What is Forest School?
Forest School is an outdoor learning approach that uses a woodland setting. It is child-centred and follows the interests of the child. It is a regular and long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. Forest School has a developmental ethos shared by thousands of trained practitioners around the world.
Forest School Criteria.
Forest School follows the seasons and the child with an emergent curriculum. However, in order for sessions to be officially classed as forest school a group should:
- have at least 24 sessions in 1 year or 12 sessions 2 years in a row.
- be regular – either weekly or fortnightly; each session a minimum of 2 hours long.
- must cover more than one season.
- should take place in a woodland or natural environment with trees.
What are the benefits?
Children are stimulated and intrigued by outdoor environments, this taps into a child’s natural curiosity and in turn motivates them as a learner. Children who play in natural environments undertake more diverse, creative and imaginative play and increased speed of messages between all parts of the brain and nervous system.
Research has shown that Forest School:
- increases self-esteem, self-confidence and self-belief
- helps development of communication & language skills
- encourages exploration of social relationships and development of social skills
- encourages team building skills
- encourages personal responsibility, independence & self regulation
- encourages problem solving skills and teaches children how to evaluate risk
- gives an understanding that improves the relationship with the outdoors
- gives ownership and pride in the local environment and respect for natural environments.
In addition children will benefit from:
- increased oxygen = increased brain functions
- increased vitamin D production
- gross motor & fine motor movement/skills & physical exercise
- reduced stress from being outdoors through reduced Cortisol (a stress chemical in the body)
The History of Forest School
The development of Forest School began in the UK in the mid-1990s; it is based on a Scandinavian idea that considers children’s contact with nature to be extremely important to their development.
Scandinavian Forest Schools were developed in the 1950s and focused on teaching children to explore themselves in the natural world. In the 1990 in particular British childcare & education workers visited these Scandinavian ‘Forest Kindergartens’ including nursery-nursing students & tutors from Bridgwater College (Somerset), who visited Denmark in 1995 to see the programme there. They decided that the approach was appropriate for use in Britain and considered how to apply what they had witnessed to childcare provision in the college’s Early Years Centre.
Forest School in UK
There is an increasing interest in the UK leading to an increased number of Forest Schools. Some are independently run, while others are supported by local education authorities.
Like many independent Forest Schools, we are part of the Forest School Association (FSA). The FSA has guidelines on Forest School provision and support for Forest School Leaders. https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/
Not all of our sessions are classed as forest school. Please check with us to verify details of our sessions.