Why it’s good to be loud. No more, “Shhhhh!” at Forest School.

Children should be seen and not heard.

Those mean old Victorians, not letting children be children. Silencing the youth with their moral preserving, stiff upper lip, attempting to impress high society ways.  Thank heavens things have changed. Only, wait. Have things really changed?

When was the last time your child made a noise? 

Ok this question actually applies to those parents reading this with primary school kids and above.  We all know very well that most babies and toddlers don't have any issues giving stupendous displays of the capabilities of their vocal chords.  

So, once your child starts school, when do they get to be loud?

If your family is anything like mine, your Monday to Friday might go something like this: wake up (or be coerced from the slumber of their Star Wars duvet cover), ask, about 17 times, to get dressed for school.  You think your child is dressed for school, as you call them down for breakfast only to find said child sitting in the middle of their bedroom floor naked except for one grey school sock, thoroughly engrossed in Lego.  A 'fun' game of, "Bet you can't put your pants on in five seconds...1-2-3-4-5..." and repeat for every single item of clothing. After some cereal, a few hundred more repeated requests to, "Put your shoes on!" and, "Brush your teeth!" then, eventually, you are ready for school.

We might talk about what's in store for school, then the bell rings and off to school for a very well structured day in which your child diligently follows instruction from their teacher, follows the protocol of the school and (hopefully) is well behaved and works hard.

Most school days will incorporate at least one 15-minute break and half an hour for lunch, half of which is spent on the playground.  This is probably the time most kids get to be vocal and loud.  Our school also has a singing assembly once a week. All very lovely but when during this time do kids get to be REALLY loud?

My children are loud.  They make a lot of noise.  I fear my very stylish, calm, young and trendy neighbours think my children could well be feral. Alas it is not a good loud. My children get angry, frustrated and so they shout and most frequently these shouting episodes are the result of a long day of being quiet and following instruction at school.

Schools are great institutions and teachers are marvellous. However they need to get through a lot, more so today than ever before in the history of education.  Not only are teachers responsible for teaching our young ones to read and write, each and every action they make must be planned, reviewed and progress data input into spread sheets.  Ensuring children get the most out of their lessons if best done and children quiet, orderly and listening, it makes perfect sense.  

However, when children finish school at the end of the day the common trend will be for them to go home and relax after this stressful day of intense focus and academia.  What better way to unwind than relaxing in front of the television, or a play on their console? More quiet and introvert activities. 

So why does being noisy matter?

When was the last time your really shouted at the top of your voice? The last time you really let loose and unleashed the full power of your lungs?  Most likely it was cheering on a football team, maybe screaming to your favourite band at a concert or singing in a choir?  For me it was chanting and whooping whilst wobbling my 30 something butt cheeks at Zumba and let me tell you, shouting at the top of our lungs feels great.

Full powered noise making with a whoop, shout or scream is primal.  It feels good, you unleash pent up energy, you are letting go and you are living in that exact moment without fear of judgement from others. 

Positive noise release (so we are not talking arguments or aggressive shouting in anger here) but cheering and singing can be so beneficial.

Studies into happiness by the University of East Anglia showed singing improved mental well-being.  It is thought the social benefit and physical movement increases blood flow to the brain and also releases serotonin to increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Improved blood circulation increased alertness and memory. It is even considered to boost the immune system. 

It's easy to hark back to the good ol' days of "when I was a kid life was better". But maybe some things were? Back in the 80's we sang every morning in assembly, we had more and longer breaks during the school day and we played outside with freedom to go to the local park after school. Andy and Ed the Duck were only on for an hour or so, not like today with 24-7 on-demand available, whenever we demand.

So our kids have gone quiet and add to that sedentary.

Forever Green Forest School sessions start off by turning on  "outdoor voices". It's surprising how many 4 year olds come to our forest school sessions and don't really feel comfortable being loud.  Many children, it seems from our experience are enveloped in the quiet, solitary world of their iPad from a young age, so that when given freedom to roam, play and make noise, well, they don't quite know what to do with it.  At Forest School we use song and we use it a lot. Singing is fun. Singing makes you feel good, it's social and it's a great for memory.

Every session we begin with a, 'Hello Forest School' song.  The way in which the group sing can tell us immediately how the group are feeling.  Are they singing quietly and out of synch? If so they might be cold, or tired or just having a bad day.  Are they shouting and very rowdy, in which case they might have some, energy to burn up.  Even noticing who is joining in and who is sitting quietly staring at the clouds.  This simple welcome song will allow us to set the rhythm and pace for the session.

During Forest School, those outdoor voices remain on and we encourage children to explore their voice. After all, considering the quiet and orderly life that most primary aged children phase this might be their only chance to be loud.  During a recent session with a group of reception children, who had been learning about fairy tales as part of their EYFS curriculum, we devised a Forest School session centred on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  Using a theme the children have looked at in school gives them confidence and familiarity with the theme and allows them to develop a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of their learning through unstructured play. It works so well. We hid in the woods, we dressed up as the characters and some of the children chose to be wolves. Of course, when you're pretending to be a wolf in the woods you howl.  I stood for several minutes with a group of children howling to the sky.  It was loud, we all joined in not caring about what the others thought. We sounded like a real pack of wolves. The children were joining in together and they all had grins on their faces bigger than the Big Bad Wolf himself.

Forest School gives children a chance to be loud and of course to be silly.