Meet Our Team
Having the right team of people to inspire and guide the children to make the most out of their days at our nursery was of utmost importance. Without caring, passionate and experienced teachers, we could not provide the best service possible.
Tracy Paskins: Founder and General Nursery Manager
As a child I was very fortunate to attend a primary school that encouraged outdoor play and adventure learning. Many happy playtimes were spent trying to dig out a den in the side of the hill and entering the woods by the side of our school building without being spotted by a teacher (as it was technically out of bounds - which only increased our desire to play there). Being the youngest member of our family household also meant that my siblings were often given the task of "looking after" me which I have to say they did a rather poor job of. Their idea of risk assessment would be my brother knowledgeably telling my sister "well it looks alright to me" so I subsequently had enormous fun climbing trees, swinging on ropes, making mud pies and sliding off of our garage roof onto a makeshift trampoline consisting of a tarpaulin and a few bits of old rope!
However, since then I have grown up a bit and began working as a professional childminder in September 2011, after leaving a financial role in the city. I am also a mum to three lively boys, Oliver, Albert and George. I thoroughly enjoy working with children of all ages and love helping extend their learning and development by utilising creative play as often as possible. My interest in Forest Schools came about from simply observing my sons and noticing how much they thrived in an outdoors environment, come rain or shine. They were happier, more creative, more communicative and generally "at home" out in the open rather than being cooped up inside.
After chatting to many other parents, teachers and childcare professionals, the idea of The Woodland Nursery was born so I began my Forest School training and qualified as a Level 3 Forest School leader and now can't wait to get out there with the children every day to continue our outdoor learning journey together.
I am also a qualified Level 3 Early Years Educator as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Keith Paskins: Co-Founder
My love of nature and the great outdoors started at a young age, mainly from going on camping trips with my family and friends to the New Forest where we would pitch our old style canvas tents and then play in the woods and streams from morning to evening and have the time of our lives. I remember being fascinated with the local wildlife, seeing wild horses and also spotting the occasional deer hiding amongst the trees. We would make rope swings across streams and then laugh ourselves silly when one of us inevitably fell in.
My professional background has mainly been in IT Development. Part of the general appeal of helping to run a forest school was to get away from the regular work template and even though I'm still heavily involved in the technology side of things at The Woodland Nursery, my days are now wonderfully engaging and varied. One day I'll be in the office updating our website or social media sites, the next I'll be running around one of the sites helping the children to build an assault course or spaceship out of logs. I believe there's nothing more exciting than helping to develop the education and life path of the young children that attend the nursery and there's little else that comes close to being as rewarding.
I am a qualified Level 3 Early Years Educator as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Sophy Ellwood: Forest School Manager
When I was a child, weekends would normally consist of wonderful walks at the seaside, in the countryside or at our local park, so I was fortunate to experience a wealth of different natural environments. I was also very lucky to grow up in a home with a garden where I could climb apple trees, plant seeds, make mud pies and much more, all the while engaging in lots of imaginative play. At school, most of my fondest early memories are of being outside in the playground with my friends: building dens out of leaves, looking for minibeasts or playing hide and seek.
My move into teaching came about as I wanted to pursue a more rewarding, caring profession. During my years as a teacher in a mainstream school, I could see the many benefits of children learning outdoors. After completing an introductory course to forest schools, this further cemented my belief that the forest school way of learning matched my ethos: children being free to develop at their own pace and allowed to learn through play; letting children take risks; helping them to be independent, resilient and creative; and above all, recognising the importance of children connecting with the natural environment.
At forest school, I can combine my passion for early years teaching with my love of nature. Like many others I am concerned about the environment and want to leave the world in a better place. It is therefore a privilege to help children learn how to respect and look after the natural world (as well as each other) and to watch as they discover all the joys of exploring outdoors, from creating art using sticks and leaves, to holding wriggly worms in their hands.
I am a qualified primary school teacher as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Andreea Gusuleac: Forest School Practitioner
I was born in Romania which is where I spent my childhood. In those days we didn't have any computers, tablets or technology and the television was only allowed on for 5 minutes or so on a Sunday so I spent nearly all of my free time outdoors, playing and laughing, running freely, climbing trees and being creative with what I had to hand - mud, trees, sticks and leaves i.e. natures playground!
My son previously attended The Woodland Nursery before I came to join the team. During his time at Forest School I saw his confidence grow more and more each day and he was always happy to show me his latest tree climbing performances or how fast he could run down hills with all the other children.
Even though he no longer attends The Woodland Nursery, he still remembers his time spent there fondly and often asks after the staff and Forest School. He has always enjoyed being outside in nature more than anything and spending time at The Woodland Nursery allowed him to flourish in this environment.
For me, working outdoors with the children in a natural habitat is such a huge opportunity and privilege. I love seeing how they progress, both physically and mentally. It's so nice to be able to run with them, play hide and seek, feel the rain on our faces and to enjoy all the children’s stories and share in their adventures; be it as pirates on the open seas or building our next space rocket to fly to the moon. All of these simple pleasures so far away from our hi-tech society that we currently live in.
I am a qualified Level 3 Early Years Educator as well as holding Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Amal Mohamed: Forest School Practitioner
I was born in Kenya where I spent the first 4 years of life. Some of my fondest early memories were when my mum would take me out every weekend on nature walks. From then on, I was hooked and it was something that I always loved doing. At times my older cousins would take me out to visit different forests and they would explain how it was important to care for the plants and trees and that all forests are sacred. If I ever saw rubbish or plastic along the way to the forest, I would always pick it up and put it in the nearest bin.
Later on, growing up in London we had a flower patch at the back of our garden and I would spend a long-time watering and tending to them as I love flowers. We also had a tree house where my mum put up bird feeders and I would watch all the beautiful birds come to eat every evening. This was a very special time for me as I felt I was doing something worthwhile. I remember some special moments where I would put my arm out for the birds to eat out of my hand.
Even in primary school, I would try to incorporate all that I had learnt over the years to be more imaginative when using whatever I could find to either make dens or sometimes incorporate natural resources into mathematics such as counting using sticks or leaves which was a much more fun way of learning and understanding for me.
I am a qualified Level 2 Early Years Educator as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Charlee Trewick: Forest School Apprentice
Hi, I’m Charlee, an outdoorsy mum of two boys. I was born and raised locally in SE
London. My love for nature came from my dad who grew up in Canada on a ranch so his love for the wilderness, animals and nature has rubbed off on me tremendously. He also brought me up to be self-sufficient with tools, DIY and craft. I was lighting fires, using tools and how to use the land from a young age. I was taught to ride horses and how to care for them. My first job as an 11yr old was working at the local riding stables. I adore animals and I have had the privilege of working with all kinds of animals and one day hope to open my own sanctuary.
As a preteen I was always out with my cousins in Oxleas woods walking the families and neighbours dogs. We used to spend hours there each weekend getting into mischief and really immersing ourselves in our surroundings by climbing trees, walking barefoot in the mud, building forts and swimming in rivers. Nature truly was our playground and I look back fondly on memories of running with my cousins through the woods with a large pack of dogs following us without a care in the world.
I’m so passionate about nature and showing the next generation how precious it is that I recently left my career in animation and illustration to pursue a career in early years education, specialising in forest school. I wanted to work in an industry where I can make a tangible difference. I firmly believe that children do better when they are when they are guided and not dictated to and learn at a pace that challenges them to grow but doesn't stress them out to fit in a criteria or box. I believe an outdoor setting is perfect for that.
In my spare time I love to go foraging or mushroom hunting with my two wonderful sons where I aim to gently teach them about seasonal food and connect them with their surroundings. When I'm not in the woods or outside with my family and rescue dog I love to draw, read, skate, snuggle up with my rescue cat and watch sports.
Since starting at the woodlands nursery the children have brought me such joy and it is a privilege to be in their company and see the world from their perspective. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to guide and watch these incredible little humans grow up.
I am studying towards a Level 2 Early Years Educator qualification as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Phil Robinson: Forest School Apprentice
I'm a dad of two, a son and daughter four years apart. Being a first-time parent and a stay-at-home dad was the best job I'd ever had. I loved playing with my son, teaching him, and learning so much for him every day.
We were lucky enough to move very close to Oxleas Wood, and it became our regular haunt during lockdown when classes, clubs, and libraries were all closed to us. I’ve always loved playing in nature: discovering and observing bugs and plants hidden among a mess of undergrowth, clambering through rock pools at the coast, or building lean-tos out of old branches, but it was something I'd stopped doing at some point as I studied and then worked. It was fantastic to be able to reconnect with it all after such a long absence, and even more so because it was something I could share with my son. I could tell how much he absorbed from it, too: the seemingly endless layers of fascination he was finding with my help, from the canopy down to the trunks, and into and under the roots and leaves. Exploring the forest let us breathe in so much that we really needed. That mix of physical activity, emotional peace, and curiosity is a bit of adventure that feels like it lives in the woods, and it was an adventure we were on together.
I love storytelling of all kinds. In my spare time, I eat up stories: from books and films, shows, games, plays, people, and tabletop games that allow the creation of new stories together. This is what led me to study my degree in English at Queen Mary, University of London, and later my MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths. I think this is also what drew me to learn more about communicating with young children. I noticed that even pre-verbal children, when assisted by Makaton or Sign Supported English, love to tell their stories, as well as listen to them. I was encouraged to start a new chapter in my life with the Forest School apprenticeship by the success I had engaging with young children when the world opened up again, teaching and learning with them just as I had enjoyed doing so much at home with my son.
The Forest School environment is a wonderful place for young children to explore new mental and physical limits, and really enjoy being children as they engage with us, their peers, and the natural world.
I am studying towards a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Charlotte Brame: Forest School Apprentice
Throughout my life nature and the outdoors have always played a big part. Growing up my family took me on camping trips in the UK from only a few months old where we would explore nature and go on family sailing and kayaking trips. From a young age I have always preferred playing and exploring in the great outdoors; discovering new plants, making and building creations and connecting with the nature around me compared to staying inside.
At thirteen I started volunteering at Dockland Scout Project where I discovered my love for working outdoors with children on the water which later led me to becoming a kayaking and canoeing coach working in outdoor centres. I also worked part-time in an after-school club at a local primary school where my interest in working with the youngest children began.
I went on to study a BA in Outdoor Leadership at the University of Cumbria where I discovered my passion for forest school and how rewarding outdoor education is alongside getting my degree in the beautiful Lake District where we went on many adventures on Lake Windermere and up into the surrounding mountains and fells.
I am studying towards a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Demi Sandy: Forest School Support Practitioner
I was born and raised in London and spent most of my childhood playing and exploring in the local parks and outdoor areas. I remember me and my siblings imaginative play really coming alive when we were outside - lots of tree climbing, digging, making dens and tree swings. Endless hours of fun!
Working with children outdoors was new to me until only recently and since working at The Woodland Nursery I have been amazed by the children’s creative and imaginative play and also their resilience and confidence. I would have loved for my own daughter to have experienced an outdoor nursery when she was younger.
I was 16 when I first entered into childcare. I have completed numerous training courses and completed my level 2 at 18 years old and knew that's where my passion lay.
Over the years I have continued to complete various other courses such as an Early Years Level 3 Educator, Autism Awareness, Mental Health in Young Adults and Working with Dementia as well as holding all current Paediatric First Aid, Safeguarding and Enhanced DBS certificates.
Sue Houghton: Forest School Advisor and Support Practitioner
My life has always involved the outdoors in one form or another. Originally from the outskirts of Edinburgh I spent many happy days having adventures playing in the woodlands, fields and beaches of the River Fourth. I always managed to get covered in mud much to my mums dismay. As a graduate, passionate about animal conservation, I travelled to different countries taking part in wildlife research projects and surprisingly from this realised that education was the only way our wonderful environment was to be conserved. It didn’t matter how much as an individual you could do in animal conservation if the population had no understanding or care for the shared habitat, your work was futile. Following through with this discovery I qualified as a Science Teacher and now have over 25 years experience in Field Centres, teaching Environmental Education to people of all ages from 2 year olds upwards. I am a firm believer that the sooner children are immersed in the outdoors the sooner they build up a relationship with their environment, learning to love and respect what it can offer.
Forest Schools are perfect for this and I have been delivering Forest school sessions for the last 8 years and assisting in the training of future Forest School leaders. I am now free-lance and continue with this and run my own family sessions alongside running a Homeopathic Clinic. After all these years I still get a huge pleasure in sharing ‘wow’ moments with children, holding a slug for the first time or discovering a magical, make-believe world where anything is possible to sharing moments of complete stillness just listening to nature.
I hold all current first aid, safeguarding and advanced DBS certificates.