What is Forest School?
Forest School is about building connections with an outdoor environment and for children to see this environment through the seasons and different weather. Through visiting the same setting regularly over a long period of time, children come to see how the environment changes of its natural accord and through the changes they make to it. They build a connection with nature and grow an understanding of its importance in their lives.
Forest School sessions are carefully planned by the Forest School Leader for the group of students they are working with to follow and expand upon their interests. During the sessions there are opportunities for the students and the Leader to work cooperatively together on projects the students have shown interest in. Leaders are experts in observing students to see what they are interested in and planning further sessions to develop these interests. At the end of each session there is time for reflection for the students and the Leader and to acknowledge what went well, what the students enjoyed, what they want to do next so future sessions can be planned for.
At St Bernadette’s we have a wonderful area that is dedicated to Forest School. Alongside the Leader, the children are working on improving this area for nature and creating areas to learn new Forest School skills. These natural resources will be used for inspiration, to enable ideas and to encourage intrinsic motivation. We are mindful of the impact on the environment we are working in and have nature at the heart of every decision and change we make to our site.
Forest School takes a holistic approach to children’s development. We offer different activities that promote children’s emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and social intelligence through offering hands-on, learner inspired creatively interesting and inspiring activities that the children can choose to take part in. The children are also encouraged to explore and play which encourages them to develop their resilience, confidence and independence. We introduce risk through carefully managed routines that the children learn and can then apply to their own situations, thus developing their confidence and self-esteem, and feeling of success, in handling different situations.
We follow the 6 key principles:
- Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
- Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
- Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning.
What happens at Forest School?
Forest School sessions usually last for about an hour. The session usually starts with a whole group energetic activity before settling into time for the children to explore the site and follow their own interests, initiating and directing their own learning. The Forest School Leader may have some directed activities on hand for anyone who wants to access them but is generally led by what the children want to do. As the weeks go on, the group will be given more freedom as their skills and understanding of the site develop.
Forest School uses natural resources to stimulate imagination, creativity and investigation. Activities on offer may include:
At the end of each session there will be time for group reflection as the children support each other to think about what they did well and what they want to explore next session. This then informs the Forest School Leader’s planning for the next session.
The benefits of Forest School
Forest School is for everyone, all ages and all abilities. Building self-esteem through small achievable tasks and genuine praise from the Leaders through reflective practises helps build children’s confidence in their own abilities.
Forest School can also:
- Develop physical abilities and help participants to stay active and healthy
- Heighten self-awareness and improve emotional and social skills
- Promote co-operation and group work
- Encourage participants to take care of themselves and others
- Foster care, appreciation and respect for wildlife and wild places
- Broaden knowledge and understanding of the natural world
Through boosting children’s confidence in their ability outside the classroom and developing a positive outlook it then transfers to the classroom where children are found to be more motivated and better able to concentrate.
For further information about Forest School please look at https://forestschoolassociation.org/
I like making the God's eye as it makes a pattern: Isabella
I like gardening as it is fun and I like growing and picking things: Mattie
I enjoy working outdoor and learning new skills: Liam
You get to learn new skills in fun ways: Joe
You get to do different things in a different space: Maisie
I love working as part of a team as I get to help people and they can help me: Brooke