At the heart for Forest School is its holistic and child led approach to learning. The idea of Forest School originated in Scandinavia where being close to nature and playing outside is integral to a child’s education. Now in the UK we are seeing more and more appreciation of this approach and schools bringing Forest School and outdoor learning into their planning. The key criteria for the Forest School approach, which differentiates it from other types of outdoor learning, were defined by the Forest School Association in 2011 and underpin good practice.
These are that Forest school:
- is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visit; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
- takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
- aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Forest School aims to capture the magic and fun of being outside and when its ethos is adhered to the benefits to children and teenagers are far reaching.
Through regular sessions, on the same forest school site, benefits include:
• Building a child’s confidence and self-esteem by providing small manageable tasks each week that challenge and encourage children.
• Igniting a curiosity and respect for the natural world which will be with them for life and passed on to others.
• Supporting co-operation between groups and individuals and encouraging problem solving.
• Allowing children to take risks and make choices.
• Encouraging positive communications between children and supporting a variety of approaches to learning
Its sessions have a clear start and finish and activities guide children to find their own way. Sessions are planned, reviewed and re-planned where necessary to support the individual child’s ongoing learning. It is not about them completing tasks it is about igniting their interest.
Sessions are a minimum of 2 hours long but vary for workshops and training. Regular Forest School takes place weekly on the same site. Activities such as cooking on campfires, den buildings, mud play, nature trails, seasonal arts and crafts, using woodwork tools and tree climbing aswell as story-telling, games and poetry are introduced according to the age and stage of development of the children. Activities are cross curricular and positively enhance classroom learning and a child’s physical and emotional well-being.