What is Forest School?
Using the outdoor environment, children are encouraged and inspired to grow in confidence, independence and self-esteem through the mastery of small achievable tasks.
Forest School has been an integral part of education in Denmark since the 1980’s. The philosophy was based upon a desire to provide children with an education which encouraged appreciation of the wide, natural world and which would encourage responsibility for nature conservation in later life.
This philosophy was adapted by Bridgewater College, UK and they began their Forest School in 1995. Since 1995 Forest Schools have become more widespread with teachers training to become Forest School leaders with Bridgewater or Evesham College to ensure continuity of teaching practices and standards.
Merrydays and Henley in Arden Montessori became interested because it complemented the Montessori philosophy: child centred environment, use real tools that work, educate the senses, competence and responsibility, large blocks of open ended time and the observation of children.
How will children benefit from Forest Schools?
All activities can be linked to any part of the curriculum. Through experiencing the outdoor environment, they learn the importance of boundaries. They work with natural materials using tools appropriately. They are encouraged to look after the outdoor environment. They build on their confidence, independence and self esteem.
What happens at a Forest School session?
A typical session starts with planning by the Forest School leaders. They will consider beforehand the changes in behaviour that they might expect to see in the children. The children arrive at the site dressed appropriately and walk together as a group to the base camp where all activities take place. While they are learning to deal with the uneven terrain of the woodland floor, they are also developing a sense of independence and confidence in being outdoors.
In each session, the children will have various activities made available: shelter building for themselves or a woodland animal, mud painting, identification of flora and fauna, 1,2, 3 where are you?, digging, to name but a few. The important aspect is that the children have ownership of what activity they choose and have the time to be expressive and be able to return to it on another day.
The freedom of Forest school inspires children to use their imagination.