What is Forest School?
Forest School has its origins in Scandinavian pedagogies from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Early Years movements in Denmark and Finland from the early 1950s onwards promoted the educational and spiritual, as well as the physical benefits of being in the natural word and inspired the creation of schools which in turn, inspired the English Forest School movement. The name Forest School was born out of visits to Denmark by Bridgewater nursery nurses in 1993.
However, our Forest School tradition has also been influenced by the complex social and economic history of Britain, the history and traditions of art and literature in Britain and America and the world history of educational pedagogy as well as psychology and philosophy. The roots of the Forest School movement are rich and complex and Forest School is part of a social as well as an educational movement.
Forest School is a long term outdoor programme of activities delivered by trained practitioners within a natural environment and whatever the weather! Our programme will be tailored to meet the needs of the children as they 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 in order to then encourage and inspire individuals to achieve through careful scaffolding and facilitating.
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”
Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852)
Where will our Forest School be taking place?
We have a new forest school site adjacent to the school field. There is a juvenile woodland, campfire, pond and wildflower area. We have plans to develop the facilities at this site over the next few years.
It is a secluded space which will feel quite different to the areas where the children usually play and learn; a real little wild space for nature. There are lots of birds and mini-beasts, as well as a range of native trees. The area is secure and we will make sure, at every session that the children are secure in their understanding of the boundaries and of our Forest School rules. The area has been thoroughly risk assessed and this will be updated regularly.
We will also continue to use our local woodlands and the fields in the surrounding area.
Who will be staffing the Forest School?
Heather Salter is one of our most experienced teaching assistants and has been fully trained in Forest school delivery. Each session will also be supported by the class teacher and TA.
Health and safety.
The health and safety of all participants is central to everything undertaken within a Forest School Programme. Forest School leaders are fully trained in risk assessment and emergency first aid. The Forest School operates under the school’s Health and Safety policy and policies and procedures regarding safeguarding and confidentiality. Alongside this the following are completed:
- a seasonal and daily risk assessed site;
- risk assessments for activities;
- informed adult helpers;
- first aid and emergency
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.
The HSE states clearly ‘No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in ‘cotton wool’. Exposing children to risk helps to develop their awareness of danger and how to manage risk. This in turn, empowers the children to help to keep themselves safe.
At Forest School high adult-child ratios, rules and routines regularly reinforced, one to one for tools and close supervision for fire and pond are part of the process of making risks acceptable.
What sort of activities will go on at Forest School?
Sessions will focus on core skills and safety. Activities will increase week on week and may include:
- Storytelling (around our fire circle, lit or unlit)
- Natural art activities
- Use of tools (if skills and behaviour indicators secured)
- Exploring, nature watching and bug hunting
- Practical woodland skills (eg. Willow weaving)
- Building dens
- Time to be quiet, reflect or talk
What benefits will my child get from participating in Forest School?
Forest school allows children and young people to use their initiative, problem solve and work with others. These skills help develop empathy and respect for others and respect for the materials and tools that are used. It allows young people to grow and develop at a pace that is right for them: there are no targets or timescales with forest school. Small achievable tasks give young people a sense of achievement, not failure.
Forest School supports the holistic development of the child:
- Health and fitness – Being active in an outdoor, natural environment
- Increased emotional wellbeing – Just being among trees has been shown to have a real and positive effect. Working with nature helps develop empathy, creativity, imagination and self awareness
- Social development – Communicating, sharing, negotiating and Problem-solving .
- Skills development – Developing fine and gross motor skills and coordination
- Gaining knowledge and understanding – Multi–sensory, real-life learning, learning to care for our green spaces and wildlife.
- 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 Curriculum, National Curriculum and the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda.
All these skills will work towards developing increased self esteem and emotional intelligence.
Our children are the future custodians of our countryside, therefore the more knowledge, understanding, respect and passion they have for the natural world, the better equipped they will be to care for our ecosystems.