Forest School (FS) is a unique educational experience and process that offers children the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment.
Whilst FS supports and develop aspects of the EYFS, National Curriculum and other curricula, it is primarily concerned with the whole child, their approach to learning and developing self-concept. The forest school experience and ethos is centred on the child leading in their learning, following an interest and engaging in their own curriculum. It gives leaders, teachers and assistants a chance to “step back” and observe child and group behaviour in a different context and setting. The emphasis on all adults supporting Child Initiated Learning (CIL) enhances understanding and facilitates new or deeper relationships with pupils based on shared experiences.
The approach of small achievable tasks and a focus on the process rather than the end product helps pupils:
- Develop personal and social skills
- Work through practical problems and challenges
- Use tools to create, build or manage
- Discover how they learn best
- Pursue knowledge that interests them
- Learn how to manage failures
- Build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk
- Develop practical skills
- Understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
- Explore connections between humans, wildlife and the earth
- Regularly experience achievement and success
- Reflect on learning and experiences
- Develop their language and communication skills
- Improve physical motor skills
- Become more motivated
- Improve their concentration skills
- Explore the world through all the senses available to them
(including Explorers and Seekers)
Development of gross and fine motor skills. Opportunities to develop pro-social behaviours and begin to attend and delay gratification. Immersion in a sensory environment that provides opportunities to be soothed or stimulated by a complete range of textures, patterns, sounds, aromas and structures at all scales from micro to macro. Exposure to a range of terrain and opportunities to interact with the environment through play, exploration and activities with maximum independence. Introduction to rules/boundaries/format of sessions. Introduction of basic real tools – hammers, mallets, trowels and forks. Safety procedures
Continued development of gross and fine motor skills and initial steps in the ability to follow basic instructions and master context-specific sequences. Opportunities to experience or work with some success with peers and follow instructions from staff. The opportunity to apply practical skills (tool use, woodland management, navigation, map making, etc.) to progressively more complex tasks that develop cognition and problem solving skills in a threat-free learning environment
Experience and become involved in the natural cycles of the woodland. Actively plan, risk assess and carry out a range of woodland management tasks. The opportunity to develop tool, climbing, fire and navigation skills linked to shelter building, exploration and other projects and activities.
How does Forest School support this?
The wider Winchelsea curriculum (particularly SRE, Life Skills, My World, P.E.) can all find practical means of development and expression in the Forest School setting based on the principles laid out above and in the Winchelsea Forest School Handbook.
Forest School experiences are central to pupils gaining practical experience across time of seasonal change in the natural environment and how it affects materials, living things and the nature of pupils’ interactions with it and each other.
FS also provides a wealth of cross-curricular learning (following instructions, team working, safety, hygiene risk management and awareness) in an environment that demands pupils show maturity, focus and attention. This is ‘hands-on’ learning that promotes independence in practical, motivating, confidence-building lessons that pupils enjoy being part of.
When the opportunity presents itself and is appropriate, the FS approach, setting & context blends well with STEAM learning (using science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking). As with STEAM, FS seeks to develop pupils who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process.
Practical use and development of ability to follow verbal, visual and total communication cues. Embedding of sequence and use of specific vocabulary linked to items that can be touched, climbed, compared, transformed in the imagination or placed in or out of context. Immersion and interaction in activities and scenarios that drive communication. Talk, turn taking or non-verbal communication may link directly to an activity, but it might also be entirely imaginary, tangential or derive from exploration, memory or recall of a shared experience. Pupils, through FS routines, have regular opportunities to practice their speaking and listening skills.
Number is used regularly as are the skills of sorting and organising. Weights, measures, volumes and the language of approximation. Endless practical, concrete understanding of concepts such as temperature, area, thick/thin, big/small, bigger/biggest, higher/lower, heavy/light, many/few etc. Help to understand object permanence.
SMSC and British Values
Working with others, sharing equipment, developing teamwork. Following rules clearly set out.
Opportunities to be creative and share expertise and ideas. Being supportive. Increasing awareness of other’s needs, different cultures, personal likes and dislikes. Provides pupils with fundamental developmental experiences to nurture and celebrate our commonality and diversity; and an excellent bridge for building relationships and the pro-social skills and behaviours these rely on.
Nurturing and caring for the environment and peers and receiving nurture in return.
Promotes well-being and has very positive effects on mental health.
Extended Opportunities/ Celebration:
Environment Week and Art Week activities.