The Forest School idea originates from Denmark where children are taught about the natural world in outdoor settings. It was found that children who have these opportunities developed a high self esteem, good social skills, had a belief in their own capabilities and worked effectively in groups. Forest Schools supports children’s personal, social and emotional development. Children who participate in Forest Schools develop independence and confidence through exploring and experiencing the natural world. Children have the opportunity to visit the same woodland local area on a regular basis although it doesn’t have to be in a forest.
Children are encouraged to collaborate, take risks and help one another while on Forest School. A pause for refreshment offers an opportunity to take in their surroundings, while amongst friends.
In Forest School sessions children have the time to explore the outdoor environment and participate in ‘hands on’ activities. Children are given the time and space to develop new skills and interests while practitioners can scaffold learning.
During Forest school sessions children have time to ‘thoroughly explore their thoughts, feelings and relationships. This develops understanding of the world, the environment and everything within it through use of their emotions, imagination and senses’. (‘What are Forest Schools?’, Archimedes Training Ltd ).
Our Forest School Site
Our Forest School Site is the Nature Garden in Peckham Park, SE15. We will travel to the park by bus in a small group, no bigger than ten children and three adults. The nature garden is locked to the general public but the key can be obtained from the park cafe if arranged with the Park Ranger. The nature garden has a small wooded area where trees grow, a grassed area where wild flowers grow, shrubs, an open space, log piles for mini beast homes and a small stream that runs through the site. The site is safe and risk assessed by the Forest School practitioners, (Forest School practitioners are qualified members of staff from school), and managed by the Park Rangers.
What will my child be doing?
Your child will have the opportunity to participate in six carefully planned Forest school sessions led by a Forest School practitioner, who will be a familiar member of staff from school. Forest School sessions will take place in all weathers all year round, unless the weather is dangerous, for example high winds. The school will provide appropriate clothing such as wellies and thermal socks, or snow boots in very cold weather; waterproof coats and trousers and hats and gloves. Children are also welcome to wear their own wellies if they choose or old trainers in warmer weather.
As part of the Forest School session there will be some routines such as getting dressed in outdoor clothing, travelling to the site and eating a snack during the session. During each session children will also be encouraged to reflect on the previous weeks activities and also talk about the session ahead. The Forest School ethos encourages and supports the child to choose what activities to participate in. Forest School practitioners will observe the children’s interests and then support and extend their learning.
Some of the activities that may take place:
- Pond dipping
- Climbing trees
- Playing games such as ‘hide and seek’
- Hunting for mini beasts and then carefully observing them in their natural habitat
- Making shelters (big and small)
- Singing songs and telling stories
- Measuring the depth of the shallow stream
- Natural crafts such as making collages, ‘journey sticks’, puppets or crowns with natural materials; bark rubbings
The Forest school practitioner will observe the interests and needs of the small group and individual children. Practitioners will then plan sessions to meet those needs and support and extend learning through play based activities. The Forest School sessions are a high quality, enriching experience for the child. The practitioner will support and develop children’s growing confidence, knowledge, understanding and skills as the weeks progress
What are the benefits in participating in Forest school sessions?
- Developing confidence and self-esteem
- Social skills- children will develop skills in playing and working co-operatively with each other. Children will have the time to listen to each other, talk and respond to each other and solve problems
- Health and fitness- children will have the opportunity to be active during the sessions in an outdoor, woodland environment
- Developing fine and gross motor skills through a variety of purposeful activities
- Curriculum links- Forest Schools supports all the curriculum areas within the Early Years Foundation Stage framework
Health and Safety
The Forest School Leader ensures the health and safety of all the participants. Please see ‘Ann Bernadt’s Health and Safety Policy for Forest Schools’ for more detailed information. The Forest School leader is fully trained in emergency outdoor first aid and risk assessment. A first aid bag will be taken to the site for every session. The Forest School leader will ensure that all participants have appropriate clothing and footwear and at the beginning of each session a safety talk will be given to children and adults at the site entrance. A safety sweep of the site will be made on arrival to check there are no problems.
Risk assessments will be made for daily and seasonal sessions and for the different activities that will take place. Tool use such as using potato peelers or bradle’s will only take place once the children are familiar with safe handling. Potato peelers will be used on a two to one ratio, bradle’s on a one to one ratio.
Taking risks is an important part of the Forest School ethos and children are encouraged to recognise risks and handle them appropriately. Staff will observe children and ensure their safety at all times.