Forest school is something I look forward to at the end of every week. Our pupils love our Friday afternoon sessions too, indeed we often hear the children making plans during the week for improving their dens or a game they’d like to play. In a world where children don’t usually go out to play after school with their friends, forest school allows them the freedom to play outdoors in acres of wonderful woodland.
In Early Years we appreciate the value of learning through play, and I strongly believe that this should continue throughout the Junior School. Forest school enables the children to play together, to negotiate, to be creative, to be outside in glorious surroundings and have fun.
That said, the types of experiences made available for the children, the broad expectations of how they may engage and behave on sessions and the amount of independence and responsibility given to the children by staff will alter and develop as they progress through the school; a year one pupil will experience forest school sessions in a different way to a year six pupil, albeit sharing a similar fundamental experience. We try to ensure that the children gain full benefit from the sessions.
Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.
Principles of Forest School
· Forest school is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visit; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
· Forest school takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
· Forest school uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
· Forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
· Forest school offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Parents’ views on forest school
I asked our parents their views on forest school, this is what they said;
As I watch Harry climb off the bus on Fridays with rosy cheeks and laughter in his face it’s always accompanied with stories of camp fires, den building, games…there is also a lot of mud and bits of leaves, often twigs and stones in pockets and sometimes a tear in trousers after an over-zealous go on the mud slide….! These are a sign of immense fun, learning and adventure. The mud washes off, the memories will last forever!
I think forest school is a fantastic resource the children are so lucky to have. A perfect Friday afternoon treat where the children learn through play without even realising.
I asked Edward about forest school. We concluded that only at forest school can a stick be a sword, a cricket bat, a walking stick and a toasting fork!
I had the privilege of attending forest school and I was blown away with Mrs Freer and Miss VJ, it was like they had the children under a spell; they got to run wild but were also so well behaved! The happy balance of being free and outdoors amongst nature but at the same time learning is a wonderful thing. Forest school was a major selling point for me when choosing Fyling Hall and is definitely one of the highlights of Margot and Bertie’s week!
Esmae says that she loves having fun and exploring with her friends while learning about nature. I just love that she loves it!
A great activity to revitalise and relax their little minds after a busy week learning. The forest environment is great for their mental well-being.
I’ll be honest that forest school is one of the big reasons we chose Fyling Hall. The physical and mental health benefits of being outside in nature are so big. Jack is so excited to come to school on a Friday and comes home very happy. It is helping him settle into friendships in a deeper way than is possible in short break times. He learns about cooperative play, resourcefulness, innovation and is able to express his imagination and creativity.
I think forest school in all weathers helps children to realise you don’t have to sit inside waiting for the good days. You get on and enjoy every day, whatever it may hold.
I think regular forest school sessions should be available for all children, regardless of where they live or what school they go to. There are so many benefits to both the physical and emotional health of children who have regular access to forest school. The sessions encourage curiosity and provide so many opportunities for exploration of the natural world. Activities such as building fires or dens encourage children to work together and use their imagination and common sense. Mindfulness activities can be even more effective when in a natural environment and connecting to nature can provide children with a huge boost to their mental health and feeling of well-being.
My girls absolutely love their weekly forest school sessions. They look forward to them every Friday and they are simply the best way to end the busy school week. They love going out in any weather, knowing that the wetter and muddier it is, the more fun they will have hurtling down the fabulous mud slide! They love the beautiful forest art activities and the chances they are given to be creative and express themselves. They also love the unstructured sessions, where their imagination runs riot and they invent wonderful worlds and games with their friends. They always bounce out of school on Friday afternoon – tired out, covered in mud and with the most enormous smiles on their happy faces, words tumbling over each other as they describe their adventures. In their words – Forest school rocks!
It is a truly wonderful resource that we are fortunate to use every single week. As our school motto points out, the days that make us happy really do make us wise.
Amanda Freer, Head of Junior School