downsbrook Primary School in Broadwater (Worthing). They are fortunate to have a ‘Forest School’ which runs once a week in Ladywell during which time their learning is enriched with outdoor experiences. The four staff and pupils enjoyed seeing some of the common birds at close quarters and watched the processes of ringing, measuring and recording. Just imagine how wide-eyed and excited they all were when Mark gingerly removed the Sparrowhawk from a bird bag to be followed and compared with the Kestrel. Not many visiting parties have the good fortune to be present when these rarely trapped species turn up at the ringing table. Like all students who have joined us, from the well-educated and eloquent 6th formers studying at the college to these seven year olds, this group were inquisitive with plenty of questions. Six decades ago I too was a seven year old pupil at Downsbrook School; although nature studies were encouraged I cannot remember any opportunities for getting out into the environment with the nearest activity to this being cultivating chrysanthemums as a member of the school’s Gardening Club. Despite the pressures of targets and the national curriculum it is pleasing to see this school, with the help of Lancing College, introducing young people to aspects of the countryside; we hope they take something lasting away from our small contribution today.

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