Information about Forest School
Forest School is an inspirational process that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem, through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education. (Forest Schools, 2012)
What is Forest School ?
At Forest School all participants are viewed as:
- equal, unique and valuable
- competent to explore & discover
- entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
- entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
- entitled to experience regular success
- entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
- entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world
This learner-centred approach interweaves with the ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference. Yet each programme does also share a common set of principles, aimed at ensuring that all learners experience the cumulative and lasting benefits that quality Forest School offers.
The ethos of Forest School is based on a fundamental respect for children and young people and for their capacity to instigate, test and maintain curiosity in the world around them. It believes in children’s right to play; the right to access the outdoors (and in particular a woodland environment); the right to access risk and the vibrant reality of the natural world; and the right to experience a healthy range of emotions, through all the challenges of social interaction, to build a resilience that will enable continued and creative engagement with their peers and their potential.
Forest School is based more on the process of learning than it is on the content – more on the ‘how’ than the ‘what’. This means that genuine Forest School practice steps boldly out of the shadow and limitation of ‘planned activities’ and ventures collaboratively into the realms of the unplanned, unexpected and ultimately unlimited. Children and young people are given encouragement to direct their own learning – this often requires catalysing on the part of the Forest School leader either through stimulating play in the outdoors or through ‘scaffolding’ a child’s learning, but mostly through simply observing how children are in the outdoors.
Significantly, and on many levels, a woodland environment is central in supporting this very dynamic approach to learning: the passage of time, from the changing of the seasons, to the contemplation of an ancient tree; the dynamic nature of an outdoor environment – an infinite source of smells, textures, sounds and tastes; a range of visual stimuli from near to far, high to low, very big to very small; and the infinite layers of historical, cultural, spiritual and mythological significance that speak of our deep relationship with trees and woodland through the ages.
How does our Forest School Learning help us in the classroom?
Exploring the great outdoors not only stimulates children’s natural curiosity, but makes other school subjects, such as literacy, numeracy and science topic work more relevant. As the children gain new skills and knowledge outside the classroom, so they become excited about their learning which, in turn enhances their potential back inside the classroom. As self-esteem grows, we often see children become more motivated to participate in classroom activities and confidently express their ideas in front of their peers. We see other pupils clearly enjoying their improved physical stamina and motor skills whether that’s during PE lessons, on the sports field or out and about with friends during break times. Making decisions and not giving up when things don’t quite go quite to plan in Forest School are also essential skills the children need in life.
The happy bi-product of children directing their own learning through our Forest School programme, is ultimately, the emergence of more resilient, independent, confident and creative learners. This, combined with our ability to satisfy the ongoing fascination children have with the natural world around them makes Forest School at Hawkhurst Primary, a very special place indeed. It can also get a bit muddy, but as every parent knows – busy little explorers on an important woodland mission are always going to get more than their hands dirty!
Forest School at Sandhurst
Our Forest School has been established for a number of years and is a cherished and much anticipated part of the school week for children in Reception and Years 1 and 2. Forest School is an integral part of the Early Years and Key Stage One curriculum with classes making regular trips to our fabulous outdoor learning settings;
Where do we go ?
We are very lucky to have the fantastic Windmill Woods on our doorstep.
How often do we go ?
Forest School classes are run every week on a Wednesday.
What do we do ?
No two days at Forest School are the same as each session is completely child-lead. Chosen activities can range from building a simple but weatherproof woodland shelter to using natural sustainable materials for a creative project and from learning to use tools safely to simply sharing the discovery of an unsuspecting family of earwigs with friends. Whatever the children task themselves with on a given day, our Forest School is always a safe environment for them to take supported risks, test ideas, make mistakes, overcome challenges and question or rejoice in the natural world around them.
Who is the lead teacher ?
Mrs Jennette Abel is the Forest School leader, ably assisted by Mr Digby. Jennette holds a Forest School qualification and has enjoyed leading this type of activity for many years.
How long do lessons last ?
A Forest School session lasts approximately an hour and a half but it may continue with follow-up work in the classroom.