History of Forest School
Forest School is a way of working with children that was developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s. It is a way of reconnecting children with nature, and giving them the freedom and skills to learn and develop in a natural environment. Forest School in England was introduced in the 1990s and it has since become a very popular way of engaging with children and nurturing not only their academic skills but also their physical, social and emotional development.
Forest school aims to nurture the whole child, and benefits to self-esteem, confidence, social skills, creativity, emotional intelligence and overall well-being are well documented. Through a range of practical activities including things like playing with/moulding mud, whittling, tree climbing, imaginative play, fire-making, cooking and den building, children are encouraged and supported to work with each other and with nature in a respectful but fun way. Children are able to achieve small steps towards a goal in their own time scale to give them a sense of achievement and pride. They are given the freedom to choose their own path of activities and therefore to develop and engage with those areas of themselves that is comfortable for them. This can give them a sense of wellbeing and freedom that is difficult to achieve in a more structured setting. Children will often follow their own path of discovery and learn many new facts and skills often without even realising it! Often, Forest School sessions can give children a new connection with nature, helping them to value and respect the outdoor environment and their world. There is a very inclusive feel to sessions and children of all abilities and backgrounds will be able to be challenged at their own level. Through Forest School, children have access to a creative curriculum, whilst at the same time learning important life skills that cannot always be offered in the classroom setting.
Forest School sets learning in a different context for children where they can undertake a range of practical activities and carry out small achievable tasks. At Forest School children can develop their team working skills and also learn to become more independent.
Forest School helps children to grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate.
- Social skills
Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social ties.
The sensory experiences provided by Forest School’s helps prompt language development. Improving communication skills has a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem and is a crucial part of their development.
- Motivation and concentration
High levels of interest lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in the woodland is exciting for a child. It tends to fascinate them which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time.
- Physical skills
The increase in outdoor activity is bound to have a positive physical impact. Not only does the development of physical stamina improve but also gross and fine motor skills.
- Knowledge and understanding
Children develop an interest in the great outdoors and respect for the environment. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world will help in protecting the environment for generations to come.
- New perspectives
Forest School isn’t just beneficial to children it is also beneficial to teachers. Observing their class in a different setting allows them to gain a new perspective and understanding of their class.
- Ripple effects
When children really engage with Forest Schools they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently.
- Levels the playing field
Taking children outside of the classroom removes the pressures of academia and allows them to play to their strengths. This is beneficial to children who struggle in the classroom because there is more of an opportunity for them to learn at their own pace.
- Enjoyable for the children
Forest Schools are fun! It is educational whilst also allowing children to play, explore and discover. Children who participate in Forest Schools are generally observed to be happier. The fresh air, the excitement, getting mucky – it doesn’t get child friendlier than that.
At St Mary's C of E Primary School, our Forest School Leader, Ms Wagstaff is Level 3 trained.