The nursery has a significant strength in outdoor learning. Children thrive in the fresh air
and have great fun as they investigate.
They show eager curiosity, creativity and competent physical skills as they play in
the various outdoor areas.
OFSTED inspection 2015
We have had an onsite Forest School for seven years and are dedicated to outdoor learning with 3 fully qualified Forest School leaders.
Forest School encourages children to explore their own innate learning in the richest classroom we have – the outdoors.
What is forest school?
Forest school originated in Scandinavia in the 1950s and is based on the philosophy that children's interaction with nature and the natural world is a very important factor in their development. Forest schools are now fully integrated in the Danish education system and have been in use for three generations.
The development of forest schools in Britain began around 1993, when tutors and students from Bridgwater College in Somerset visited Denmark to look at the pre-school system. They were so inspired by the emphasis placed on child-led outdoor learning that they set up their own forest school in the grounds of their college on their return to England.
The Forest School Association (FSA) defines forest school as an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. It is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.
Principles of forest school
The forest school ethos has six guiding principles which were agreed by the UK Forest School community in 2011. Forest school:
is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session
takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world
uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning
aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves
is run by qualified forest school practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Playing and learning outside improve children’s physical and emotional wellbeing and the forest school experience has been shown to be hugely beneficial for children with a range of emotional and developmental needs. Rather than using classroom resources and equipment, children can use natural materials found in the woodland and enjoy activities such as collecting sticks and leaves, tying knots, making dens, handling tools, using twigs to write in the mud, climbing trees, jumping across stones and building fires.
Forest school can help children to develop:
self-esteem and confidence
physical skills including the development of both gross and fine motor skills
problem solving and risk taking
knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
Forest school therefore supports the EYFS curriculum and can be linked to other themes being covered at the early year’s provision or to experiences at home.
Mentally and emotionally healthy
At Forest School children are physically active a lot of the time and their stamina improves as they go through their Forest School sessions. Their experience can also help to lead to the development of healthier lifestyles as children ask parents to take them on trips to woodlands and green spaces outside of school times. As the children gain confidence and improve their self-esteem this can impact on their emotional and mental well-being.
Enjoy and achieve
Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation
Forest School sets learning in a different context for children where they can undertake a range of practical activities and carry out small achievable tasks. At Forest School children can develop their team working skills and also learn to become more independent. Those who are unfamiliar with woodlands and green spaces can become confident in using them and this can form the basis of a life-long relationship with natural spaces.
Make a positive contribution
Develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges
Developing enterprising behaviour
Forest School helps children to develop their confidence. As they become familiar with Forest School they can take their new-found confidence into school and into other areas of their lives. Forest School can be particularly effective for children who do not do well in the classroom environment. Children learn to solve problems and be creative and imaginative at Forest School thus showing enterprising behaviour.
One of the forest school principals is that learners have the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and themselves. The FSA has produced criteria for good practice including the following.
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.
Forest school uses tools and fires where deemed appropriate to the learners, and dependent on completion of a baseline risk assessment.
Practitioners need to hold an up-to-date first aid qualification which includes paediatric and outdoor elements.
The ‘wild’, and yet controlled, safe environment of Forest School ensures that children taking part naturally learn to assess risk and are encouraged to make sensible and informed decisions about how to deal with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations (such as exploring or climbing trees, using tools to build shelters and dens). Much of the learning for a child comes as a result of the opportunities they have for testing their own abilities in a real life context.