Forest school is transforming the way children learn. There is an ever-increasing awareness and interest in nature and teaching.
This UK system was developed in the 1990s in response to provision in Scandinavia of an outdoor learning strategy. Initially used widely there in preschools and nurseries it was found to be beneficial for children to have a range of experiences outdoors where play and exploration in nature could be utilised.
At the BSN our three Junior Schools have been involved with Forest School provision for more than four years. To ensure a good understanding, a number of Teachers and Teaching assistants have had training and followed courses that require a commitment to a portfolio that leads to level 2 and 3 qualifications. These are the equivalent of a GCSE or A level respectively. During the courses staff learn how to use a range of tools and fire with children in an appropriate safe context. These are a small part of the provision which celebrates and understands the natural setting. The Senior School is now joining the process and exploring ways of benefiting from Forest School philosophy.
The BSN is fortunate in being able to develop our sites to provide rich settings in which our children can grow outdoors. We are now lucky enough to have a forest school area on each campus with plans for the Senior school coming too. We also use forest school strategy in our Foundation Stage outdoor learning areas where appropriate so that we can benefit from the strategies in a broader context.
Each Junior School currently uses Forest school in a number of ways. There are Co-curricular clubs that focus on this approach, curriculum links for example with Science and Literacy where we might use a forest school stimulus for Macbeth or to explore floating and sinking in the pond. We also want to continue using outdoor experiences to enrich other areas of the curriculum. In Maths we might create a human clock in an outside space where physical participation can support understanding. We are also growing knowledge in the forest school. A walk to the local woodland enables us to nurture familiarity with nature for well-being and to enjoy the local environments near our schools.
Forest School has become one of the many ways in which our schools can work together. Visits and sharing of resources are a key component at BSN. The JSL Foundation stage will be coming to JSV, the qualified and training staff can also share expertise as we develop the potential of forest school further.
How can you help?
If you have the opportunity to be outdoors with your children then it’s a great chance to share knowledge and understanding and to take time to experience the natural world. When a child at forest school creates a spark, spots a robin or recognises the changing seasons it is a chance to harness that engagement.
Being in the outdoors has many benefits for health, learning and well-being. Children often engage differently outdoors. There are also opportunities to take risks and challenges, develop dexterity and motor skills and be open minded. We cook outdoors. This leads to the ‘best bread I’ve ever made’ and other comments. While the bread might be charred or soggy, the experience is what makes it memorable. Growing a knowledge base in a real context where frogs bounce out of the undergrowth and birds soar overhead while the wind rustles the golden leaves towards the ground gives substance to facts and breadth to understanding. When we light a fire from a spark after persevering for many attempts in the dampness there is a tremendous sense of achievement.
There are many great resources for the outdoors one useful resource is the stick book
To learn more about the forest school approach http://getchildrenoutdoors.com/the-archimedes-forest-schools-model/