Inspired by Scandinavian outdoor nurseries, practitioners from Bridgwater College in Somerset, pioneered the forest school concept in the UK in the early 1990s.
Many early years settings and schools now use the forest school approach in their provision.
Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.
Forest School helps and facilitates more than knowledge-gathering, it helps learners develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. It creates a safe, non-judgemental nurturing environment for learners to try stuff out and take risks. Forest School inspires a deep and meaningful connection to the world and an understanding of how a learner fits within it. Our approach to risk means that learners constantly expand on their abilities by solving real-world issues, building self-belief and resilience. We believe that risk is more than just potential for physical harm, but a more holistic thing, there are risks in everything we do, and we grow by overcoming them. Forest School therefore, helps participants to become, healthy, resilient, creative and independent learners. (FSA, see here for more details: What is Forest School? | Forest School Association)
Children have access to forest school sessions throughout their time at the nursery and preschool. These sessions are carried out in small groups supervised by Millie, our Forest School Leader and will be supported by the children’s daycare practitioners.
What happens during a forest school session?
Children will have the opportunity to explore the natural environment at their own pace, leading their learning and play. The woodland area will be set-up ready for groups with hammocks, dens, a mud-kitchen, and other natural stations. The adults will set and run different activities for example, natural crafts, campfire skills, wildlife and environmental awareness and gardening. Careful observation is made of the children’s developmental needs and their interests and the planning will support them in developing these areas of learning. For example, a child may love bugs; we can go on a bug hunt, make clay bugs and learn some bug songs!
Before each session the area is thoroughly risk assessed by the Forest School Leader; further risk assessments are also carried out on a seasonal basis. Throughout their time at Forest School children are also encouraged and supported to assess risks for themselves, building self-awareness and management. Children learn the rules: ‘No picking, no licking’ to discourage them from putting their fingers in their mouths after they have been touching plants and to encourage them to respect growing plants. Hazards are also identified clearly with red flags which the children learn means that these things cannot be touched.
What will my child need at Forest School?
Forest school sessions take place outdoors throughout the year, apart from days when there are high winds or thunder and lightning.
In summer your child will need:
· A hat
· A long-sleeved top
· Their water bottle
· A hat, gloves and scarf
· At least 3 layers of clothing e.g vest, t-shirt and long-sleeved top.
· 2 pairs of socks (wellies keep feet dry but not warm)
· Extra clothes to change into
· Welly boots and waterproofs are provided by the Centre.
How can I be involved?
Children attend forest school for a block of six weeks and on the following seventh week, parents and carers will be invited to join them. During this session we like to build a fire together and toast marshmallows or make popcorn. If you would like to volunteer to come to forest school regularly, please let one of the team know, we welcome your application.
Children will have the opportunity to use real tools such as specially made hammers, screwdrivers and saws in a highly supervised environment, with trained staff. The children will work in small groups of three to four, with two adults (when using a saw, they will always be one to one with an adult). All children will wear protective equipment to wear including aprons, safety glasses and dust masks if needed.
Woodwork embraces many aspects of learning and development and can benefit your child in a range of ways. Children can feel valued and empowered by being trusted to use real tools. Mastering new skills and accomplishing tasks can significantly boost children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Woodwork can stimulate communication and develop language and vocabulary skills. The process of learning to use tools also builds the ability to understand instructions and improve listening and attention.
If you would like to find out more:
The principles of forest school:
http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice/Knight, S (2009) Forest schools and outdoor learning in the early years. London, SAGE publications
Visiting local woodlands for free