Forest Schools have been gaining in popularity in the past five years or so, but they have actually been around for much longer.
Forest School Ethos
Forest School is an alternative educational approach that focuses on developing children’s personal, social and emotional development through regular outdoor experiences. The ethos of Forest Schools is to allow children the time and space to develop skills, interest and understanding through a range of activities which provide practical, hands-on experiences in a natural environment.
At Forest School children are encouraged to play and participate freely in child-led activities that involve both creativity and imagination. Spending more time outdoors, away from visual input, such as television and computers, the aim is to stimulate curiosity through exploration and investigation, creativity and imaginative thought.
Holism is the idea of developing the whole person, rather than parts of it. The learner engages with the mind, the body and the spirit; it is the development of an individual’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potential.
Forest School promotes children’s holistic development by giving opportunities for development in many different areas such as emotional intelligence, social skills, communication skills, etc.
It promotes creativity in a natural environment and enables the children to have a sense of achievement by giving all children the chance to succeed.
Appropriate Risk Taking
At Forest School children are encouraged to make sensible and informed decisions by giving them the opportunity to test their own abilities through experimentation and self -limitation in a real life situation. Depending on age and ability of the child, opportunities to take an appropriate level of risk are given in order to push the boundaries of innovation.
If children are exposed to an appropriate level of risk, they will rise to it and find strategies to handle it.
Children who are confident about taking chances rebound well when things don’t work out at first. These children become resilient and will try again until they master a situation or wisely avoid it.
The Magic of the Forest
What’s so great about a forest?
Forests provide the ideal setting to promote health and physical activity.
The use of forests by people has been shown to contribute to mental, physical and social benefits.
The calming environment of a forest can help with:
- Anger reduction.
- Attention restoration.
- Restorative effect from stress and mental fatigue.
- Positive mood and enhanced mental health and wellbeing.
- Enhanced feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction with life.
- Enjoyment and stimulation of the senses.
- Reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis
- Opportunities to improve stamina and physical mobility.
- Increased social interaction and stronger communities.
- Reduction in inequalities
- Improved sense of place and relationship with woodlands for individuals and communities.
The Origins of Forest Schools
Forest Schools in the UK
In 1993 a group of Bridgwater nursery nurses went on a study trip to Denmark in order to enhance the British attitude towards environmental education in mainstream settings that had been lost between the 1960s and 80s, when the National Curriculum became the heart of British education.
Frustrated by the National Curriculum and its lack of outdoor education, the term ‘Forest School’ was invented and a Forest School movement emerged from practitioners.
Inspired by this movement, Early years settings, schools and home education or family groups, health settings and the voluntary sector adopted this Forest School approach, growing the demand.
By 2001 an organised network of Forest School providers was established and supported by the FEI (now the Forest Education Network (FEN) in England) , Wales (FSW) and county networks within some local authorities. A year later in 2002, principles and criteria were first agreed upon.
In 2008 a self-directed Forest School Special Interest Group (SIG) was set up within the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL), playing a key role in the establishment of the FSA (Forest School Association) in 2012.
Forest Schools are now running all over the UK and within at least one setting in almost every county, with some counties having 100s of Forest Schools. There are now an estimated 10,000 trained practitioners and 36 known Forest School training providers.’
From building dens to basic survival skills
Depending on your child’s age and ability, Forest School offers a wide range of skill development:
- fire safety and cooking over an open fire
- imaginary play
- natural art, using organic material
- tool safety and basic tool skills
- den and shelter building
- wildlife identification
- tree and plant identification
- social skills
Forest School and the National Curriculum
How does Forest Schools support the National Curriculum and my child’s learning?
Activities are planned to tie in with your child’s current learning journey or to consolidate prior learning in different curriculum areas, depending on age and ability.