What is a forest school?
A forest school is a space within a woodland area where children can learn. Children are given free time to play and they are also given adult-led activities. There are some important qualities that define a forest school:
- Regular visits to the forest, usually once a week at least.
- Use of a woodland setting.
- A qualified leader.
A forest school is a place where children can take risks in a secure environment. The ratio of adults to children is ideally 1:3 to allow for activities that would not be possible in the classroom such as toasting marshmallows on a fire. In all of the research I have done, building confidence is something that has always appeared. This is so important for young children to develop their confidence and to enjoy school.
Why is it relevant to me?
Whilst forest school is for everyone, it is particularly suited to foundation stage children as at this stage their outdoor learning is seen to be just as important as their indoor learning. However the foundation stage style of teaching and learning is being transferred into KS1 in some schools. I am training for the 3-7 age range and have always been keen on outdoor learning since starting my course. During my second year in training I was given the opportunity to do a work placement with the North York Moors Education Team. This was a wonderful experience working with the team educating children around the North York Moors. This experience fuelled my interest in outdoor learning and has led me to study forest schools for my final year in training.
I was fortunate enough to visit a very good forest school yesterday. The first impressions were impressive as the resources they have were great. When I arrived the children had already spent the morning outside and were preparing to go back out again (getting on wellies and waterproofs!). The afternoon was a mixture of child-initiated learning and adult led learning. The children were clearly enjoying their learning as I saw them all happy and engaged. In my opinion this is what learning looks like and if you need to bring children outside to achieve this, then do it is what I say!