Forest School or Nature Nurseries originated in Scandinavia and have been a major part of Early Years education there since the 1950’s.
- In Scandinavia, “There is a strong belief that nature and movement are essential to a child’s overall development and wellbeing.” (Norfolk Schools Web Site)
- In Denmark in the 1980’s Forest School was adopted, “The philosophy of the Forest School was based upon the desire to provide young children with an education which encouraged appreciation of the wider, natural world and which would encourage responsibility for nature conservation in later life.” (Norfolk Schools Web Site)
Forest school was introduced in the UK in 1995 when a group of lecturers and Nursery Nurse Students from Bridgewater College in Somerset, visited a Danish Forest School and were impressed with what they saw. In 2000 Evesham College became involved in Forest School. There are now over 300 Forest Schools in Worcestershire alone. Our Forest School at Woodmancote was set up in 2010.
Benefits of Forest School
Uses the outdoors to help children learn and solve problems. Research shows that children say they would rather be outside
A way to help children grow in confidence and increase their self esteem
Research has also shown links between playing in the natural environment and a sense of connection with and therefore responsibility for the environment.
To encourage independence
To help children understand danger and be able to assess risk in a sensible way.
Forest School contributes in a positive way to four of the outcomes of the Every Child Matters statements, be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve and make a positive contribution. A Current Government priority, making children healthier was discussed with the conclusion, “At Forest School children are physically active a lot of the time, and their stamina improves as they go through their sessions. Their experience can also help to lead to the development of healthier lifestyles.” (O’Brian and Murray 06)
Evidence was collected and discussed under the following headings- Forest School:
increases the self-esteem and self-confidence of individuals who take part
improves an individual’s ability to work cooperatively and increases their awareness of others
counters a lack of motivation and negative attitude to learning
encourages ownership and pride in the local environment
encourages an improved relationship with and better understanding of the outdoors
increases the skills and knowledge of the individuals who take part” (O’Brian and Murray 06)
Use of Tools
Research suggests that children should use real tools. Forest School gives them this opportunity, first with digging equipment and magnifying glasses, moving on to pen knives and saws. Children use tools that work, are taught how to use them safely, and are able to see their purpose.
Benefits of being outside
There are links between playing in a natural environment and “A sense of connection with and therefore responsibility for the environment.” We want young people to look after the natural world, this starts with their Forest School area and its plants and animals, but will extend into the wider world as they become older.
Children like the connection with their Forest School area, the ability to solve problems and make their own resources e.g. mud paint and use their imagination. They do not need elaborate equipment to do this.
One of the main characteristics of Forest School is that it is free of danger, but not necessarily risk. Forest School is a carefully risk assessed area and so is free of danger. Children need to learn how to take risks so they have the ability to assess them and make their own decisions. Through discussion and learning about the environment they learn what is safe e.g. it has been raining so is not safe to climb today because the tree is wet and slippery or I use the knife in a specific area and in a specific way in order to stay safe.
It’s not like being indoors!
Forest School is a different learning experience to classroom based learning and can be a way of promoting self-esteem. Adults are observing and so can praise specific achievements and notice small successes with individuals. There is no set agenda for a Forest School session so children can’t be doing the wrong thing and there is an environment where they may feel safe to try.
A Typical Session
- Put on clothes and wellingtons (D and A 4)
- Line up outside classroom and count children
- Walk to area singing song… Off we go to Forest School
- Make sticky arm circle and count children and adults round circle
- Discuss any safety issues of the day arising from sweep
- Walk to base camp
- Discuss safety rules for Forest school. Don’t pick or lick. Stay within boundary. Carry sticks pointing down, or drag if longer than arm.
- What can we hear? Close our eyes and listen for 1 minute. What sounds can children hear? Did they hear any birds? Look around now can we see the birds now? (LCT 4,9) Can they identify bird species?
Exploration of the area. Walk around area and look for 2 changes that have taken place since we were here last. Back to base camp sit down if you saw…… See who is last standing.
Children choose their activity.
- Mud painting
- Bug hunting
- Stakes and mallets
- Woodland animal puppets
- Digging in the mud pit
- Den building
- Whittling sticks – Explain about fire pit in middle. Sticks will be used to hold crumpets, need to clear off bark. Explain safe use of peelers.
- Hazard Risk Level Action/Management
- Potato Peelers low Discuss dangers of using peelers because they are sharp. Use away from body, in tool area, plenty of space around, away from legs
- Return to base camp clean hands with wipes and collect drink bottle and sit at base camp. Hand round biscuits.
- Discuss session, children choose if they want to feed back. Show whittled sticks that are finished.
- Ask children to leave boxes where they are until all tidied.
- When finished biscuits, tidy up area and take equipment to the shed
- Go to Forest School exit and re-count children
- Return to class to remove outdoor clothing