Gan Alon, based at the New North London Synagogue in Finchley, has become the first Masorti pre-school to achieve full Forest School accreditation.
With unlimited access to a private forest area in the Sternberg Centre’s spacious grounds, children are taught to respect the natural environment.
They learn the names of trees, birds and “mini-beasts”, as well as how to use binoculars and walk on ropes between trees. Guided by staff, they observe the impact on nature of seasonal change.
While forest sessions have educational content, children are free to pursue their own interests — whether to dig a hole and fill it in again, collect stones or scramble over logs and branches.
In a designated whittling area, they can don goggles and gloves and learn to work with knives.
Jane Pescow, Gan Alon’s manager, said, “Forest school offers children a unique experience. Many pre-schools have outdoor areas. But this is not the same as being fully immersed in wild woodland: a mass of living creatures.
“There are endless discoveries to be made in the forest: sticks, stones, acorns, feathers.
“Where else can children pick up and drag a log? Where else can they get caught in ivy while playing? Where else can they find out what earth really feels like?”
Adi Bloom, whose four-year-old daughter is one of Gan Alon’s 38 pupils, said: “I’ll pick up my daughter at the end of the day, and she’ll have dirt under her fingernails, she’ll have a fallen leaf or a pine cone in her pocket, and she’ll be full of stories about jumping off logs or arranging stones in patterns.
“I know that forest school is giving her an experience she’ll be unlikely to have anywhere else. And it’s given her an appreciation for the natural world that she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.”