Forest School provides a unique experience of outdoor learning. Our intent is to encourage and inspire our students through positive outdoor experiences. They will have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and cooperate with others. The students will use tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated.
This is implemented by giving the students a collective insight into the ethos of Forest School. Forest School builds on a student’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves.
The Forest School learning environment provides opportunities to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, to form positive relationships with others, to develop a growing awareness of their emotional needs and the needs of others, to learn to cooperate and work with their peers / adults and to develop strategies in order to take risks within the boundaries of safety.
Forest School is about exploring and experiencing the natural world through practical activities. The students go out in all weathers, all year round, exploring and learning from the seasons and environment changes. Appropriate clothing will be worn and during high winds (when it is considered unsafe to go into the woods), outdoor cooking sessions can be held on school grounds.
The student’s interests along with the varied natural resources in our woodland are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development. One of the principles of Forest School is to promote environmental awareness and encourage sustainability. Our students are taught about respect and responsibility for the world around them. Both students and adults are encouraged to respect their environment and to be aware of conservation issues of the wild area around them.
The aim is to promote respect for wildlife. When appropriate, reclaimed, recycled and sustainable resources will be used to maintain and develop our Forest School site. Encouraging everyone to care of the environment is an essential part of Forest School. In order to encourage the students to look after the site, we will always leave it tidy and never damage anything growing in it. We will only collect things that are on the ground and leave the area as we found it when we depart. The Forest School Leader will monitor the site so that it does not become overused.
Forest School has no set of prescribed activities. Nearly any type of outdoor learning activity could be undertaken as part of our Forest School process. It is the ethos in how the activities are delivered that make it part of Forest School.
Within the Forest School, students have a choice in which activities they undertake. The Forest School Leader will observe them carefully in order to plan for the next steps. The Forest School Leader introduces relevant skills, knowledge and resources based on what the children are interested in and need to develop. The Forest School Leader sets up what the students are to achieve by breaking tasks into small achievable chunks.
Tasks are open – there are no right or wrong way of doing things (exceptions to this are health and safety procedures). The types of outdoor activities undertaken within a Forest School may include the following, and countless more (activities selected will depend on the learner’s age, stage of development and interests):
Field Studies Activities – minibeast hunts, tree identification, bird watching, life cycle games.
Sensory Activities – games to do with colour, smell, sound, touch, blindfold games.
Bushcraft – shelter building, knot use, fire lighting and cooking, cordage making, wild foods, whittling
Woodland crafts – willow crafts, natural jewellery, weaving, natural dyes, traditional crafts
Team building and trust games – blindfold games, circle games, problem solving activities, team games.
Wildlife conservation – tree planting, nest box construction, coppicing, fence/path building
Physical play – tree climbing, balancing, log dragging, digging
Construction – shelter building, rope swings, tree houses, pulleys
The impact of Forest School allows the children to grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at their own rate. Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play, help teach them to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social skills.
The sensory experiences provided by Forest School helps prompt communication skills, has a positive effect on a student’s self-esteem and is a crucial part of their development. High levels of interest lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in the woodland is exciting and it tends to fascinate students which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time.
The increase in outdoor activity has a positive physical impact. Not only does the development of physical stamina improve but so do gross and fine motor skills.
We try to encourage students to develop a relationship with the natural world that will help in protecting the environment for generations to come.
Forest School isn’t just beneficial to our students – it is also beneficial to teachers. Observing the students in a different setting allows staff to gain a new perspective and understanding of their students.
When our students really engage with Forest School, they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently. Taking students outside of the classroom offsets the pressures of academia and allows them to play to their strengths. This is beneficial to students who struggle in the classroom because there is more of an opportunity for them to learn at their own pace.