What is Forest School?
“Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children and young people opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem, through hands on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.”
(National definition: by Forest School (England) Network)
Forest School has developed from the Scandinavian education system and is about children and young people building self-esteem and independence through exploring and experiencing the natural world. Forest School is a long term programme delivered by trained practitioners within a natural environment (not necessarily a Forest!) Each Forest School programme is tailored to meet the needs of individuals within that group and is continuously developed as the children/young people grow in confidence, skills and understanding.
The ethos of Forest School allows learners the time and space to develop skills, interests and understanding through practical, hands-on experiences. It also allows practitioners to step back and observe the children/young people in order to then encourage and inspire individuals to achieve through careful scaffolding and facilitating.
Where will my child be going?
We have a beautiful, accessible woodland forest within the grounds of our school, complete with tepee, fire-pit, pond, gardening area and access to local walks. This allows our school to have a cross-curricular approach to education with every child accessing a weekly Outdoor Education session that is linked to the main curriculum topics. This is an opportunity for the children to explore the world around them and to build an appreciation for the environment in an active, safe and experiential learning setting.
Key Stage 1 – provision is Forest School for 3 six week blocks across the year to allow for smaller groups.
Key Stage 2 – provision for Forest School is incorporated into our cross-curricular Outdoor Learning programme which takes place one afternoon each week for each class.
What will my child be doing?
Forest School will run all year round and in all weathers (unless weather conditions are dangerous). There is a mixture of adult and child-led learning which may include:
- Natural crafts – making necklaces from elder, crowns or dreamcatchers from willow, collages from natural materials, weaving with long grasses, tree cookies, etc
- Mud sculptures
- Shelter building and knot tying
- Tree studies
- Using tools for a purpose – such as peeling bark from sticks with potato peelers to make toasting forks
- Fire building and cooking on a camp fire
- Hunting for minibeasts
- Pond dipping
All Forest School Leaders are qualified through nationally recognised and accredited training, therefore ensuring Forest School is a high quality learning experience. The earlier sessions will concentrate on safety, establishing boundaries and routines. As the children develop in confidence and familiarity with the environment the sessions focus on the development and consolidation of skills and understanding.
What benefits will my child get from participating in Forest School?
Forest School supports the holistic development of the child:
- Health and fitness – being active in an outdoor, natural environment.
- Increased emotional wellbeing – there is research available supporting this.
- Social development – communicating, and negotiating with peers and adults to solve problems and share experiences.
- Collaborative learning – promoting responsible behaviour.
- Skills development – developing fine and gross motor skills and coordination for real purposes.
- Gaining knowledge and understanding – multi-sensory, real-life learning.
- Individualised learning – careful observation allows adults to tailor support to children’s own interests and stage of development.
- Curriculum Links – Forest School supports many areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, National Curriculum and the Every Child Matters agenda.
Forest School and Outdoor Learning truly embodies our aims to help our pupils develop into respectful, responsible, resilient risk-takers.
Health and Safety
The health and safety of all participants is central to everything done within our Forest School programme.
Forest School leaders are fully trained in risk assessment and emergency outdoor first aid. Our Forest School has: a Health and Safety policy; a seasonally and daily risk assessed site; risk assessments for activities; trained adult helpers; first aid and emergency equipment.
Some of the activities the children may participate in are ‘higher-risk activities’ (such as campfire cooking or tool use). However, these activities are not available to the children until certain behaviours and boundaries are established. Children are encouraged and supported in recognising and managing risk for themselves, through real life situations and experiences.