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.
Keith Paskins: IT Specialist and Forest School Practitioner
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 first aid, safeguarding and advanced DBS certificates.
Sahra Mohamed: Forest School Manager
Growing up, the natural environment and outdoor play were central parts of my childhood experiences. I spent hours exploring the outdoors and investigating the world around me. This valuable time benefited in many ways and as I fondly recall going on adventures with my siblings, I also reminiscence about learning through play. My mind and senses were stimulated by camping trips, which resulted in the development of skills and making memories that I will always hold dear.
During my gap years from education, my travelling, volunteer work and support of charity events fuelled my interest and love for childcare as well as Early Years’ Education. Soon, my experiences led me to pursue a career in Early Years Education and I began my first ever course “introduction to childcare “. My interests in outdoor learning continued to become increasingly evident as I completed my degree. I conducted several of my essays and research on the outdoor environment and learning opportunities given to children. Furthermore, I often investigated, studied and learnt about the different approaches to early years such as Norwegian early years outdoors learning methodologies, origins of forest schools and more importantly the benefits of the right outdoor learning opportunities for children.
It is evident that being outdoors has a significant positive impact on children’s wellbeing as it provides chances for children to build their independence, use new skills as well as have first-hand contact with the natural world, weather and different seasons. Outdoor learning enhances children’s development both physically and mentally.
In a world of technology and high towers, it can be easy for children to miss opportunities to be in contact with nature and the outdoors, therefore having settings such as forest schools will not only provide them with the opportunities to be free but also teaches children the importance of respecting the world around them and caring for nature.
I have a BA (Hons with Qualified Teacher Status) in Early Years Education and am currently studying towards a Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification.
Marta Pina: Forest School Manager
It was in Portugal where I was born and raised, that my great love for nature began. When I was young I used to go fishing with my father and spend most of my holidays surrounded by the sea, mountains and forests. Even from those very early years I have always been concerned about wanting to leave the world a little better than I found it. I started by wanting to save all the birds that came into my yard, brought in by my cat at the end of the day. Then I wanted to show everyone that all animals deserved to be respected, protected and above all, have a good home and planet to live on that would not be completely destroyed by man.
I was still at a very young age when I decided that being a biologist would be my chosen career. I did my degree at the University of Lisbon and during my studies I discovered when working with children at Lisbon Zoo in the Environmental department, what the answer was: education! Educate to protect and preserve by creating a deep connection with the environment to further understanding and promote respect. The simple answer lies with our children in order to create a better world.
Later in life after moving to London I discovered the concept of Forest School. The approach goes hand in hand with what I believe: the more that children are in contact with nature, the sooner they can build up a relationship with it and learn to love and respect it. It also offers children the opportunity to learn how to handle risks and most importantly, how to use their own initiative in order to solve problems and cooperate with others. Isn’t it fantastic? It is even better to watch all of this happening on a daily basis and it is a privilege to see how happy they are just to run, play hide and seek, make mud pies and jump in the puddles when it’s raining. I also love how they give value to small things like staying still and listening to what is going on around them or trying to catch leaves that fall from the trees in Autumn (which is surprisingly difficult!).
I've completed my studies and achieved a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification and I can’t wait to begin my Forest School training.
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 2 Early Years Educator.
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.