Forest School Vision/Ethos
Our Forest School is an inspirational programme that offers our children regular opportunities to appreciate and enjoy their local woodlands. We aim to nurture an understanding and respect for natural places. Children experience nature at first hand through a series of engaging and achievable tasks. Our Forest School experience brings learning to life and improves a child’s ability to work co-operatively whilst offering them opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning.
Where does the idea come from?
Forest schools originated in Sweden during the 1950s and were a way of teaching children about the natural world. The idea was adopted by Denmark as an important part of Early Years provision. The concept was introduced to Britain in 1995 by Bridgwater College and is being developed all over the country. We are the only school in our area to offer this to all our children on such a regular basis.
Who is a forest school for?
Everyone can benefit from Forest School. Forest School provides a valuable teaching tool for a wide range of curriculum subjects and is an excellent way to support and enrich the National Curriculum and engages children with a variety of needs and learning styles.
What is it like at our Forest School?
Each class has a block of 6 Forest School sessions twice a year. During these sessions, children experience all sorts of woodland activities that help them to build an understanding and appreciation of the woodland as well as learn together in a totally unique way. The fire circle is central to all that happens at Forest School. The fire is the focal point for discussing the day's activities and a place for socialising and sharing. The activities are always hands-on and will often require the use of tools a range of tools depending on the age of the children. As a group becomes more comfortable with living and working in the woodland the programme becomes more learner led and is a journey of discovery directed by the children.
Principles of Forest School:
Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
Forest School takes place regularly, ideally at least every other week, with the same group of learners, over an extended period of time, if practicable encompassing the seasons.
A Forest School programme has a structure which is based on the observations and collaborative work between learners and practitioners. This structure should clearly demonstrate progression of learning.
The initial sessions of any programme establish physical and behavioural boundaries as well as making initial observations on which to base future programme development.
Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
Whilst woodland is the ideal environment for Forest School, many other sites, some with only a few trees, are able to support good Forest School practice.
The woodland is ideally suited to match the needs of the programme and the learners,providing them with the space and environment in which to explore and discover.
A Forest School programme constantly monitors its ecological impact and works within a sustainable site management plan agreed between the landowner/ manager, the forest school practitioner and the learners.
Forest School aims to foster a relationship with nature through regular personal experiences in order to develop long-term, environmentally sustainable attitudes and practices in staff, learners and the wider community.
Forest School uses natural resources for inspiration, to enable ideas and to encourage intrinsic motivation.
Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
Where appropriate, the Forest School leader will aim to link experiences at Forest School to home, work and /or school education
Forest School programmes aim to develop, where appropriate, the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of the learner.
Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Forest School opportunities are designed to build on an individual’s innate motivation,positive attitudes and/or interests.
Forest School uses tools and fires only where deemed appropriate to the learners and dependent on completion of a baseline risk assessment.
Any Forest School experience follows a Risk–Benefit process managed jointly by the practitioner and learner that is tailored to the developmental stage of the learner.
5. Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Forest School is led by qualified Forest School practitioners, who are required to hold a minimum of an accredited Level 3 Forest School qualification.
There is a high ratio of practitioner/adults to learners.
Practitioners and adults regularly helping at Forest School are subject to relevant checks into their suitability to have prolonged contact with children, young people and vulnerable people.
Practitioners need to hold an up-to-date first aid qualification, which includes paediatric (if appropriate) and outdoor elements.
Forest School is backed by relevant working documents, which contain all the policies and procedures required for running Forest School and which establish the roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers.
The Forest School leader is a reflective practitioner and sees themselves, therefore, as a learner too.
- Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning
A learner-centred pedagogical approach is employed by Forest School that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners.
The Practitioner models the pedagogy, which they promote during their programmes through careful planning, appropriate dialogue and relationship building.
Play and choice are an integral part of the Forest School learning process, and play is recognised as vital to learning and development at Forest School.
Forest School provides a stimulus for all learning preferences and dispositions.
Reflective practice is a feature of each session to ensure learners and practitioners can understand their achievements, develop emotional intelligence and plan for the future.
Practitioner observation is an important element of Forest School pedagogy. Observations feed into ‘scaffolding’ and tailoring experiences to learning and development at Forest School.