What is Forest school?
Forest School is not a badge or a place but an innovative holistic educational approach to outdoor play and learning in a woodland environment that seeks to encourage, motivate, engage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences over an extended period of time.
It promotes, observes and explicitly supports the social, physical, intellectual, cognitive, emotional and spititual development (SPICES) of children, young people and adults in an outdoor, preferably woodland, environment. It occurs regularly all the year round, in order to enhance a coherent understanding of the rhythm of life.
Forest schools empower children to take responsibility and to be independent learners as they engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities, work with tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social and in turn establish and grow i in confidence, self-esteem and motivation whilst developing an understanding of the natural world.
British Forest Schools have been adapted and developed from the original concept implemented in Scandinavia in the 1950’s called 'Friluftsliv’ literally ‘fresh air life’ was originally a Norwegian expression and is a concept deeply ingrained in their culture (Knight 2009). Research in Sweden found and concluded that children who attended Forest school were significantly happier and more content than those in urban kindergartens,had better concentration than the city kindergarten children; were more balanced, less stressed, and had a greater social capability; had 25% fewer days off sick and had better developed co-ordination than children in city kindergartens.
It was recognised that this ‘outdoor’ approach to play and learning can have a huge impact on the normal development of all children and those who had attended. Contact with the outdoors is often limited for many children in modern society, and the vital experience of using the outdoors and being comfortable in nature is being lost. Research backs up that children and young people are stimulated by the outdoors. Forest Schools has demonstrated success with children of all ages who visit the same local woodlands on a regular basis and through play, who have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others and over time increase in their self-belief, confidence, concentration, enthusiasm, communication and problem solving skills and their emotional well-being. Thus, the Forest school ethos is an ideal platform for developing the whole child.
We grow in confidence as we try new things
Self-esteem grows as I am trusted to take part
We understand, care for and appreciate the natural environment and its wildlife
All of these skills are transferable and can therefore be taken back in the classroom to improve a child’s performance in the classroom environment
Forest Schools’ strengths lie in its ability to deliver significant learning outcomes relevant to the whole breadth of the curriculum promoting growth in all areas of learning. IThere are strong links into Every Child Matters (2004), the Early Years Foundation Stage (2008), Playwork Principles (2005), Best Play (2000) and the National Curriculum at all stages.