What do we do at Forest School?
Each session is different and builds on previous sessions and learning. Forest school normally runs weekly, for a minimum of six sessions.
Participants learn at their own pace and can choose their own activities and whether to join in and participate with others or to play and experience the outdoors alone.
From these activities, participants will gain transferable skills and develop self-reliance, confidence and resilience.
We have a whole range of fun and exciting activities, including bush-craft and outdoor skills; e.g. fire lighting and cooking, using tools to make things and den building.
Together we play games and explore and learn about the natural world, but within this, participants can choose to have quiet meditative moments alone.
There is always plenty of free time for participants to relax and enjoy the huge benefits of these experiences and creative learning and play.
Sessions can also be more academic if desired and can include structured or unstructured lessons in for example; Science, Maths, English, Local History and so forth.
We also have an exciting programme of events coming up this season, including a bat talk and walk, led by the local Devon Wildlife Trust Warden and a talk about fungus by a local enthusiast.
Watch this space and follow our Facebook page for more details of dates and events.
Sometimes there will be an opportunity for participants to become more engaged with and learn about the woodland, through occasional involvement with basic woodland management tasks.
The History of Forest School
The idea of Forest School as a style of learning originated in Denmark. It is called “Fruiluftsliv” which is a Norwegian word. Directly translated, this means: “Free air life”, it refers to the feeling of relaxation and completeness and being at one with nature that one feels when interacting with nature.
Forest school as a concept was first brought to the UK in 1993 by a group of nursery nurses from Bridgewater college. After visiting a Danish school to study their philosophy of education and life outdoors and having seen how well it worked for Danish children who spent a good part of their day playing and working outside, they set up a forest school style nursery at Bridgewater college, the first of its kind in the UK.
What is Forest School all about?
We like to describe Forest School as “Providing a range of fun, educational and empowering activities outdoors, particularly in woodland for groups of people, especially children, helping them to improve their lives and see the world in a different way”.
We might build dens, use tools and knives to make things, learn to light fires, learn about the environment, plants and wildlife and how to identify them, play games, develop physical skills through climbing trees and balancing, make swings, use ropes, paddle in a stream or go pond dipping. Participants are free to choose their activities and grow at their own pace.
In a nutshell, Forest School was defined in 2002 by the Forest School Conference as:
“An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.”
The conference went on to explain in more detail:
Forest school is normally a long-term process of regular sessions, so that experiences and learning can be built on.
It takes place in woodland or other natural environment to support the development of participants relationship with the natural world
Forest school is learner centred and uses a range of processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
It aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved; fostering resilient, confident and independent learners
Offers all learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Forest school is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continually maintain and develop their professional practice
If you would like to read more, here is a link to the Forest School Association
The benefits of forest school
It is a fact that being outdoors improves a person’s mental and physical health and well-being.
Spending time among nature can reduce stress, boost creativity and increase happiness.
Forest School, specifically, can feel empowering as people learn new skills and use tools and develop their self-confidence and resilience.
Why forest school is such a great way to learn
With regard to education, people learn in different ways. One style does not fit all. Within a forest school setting we have the flexibility to accommodate several learning styles, especially kinaesthetic for those who like practical hands on learning.
When learning is put into real, practical context and learners feel a part of it, they are far more likely to retain information.
For many children; we find their concentration and engagement vastly improves outside.
The child who may have lower attainment expectations in a classroom environment and who may be seen as a “problem child”, can astound everybody with their vastly different positive behaviour at Forest School and achieve great things.
Children and adults with issues such as ADHD, ASD and anxiety for example feel like different people outdoors and it is so great to see the changes and progress in them.
Furthermore, the changes are long term and help children concentrate when they return to their class and adults feel calmer and happier when they return to their everyday activities and work.
We can improve lives through forest school.