What is Forest School?
Forest school is an approach to learning outdoors which has its roots in early years education in Scandinavia. It is based upon a rich heritage of theory built up over the last century about how children learn most effectively. Forest school in the UK has become widespread over the last 20 years but there are a lot of misconceptions. One day in the woods doing lots of exciting activities is not Forest School. For learning to be really classed as Forest School it must contain all of the following elements:
Learning at Forest school is child led. This means that children not only follow their own interests but they make their own decisions about the whens/hows/whats/wheres of the session. What order do they want to carry out the things they want to do? How do they want to play that game? This means that children learn to think for themselves, grow in confidence and become more resilient.
Learning is facilitated by a Forest Schools practitioner who observes a child’s interests, social skills, levels of wellbeing, emotional intelligence, level of development, and confidence. They then scaffold learning through play to support a child’s holistic development. This might mean creating small achievable tasks in whatever area needed to meet a child’s needs. It will involve playing alongside, supporting, suggesting, and facilitating. It will not involve directing or ordering.
Learning at Forest School develops a child’s social, personal and emotional skills. A child’s holistic development rather than a specific adult let learning objective is the aim. The ultimate goal of any Forest School practitioner is to develop independence, confidence and resilience in the children they work with.
Learning takes place in a natural environment where a myriad of learning opportunities present themselves in such an open ended environment. A respect for the natural world is developed and learners seek to have as little impact on this world as possible.
Learning takes place over a long period of time. Forest school is not a one-off session. Change, growth and development take time and at the very minimum should take place over 6 sessions, ideally over a whole year or longer.
Learning involves encountering risks. Many potential hazards exist when playing in a woodland setting. Children need to encounter these hazards so that they learn how to manage them in preparation for reaching adulthood. The Forest School Practitioner constantly manages the level of risk so that it is within acceptable limits.
Our Nursery sessions are forest school sessions. Whilst our holiday clubs and toddler group follow a forest school ethos they cannot be defined as forest school sessions as they are one off sessions rather than learning taking place over a long period of time.
For further information please see: http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/