What is Forest School?
In 1993 an inspirational philosophy was brought to the UK – Forest School. Originating in Scandinavia, Forest School – as the name may suggest – is based on the ideal that recognises the importance of children’s contact with nature.
Caroline feels so passionate about this philosophy that she’s written an article about it.
The ideology behind this holistic and sensory learning is that it provides inclusive opportunities for all children through practical activities in an outdoor environment. It allows children to take manageable risks through multiple challenges and provides plenty of excitement. The shifting weather patterns and seasons offer intrigue and discovery for children as different educational opportunities arise from the great outdoors. Forest School curriculum is relaxed, but effective. It engages the outdoor environment as the third educator in children’s lives. It is inclusive of the unique learning styles of children within an environment which promotes independence, encourages teamwork, helps to develop their gross motor skills and raise their self-esteem. Children are given the tools to succeed and unlike conventional learning, there is no wrong, so they cannot fail while they undertake a range of practical activities and carry out small, achievable tasks.
Forest School can be particularly effective for children who do not learn well in a classroom environment. Taking children outside of the traditional classroom removes the pressures of academia and allows them to play to their strengths. This is particularly beneficial for those children because they are able to learn at their own pace. Children learn to problem-solve, be creative and imaginative and show enterprising behaviour at Forest School. Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play help to teach the children about working together as a group and allows them to extend their physical abilities. This learning style helps the children to gain confidence and improve their self-esteem which further impacts on their emotional and mental well-being.
Being outdoors at a Forest School presents hazards and teaches the children taking part to naturally assess risks. They are prompted to take responsibility for decisions when they are encouraged to make sensible and informed choices about how to deal with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations. This creates conditions where children are also able to test their own abilities and challenge their boundaries. This testing the boundaries results in children becoming confident in utilising large natural spaces and encourages them to develop a relationship with the natural world – which will in turn help to protect the environment for generations to come.
The children will walk to the forest and outdoor learning site just across the road
What will the children be doing?
Once in the forest, children will spend 2-3 hours learning together outdoors.
Children will be working together collaboratively, learning about boundaries, setting them and how to keep them, learning about the dangers of being outdoors and looking at risks and hazards, building dens, learning to use tools, listening to stories, exploring their natural environments and being creative with natural resources.
The children will be able to explore the environment, there is a pond with ducks. On the site there are chickens, Llama’s and goats for the children to look at. There are hills and slopes, rabbit holes and interesting natural things to explore.
The Forest School will be run by staff holding the Forest School Leader Qualification level 3, plus the other staff from the room will attend with the children.
The children will have the opportunity for 6 terms in Forest school at least once a week from the September before the children begin mainstream school at aged 3 and 4 years old in the following September.
We will take up to 12 children per session.
What do they need?
The children will all be provided with all in one suits to wear to the forest over their clothing. Children will need to bring wellies and coats, though we will have spares.
All children will be provided with breadsticks, water and shelter while we are in the forest.
Through our visits to our Forest school the children in school will instil a love of the great outdoors. Inspirational, stimulating, hands on experiences will develop self-esteem, confidence and responsibility. The use of the woodland setting, the various tools and the natural resources will bring learning to life, creating an understanding of the balance of nature and the infinite resources around us.
Children will be shown how to look after the tools. Children will be shown how to look carefully for insects and their habitats and look after them when they have found them.
When risk assessment carried out before session areas below climbing trees must be checked for sharp objects and the tree checked for loose branches.
Children are not to climb higher than an adults arm length or chest height. (This will be taught). Unsafe or tempting trees can be marked with a hazard tape.
Rope and string use
Children will be encouraged to connect and transport materials but prevented from tying up other children or themselves! If a child has a good idea and wants, for example, to try and build something, the adults will help them and use the opportunity to model appropriate knot tying. All string and rope must be collected up at the end of the session.
Carrying and transporting materials
The children should be encouraged to roll, lift, drag and pull materials either by hand or using ropes. The safe way to lift, by bending your knees and keeping your back straight should be modelled by all adults. Heavier objects will be rolled, dragged or carried by more people.
Children will always be invited to use the toilet before we leave Pre-school. If children need the toilet once we are in the forest then we have a portable potty for the children’s use if necessary. There is also an outside toilet in the outdoor learning area.
Eating and Drinking
Children will be taught not to eat anything found in the woods and this is one of our Forest School rules. We will discuss this together so that children are secure in their knowledge. If we take drinks or snacks When we are outside we will ensure children use wipes to clean their hands before eating their snack or drinking.
Wood can only be collected from the ground and children will be taught not to pick anything growing.
Leaving the site
The site must always be left as it is found. If artefacts are made using ‘found materials’ these must be taken off sight at the end of every session.
Should normally be demolished and imported materials taken back into Stables at the end of each session.
Forest School Code of Conduct
Children will always be made aware of how far they can explore before a session begins.
When we want the children to return to the circle, we will blow a whistle once for STOP and twice for COME BACK.
Picking up and playing with sticks
Children will be allowed to carry sticks shorter than their arm’s length but made sure they think about how close they are to other children.
Stables Forest School Rules
Our Forest School rules will be discussed with the children on their first trip, before they leave Stables Pre-school for Forest School they will be required to sign the agreement with us to abide by the rules by printing their fingerprint onto our Forest School tree.
The rules will be reiterated at the beginning of every session and we will use the tree as a reminder of their agreement. The rules are as follows:
- Work together
- Stay within boundaries
- Walk together and stay together to and from Forest School
- Do not eat or drink anything unless told to by an adult
- Do not pick anything growing
- Leave your wellies on at all times
- Look above, below and around for hazards
- Care for your friends and the environment
- Listen to the adults
- STOP when whistle blows once
- COME BACK when whistle blows twice
- Take care when using tools
Policies and Procedures
Forest School policies and procedures can be found on our website.
At least one staff member will hold the relevant Forest School level 3 Leader qualification.
Staff will carry a first aid box and all 3 staff are first aid trained. Staff will carry the contact details of all parents of the children attending.
Children will be signed in to and out of Forest School each day.
The site will be risk assessed each day, prior to the children going on site.