Forest School is an exciting way forward in environmental education which brings children into regular and repeated contact with their local outdoor environment.
The Forest School initiative in the UK has developed from the Scandinavian model of outdoor play and learning. Children attending the programme will visit an outdoor setting on a weekly basis, for 6 to 10 weeks or longer.. Sessions are run by qualified Forest School leaders, who are trained in a range of practical skills and in the provision of a supportive learning environment. Group sizes are small, up to a maximum of 15 children..
We deliver Forest School programmes to schools across Sussex. We also work with Home Educator groups, nurseries. village community groups, youth offenders, adults with learning difficulties, students with a wide range of special needs, and family learning groups.
What to expect from a Forest School programme
Forest School leaders introduce activities to the group in order to stimulate interest and give the group ideas to develop themselves.
Specific activities vary hugely and a definitive list is not possible, although typical examples will include;
- Safe fire lighting and fire management.
- Simple cooking and hot drinks
- Sculpture and pictures using woodland materials.
- Stories with themes on the natural world
- Woodcraft activities using simple hand tools and natural resources such as green wood and other plant material.
- Natural play trails or rope trails
- Den building with natural resources or tarpaulins.
- Buckets and digging tools for earth and mud play
- Games to promote environmental awareness.
As the weeks progress, and the children become familiar with their outdoor space, the safe routines of Forest School, and the possibilities open to them, they are encouraged to initiate their own play and develop ideas at their own pace. Forest School leaders are trained to observe the children as individuals and to appreciate individual learning styles. This enables them to facilitate further learning and progression through provision of appropriate support.
Benefits of Forest School
Much research has been done over the last decade into the benefits of outdoor learning and Forest Schools in the UK. In our own experience of running FS programmes since 2006 we know of many benefits to participants both immediately through direct observation and in the longer term through subsequent evaluation by schools and groups.
Forest School has been seen to:
- Encourage emotional growth, self reliance and independence, allowing participants to take responsibility for their own learning and development
- Promote holistic and individualised development through the encouragement of child initiated projects extended with sensitive adult support.
- Allow development of respect and care for the natural world, and increase children’s knowledge and understanding of the outdoors.
- Improve physical strength and stamina through regular access to a varied and challenging environment
- Increase practical skills, coordination and dexterity through the use of tools and natural resources to make chosen artefacts.
- Help build personal and social skills and to aid the building of relationships within real life contexts.
- Enthuse participants to transmit their experiences through writing, storytelling and pictures back in their educational setting.
- Extend knowledge and enthusiasm of the programme at home, as children are keen to show their skills and encourage family members into the outdoors
- Be an important factor in choice of further study and employment.