What is Forest School?
Forest School offers a unique opportunity for children to experience the outdoors in a way that facilitates their holistic development and fosters their growth as confident and competent learners. It also encourages healthy habits and lifestyles. The children also develop a love and respect for the natural environment.
Forest School originated in Sweden in the 1950s as an approach to learning about the natural world. By the 1980s it formed an integral part of Denmark’s Early Years programme. The concept of Forest School is developing, as its practice has spread across the UK. There is potential for Forest School to meet the needs of all ages and abilities.
"…involvement in such initiatives as the forest school project provides exciting innovative ways to learn and develop an increasing understanding of environmental issues".
Ofsted May 2009
Evidence collected from existing Forest School suggests that through regular, carefully planned sessions in the same area of woodland, young children will develop:
- A positive attitude to learning
- Independence and personal confidence
- Language, communication, emotional and social skills
- A wide range of physical skills
- A greater understanding about their own natural environment and seasonal change
- A greater understanding about wider environmental issues.
What do we do in Forest School?
All the activities are child-centred and then child-led. The children have the time and space to engage with the environment, make their own choices and they are encouraged to take small, safe risks. We use tools, build dens, climb trees and have fun!
We are grateful to Lee Carter and Carter & Ward for generously allowing us to use their land for Forest School.
Forest School will take place in all weathers. It will only be cancelled in the event of really high winds. In our experience it's better to hope for the best but expect the worst. Even bright, sunny days can hide a chill wind. The answer is to dress your child (and yourself if you are coming along) in layers. Two or three thin layers of clothing will keep your child warmer than one thick jumper. This way too, layers can be taken off if your child gets too hot and it's much easier to cool a child down than it is to warm them up! You could even watch the weather forecast together the day before and work out what clothes would be best.
Children love mud and it's fair to say that your child will at some stage, return home very muddy. So please do not send them dressed in their very best coat and expensive shoes! Dig out old clothes that you don't mind getting grubby, and let your child know that it's ok to get their Forest School clothes dirty. It's surprising how many children are worried about being told off for getting mucky.
So What is Appropriate Clothing?
Wellies are excellent, but don't keep feet warm at all. Always wear 2 or 3 pairs of socks with these. Walking boots are ok but can let water in after jumping in 10 or more puddles and need proper cleaning. No sandals please.
Even in warm weather we ask that legs are kept covered to guard against ticks, stinging nettles etc. In cold weather, long johns or tights work well underneath.
Long sleeved tops are essential with layers of jumpers, vests and t-shirts in cold weather.
Waterproof please, your school may have purchased waterproofs already which your child can use.
Gloves, hats, scarves
Better to have them and not need them, than not have them at all. Attaching a piece of string to each glove and threading them through arms of the coat will ensure that both gloves come home!
School has a stock of spare waterproof clothing and wellies, if needed. We are grateful for any donations of suitable waterproof clothing, hats and gloves etc. that your child has grown out of.
For more information on Forest schools go the Essex Forest Schools website here.