So what is Forest School?

Forest school is run by a trained and qualified practitioner, skilled in the use of tools, fires and using natural resources.

The sessions are planned, but with flexibility and are fully intended to go wherever the children take them. I love this aspect, as you’ve probably guessed from reading my stories, but I truly never know where things will lead, I’m open minded and as soon as i see a child developing an interest in something, I observe, listen and talk with them to discover together where we go next.

Activities continue and develop at the childs paces, its open ended, there is no right or wrong way to do anything, but there are ways in which the children want to see their projects develop, and therefore they persevere, they concentrate, they take time, they try again and again, because its about what is interesting to them, deep and meaningful interest and involvement in a task, no one is concerned about the end product, its about the process, how we get there, and if at first things don’t go the way the child wanted them to, then we work it out, we problem solve, we think creatively.

Although the sessions are intended to be fully child led, they are well planned and thought about in depth.

All activities are risk assessed, as well as the site being assessed every week, things change. What is the weather like? Is it windy? Could that cause any dead wood to fall from the canopy above?

All tools have separate risk assessments and every time a tool is used a tool talk is given. Children are supervised and work in a quiet manner, usually concentrating hard, because they are given the responsibility and trust to do so.

Only when a leader knows his or her group would tools or fires be introduced. This way it can be ensured that accurate predictions can be made and everyone kept safe. Children are always asked to replace tools in covers, lay them upon the ground in a certain way and taught the correct way to pass tools, walk with tools and put tools away afterwards.

A Forest school leader is trained in and has a good understanding of different learning styles and methods and will incorporate these factors into the planning of sessions, based on observations and interactions with the individual children.

Forest School is an innovative approach to learning in a woodland environment. It is different to outdoor learning because rather than being a one off session outside, it is a long term process, with the emphasis being on children following their own ideas and exploration, (as opposed to curriculum based learning).

Forest School sessions provide opportunities for spontaneous, child led, purposeful play, which encourage children to follow their own ideas inspiring creativity and investigation.

Children are “allowed” to do things simply because “they want to”, the focus is on the process as opposed to the end product and with careful observation and planning children are actively able seek out, discover, explore and investigate things which they enjoy and which give them great pleasure.

Forest school sessions nurture both independence and self-esteem and are delivered in a caring nurturing manner. Forest School leaders lead by example and value and respect everyone as individuals as well as our environment.

Through reflection and discussion children begin to take greater responsibility for regulating and managing their own behaviour, thoughts and feelings, to share and discuss these together in a safe and caring environment. Sessions aim to empower children to use and follow their own ideas, with support if necessary.

As a trained Forest School Leader I can teach new and exciting skills and techniques to participants such as safe use of tools, knot tying, preparing and lighting fires for cooking or warmth.

These activities help children to develop many fine and gross motor skills as well as unlocking inner creativity and inspiring them to learn more. Because children are following their own ideas they are able to work at their own level. They set the pace and this in turn helps them participate and engage in tasks fully.

At Forest School children are free from the constraints of daily life and the constraints of the classroom. Children are given time and support to develop, build upon and refine their own ideas, take risks and learn from their mistakes. All of these factors help to develop self esteem and self confidence, increasing self worth and emotional well being.

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