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Forest School Lead: Mrs M Dillon
BSc (Hons), PGCE, Level 3 Forest School Leader
What is Forest Schools?
Forest Schools has developed from the Scandinavian education system. Forest School is a method of working outdoors with children, young people and adults, using the natural environment to promote social and emotional development. It is an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment.
Forest Schools is a long-term programme delivered by trained practitioners within a natural environment. Each Forest School session is tailored to meet the needs of individuals within that group and is continuously developed as the children grow in confidence, skills and understanding.
The ethos of Forest Schools allows learners the time and space to develop skills, interests and understanding through practical, hands- on experiences. It also allows practitioners to step back and observe the children in order to then encourage and inspire individuals to achieve through careful scaffolding and facilitating.
For more information see the Forest School Association website at www.forestschoolassociation.co.uk
Forest School is a unique method of outdoor learning. At St Wilfrid’s Primary School our aim is to encourage and inspire children through positive outdoor experiences and to enhance the Curriculum. Children will have the opportunity to learn new skills, learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. The children play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated. Implementation
We aim to give all children a collective insight into the ethos of Forest School.
Forest School builds on a child’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, learn skills, make choices and initiate learning for themselves.
The Forest school learning environment provides opportunities for children to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, to form positive relationships with others, to develop a growing awareness of their emotional needs and the needs of others, to learn to cooperate and work with their peers and adults and to develop strategies in order to take risks within the boundaries of safety.
Forest School is about exploring and experiencing the natural world through practical activities. The children go out in all weathers, all year round, exploring and learning from the seasons and environment
changes. Appropriate clothing will be worn and during high winds it will be considered unsafe to go into our Forest School.
The children’s interests along with the varied natural resources are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development.
One of the principles of Forest School is to promote environmental awareness and encourage sustainability. The children are taught about respect and responsibility for the world around them. Both the children and adults are encouraged to respect their environment and to be aware of conservation issues of the wild area around them.
The aim is to promote respect for wildlife, which will be achieved through detailed session plans and evaluation. If appropriate, reclaimed, recycled and sustainable resources will be used to maintain and develop our forest school site. Encouraging children to care for the environment is an essential part of Forest School. In order to encourage the children to look after the site we will always leave it tidy and never damage anything growing in it. We will only collect things that are on the ground and leave the area as we found it when we leave. The Forest School Leader will monitor the site so that it does not become overused.
The success of forest school allows the children to:
· Grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate.
· Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social skills.
· The sensory experiences provided by Forest School helps prompt language development. Improving communication skills has a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem and is a crucial part of their development.
· High levels of interest lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in the woodland is exciting for a child. It tends to fascinate them which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time.
· The increase in outdoor activity has a positive physical impact. Not only does the development of physical stamina improve but also gross and fine motor skills.
· Children develop an interest in the great outdoors and respect for the environment. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world will help in protecting the environment for generations to come.
· Forest School isn’t just beneficial to children it is also beneficial to teachers.
· Observing their class in a different setting allows them to gain a new perspective and understanding of their class.
· When children really engage with Forest Schools they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently. Taking children outside of the classroom removes the pressures of academia and allows them to play to their strengths. This is beneficial to children who struggle in the classroom because there is more of an opportunity for them to learn at their own pace.
Why is it Beneficial for Children to Attend Forest School?
The benefits of Forest School are linked to the long-term, regular sessions, and echo the holistic development aims in the six guiding principles. Research has shown that children can benefit in a multitude of ways ranging from confidence to social, emotional, intellectual, physical and language development (Murray & O’Brien, 2005).
Case studies have shown children can:
· Develop self-regulation skills.
· Cope with and learn from failure.
· Build resilience (the skill of coping with risk and failure).
· Gain a sense of achievement.
· Increase motivation and concentration.
· Improve problem solving.
· Expand their vocabulary and communication skills.
· Feel empowered and have new perspectives.
· Build positive relationships with adults and peers.
· Have overall improved wellbeing and mental health.
· Forest School can increase a child’s confidence and self-esteem through exploration, problem solving, and being encouraged to learn how to assess and take appropriate risks depending on their environment. The use of learner-led outcomes means information is retained better and also generally increases curiosity and motivation to learn in general. This motivation can have a positive impact on attitude to learning in school.
Previously ‘quiet’ children have been shown to improve in their confidence and communication to work with others, and children who were initially un-cooperative learnt that sharing and working together had positive consequences – and increasingly did this (Murray & O’Brien, 2005).
Learners also gain a respect for nature through many small interactions and noticing changes around them through the seasons.
Providing students with an opportunity to appreciate the wider, natural world encourages a responsibility for nature conservation in later life.
Teaching and Learning
It is proven from research the learning that takes place in the outdoors is much more powerful and memorable as all the senses are involved. Forest Schools helps children develop through a child led approach and teaches them how to assess risks for themselves. We are very lucky to have our own Forest School on the School grounds. Forest School is accesses by EYFS every Friday and KS1 & 2 access this at least once a term.
Being a child led, responsive programme, it does not follow a structured, progressive system in the same way that a traditional curriculum subject would. Forest School sets learning in a different context for children where they can undertake a range of practical skills and/or activities and carry out small achievable tasks. The skills/activities set can be linked to a specific Curriculum subject/topic being taught but may be independent such as learning to safely use a spade effectively. The progress of a session, or series of sessions, will depend on the moods and enthusiasms of the children involved, chance events and encounters during the session, and the maturity and age of the children. In addition, children should not be expected or forced to participate in a given activity, or given a level of expectation of what they will achieve.
A child presented with the opportunity of completing an activity may choose to join in, or to pursue another interest. Anything they achieve will be their choice and their own achievement, and the more powerful and valuable experience for that.
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-Schools sessions in a different way to a year six pupil, albeit sharing a similar fundamental experience. This overview seeks to establish a broad framework for the delivery of Forest Schools, and ensure that the children gain full benefit from the sessions. Forest School sessions can be linked to a particular Curriculum topic of teaching throughout the school.
Please see the skills overview by year group that looks at the skills children learn and how they can be linked to Curriculum subjects.
Within the Forest School:
· Children have a choice in what activities they undertake.
· The Forest School Leader or teacher will observe the children carefully in order to plan for the next steps.
· The Forest School Leader will introduce relevant skills, knowledge and resources based on what the children are interested in and need to develop.
· The Forest School Leader or teacher set up what the children are to achieve by breaking tasks into small achievable chunks.
· Tasks are open – no right or wrong way of doing things (exceptions to this are health and safety procedures).
· Only a Level 3 Forest School Leader will teach tool use to the children and only a qualified fire trained Teacher will conduct open fires with the children. All activities are risk assessed and the Forest School site is thoroughly checked before each session.
The types of outdoor activities children undertake within a Forest School may include the following, and countless more. Activities selected will depend on the learner’s age, stage of development and interests:
· Field Studies Activities – minibeast hunts, tree identification, bird watching,
life cycle games.
· Sensory Activities – games to do with colour, smell, sound, touch, blindfold games.
· Bushcraft – shelter building, knot use, fire lighting and cooking.
· Natural dyes, traditional crafts.
· Teambuilding and trust games – blindfold games, circle games, problem solving activities, team games.
· Wildlife conservation – tree planting, nest box construction, fence/path building.
· Imaginative activities – story telling, drama, role play, songs.
· Physical play – balancing, log dragging, digging.
· Construction – shelter building, rope swings, pulleys.
Organisation, Planning and Resources
It is the responsibility of the person running the session to organise and plan all forest school sessions with the support of the Forest School Leader if needed. All resources are kept in our Outdoor Forest School Folder on the shared Google Drive.
When conducting and planning Forest School it is important to take a step back and observe and assess the children. These observations are recorded on Tapestry in EYFS and SeeSaw in KS1 & 2.
The observations of children achieve a number of functions,
· It gives you a baseline of their skills
· Let’s you identify where their next steps maybe
· It informs your planning for the next session
· It helps you learn as a Forest School Leader/Teacher.
After each session an Evaluation/Impact form is completed by the person running the session. This evaluation form looks at what worked well, what didn’t work well and next steps.
Cultural Capital and Enrichment
Culture Capital is the accumulation of knowledge, behaviours, and skills that a child can draw upon and which demonstrates their cultural awareness, knowledge and competence; it is one of the key ingredients a pupil will draw upon to be successful in society, their career and the world of work.
Forest School provides opportunities that are additional to the National Curriculum. We provide children with a varied and broad curriculum which prepares them for the future. Forest School helps to build cultural capital through exposure to life-skills. Forest Schools is another strand that enhances our whole school commitment to provide opportunities for children that generate enthusiasm, fun and enjoyment. Engaging in bush craft, wild art and conservation activities will, we hope, provide memorable learning experiences that the children can carry with them on their next adventures when they leave our school.
Role of the Subject Leader
The Forest School Leader is a trained Level 3 Forest School Practitioner and holds an up to date ITC Outdoor First Aid certificate. They are responsible for helping to plan and run any Forest School sessions that the class teacher may not be able to do such as tool use or fires. The
Forest School leader has the safety of the children uppermost at all times.
Only the Level 3 Forest School Leader would teach tool work with the children and any fires in a session would only be ran by a fully qualified fire trained adult.
A fire log must also be completed before any fire in a session. This must be completed by the trained teacher.
A detailed safety sweep of the site must be completed before each session – completed by the teacher running the session.
Risk assessments for the site and activities have been completed. The leader will ensure that all documentation is relevant and up to date. They are responsible for all equipment and will ensure that it is checked before use and returned to the resource area after use. Tools will always be locked away after each session.
The Forest School leader/Teacher will keep a First Aid Kit accident book and keep parents fully informed of any incidents that may occur during a session, e.g. trips, falls, stings, etc.
Working with Parents/Carers
At Forest School we value the input of parents and carers. Before the start of all our Forest School sessions a letter is sent home to parents/carers informing them about how and when the sessions take place. A permission slip is then signed and returned to school.
We also regularly ask parents to attend our Forest School sessions so they can see what Forest School is about and what we teach.
Forest School clubs are ran regularly in KS1 & KS2.