What is Forest School?
Forest School has been in the UK since 1993 when a group of nursery school nurses decided to properly investigate a teaching pedagogy taking place in Denmark. They found a teaching method that made a dramatic impact on them. They took the relatively simple theories of child-centred play-focused learning in an outdoor environment and reproduced this to create the first UK Forest School at their own nursery.
What they saw within their own environment was an immediate blossoming of the creativity of the children and a rapid escalation of skills that permeated throughout all aspects of their physical, social and educational development. Within a couple of years, the college had created a formal qualification and training programme to develop more teachers.
Forest School engenders not just learning, but a love of learning. This will carry the child through their mental and social development into confident, rounded and capable adults.
Forest School is the antithesis of rote learning. It doesn’t teach sterile blocks of knowledge, leaving the child with little or no connection to the information being imparted. Forest School allows the child to explore the world around him; to spend time seeing how it works and how it relates to him. Most of all, Forest School builds the confidence to explore and learn by completing small achievable tasks within simple, clear and strict boundaries that seem natural to them.
The approach ensures children have the time they need to learn, not only in the lesson, but over a series of sessions. By instilling a respect and appreciation for the natural world around them, Forest School helps to create natural learners that are comfortable to make important decisions around risk and enquiry.
Taking acceptable risks!
Many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned through the process of taking risks and perhaps even making mistakes. Being able to evaluate risks and when and where to take them is vital to becoming a more rounded and complete adult.
Within Forest School, from the child’s perspective, simply going into the woods is a risk. It is the role of the leader to ensure that these are safe and well-managed risks. The creation of comprehensive risk assessments means that the child is able to explore, climb and take the risks they are happy to do in what the leaders know is a safe environment.
Risk-taking empowers children and builds their confidence and self-esteem. Leaders need to let the children know that they are confident in them and their risk-taking decisions and let them know that they CAN do things.
At Forest School all participants are viewed as: