Hyde Church of England Primary School

Forest Schools

Hyde Forest School - A Guide for Parents

Forest School – What’s it all about?

Forest school is a wonderful opportunity for children to develop personally, socially and emotionally, learning new skills alongside their peers in the outdoor classroom. We are incredibly lucky to be able to access the New Forest, yet how well do we and our children truly know it? Whilst some children can name every dinosaur that walked the earth, or the characters in their favourite computer game how many can name our native wild flowers, birds of prey or reptiles? How many know how to light a fire, or put up a tarp for a shelter?

ForestSchoolsPictureA.pngOne of my most vivid childhood memories is of going in to the woods with my dad and making a bow and arrow. We cut holly to make the bow and smaller hazel branches for the arrows. We whittled the arrows to make them sharp with a knife and then spent hours trying to hit our makeshift target. It cost nothing, we didn’t go far from home, there was no plan and no real outcome. Just being in the woods and playing was the important thing. I am sure every parent reading this will have a childhood memory of an activity in the outdoors, perhaps with a parent or a grandparent or other inspirational adult. These are treasures that must not be undervalued and should be passed on to our children. A generation of children without these experiences cannot be expected to value nature and our planet. Real personal experience matters.

ForestSchoolsPictureB.pngDo you feel confident to teach your child about the Forest?

How often do you venture off the track and explore?

Is it important?

Forest School is:

  • Holistic, enabling spiritual, emotional and physical development

  • Usually in a woodland environment but can also be carried out on the beach or a heath
  • Happens over time – no less than six weeks but more beneficial over a longer period
  • Allows for supported risk taking, both emotional and physical
  • Builds confidence and self esteem
  • Learner centred
  • Led by a qualified reflective Level 3 practitioner

What does holistic education really mean?

ForestSchoolsDiagram.png

‘Education should be understood as the art of cultivating the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of the developing child…Every child is more than a future employee; every person’s intelligence and abilities are far more complex than his or her scores on standardized tests’ (Millar, 2000)

Many of the great education pioneers such as Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner have long been encouraging the holistic approach to education and in some ways our system has learnt from these. The EYFS curriculum clearly has close links to the principles of holistic education and increasingly we are looking towards personalized  and child-centered learning for our older pupils.

The natural world and learning outside are a fundamental part of holistic education, the opportunity to become at one with nature, to know it intimately and understand our place in the world. Sadly the mental health and well-being of our young people is increasingly of concern. The modern age of social media and the ever present pressure of exams in schools is having a detrimental effect. The research shows that nature can counteract this. The spiritual, moral and social aspects of a child’s development matter as much as their academic progress, in fact academic progress depends on having well-balanced happy children.

EYFS and Forest School

  • Communication and Language:
    • reflection and listening to others
    • contributing their own thoughts
    • explaining their own experiences
  • Physical development:
    • Using tools safely and effectively
    • Weaving, threading, manipulating small items
    • Self-care, safety including handwashing
    • Fire safety
  • Personal, social and emotional development:
    • Building self confidence and self esteem
    • Developing self awareness
    • Working as a team
    • Building relationships
  • Literacy:
    • Using, interpreting and creating simple id guides
    • Using sticks and other items to write with
    • Making labels as part of imaginative play
    • Making and following instructions
    • Create and listen to stories about the wild
  • Maths:
    • Counting reliably
    • Sorting sticks and other items according to size, shape and weight.
    • Using mathematical language to describe pattern and shapes
  • Understanding the world:
    • Explore, observe and find out about their own environment
    • Observe, name and investigate plants, animals and habitats
  • Expressive arts and design:
    • Sing
    • Create
    • Be inspired by nature
    • Act out stories
    • Listen to stories told by others

ForestSchoolsPicture1.pngPlaying and exploring: Through Forest School children have the opportunity to initiate play, play alongside others and the chance to develop their play over time.

Active learning: Forest School is carefully structured to allow for hours of child initiated learning and development.

Creating and thinking critically: Children choose both the tasks and the methods to carry them out. They will experience failure, observe others and try new techniques. The process is the most important part of Forest School.

The research carried out by the Forestry Commission and others in to Forest School clearly demonstrates how attending a Forest School benefits children and aids their education in many ways. (Murray & O'Brien, 2005)

How does Forest School foster resilient, confident, independent and creative learners?

Forest school fosters resilient, confident, independent and creative learners, but how will this help your child?

ForestSchoolsPicture2.pngResilience: A valuable skill vital for academic success. Without trial and error learning rarely occurs. Children need to feel confident to have another go after a failure. Through Forest School children set their own challenges and tasks. For example during a Forest School session a child complained that his wooden log was too uncomfortable to sit on and set about building himself a chair. It took six weeks, he failed many times and learnt many new skills along the way. By the end of the course he had a very comfortable throne to sit on. (Knight, 2011)

ForestSchoolsPicture3.pngConfidence: There are many ways in which Forest School can help to build a child’s confidence. Much of the research points to the combination of the outdoor environment and managed risk-taking. For example a child says they are hungry and asks the Forest school leader for some food. They are given some popcorn kernels… then they must gather some firewood, build a fire, use a striker safely, add to the fire until it is hot enough to use the popcorn popper, then finally pop their popcorn and eat it. The sense of achievement and satisfaction from wild bushcraft activities last a long time, for some the benefits last months or even years. (Louv, 2005)

Independence: Learning independence is hard…we want our children to be able to work and play alone in many situations. Forest school helps children to become independent learners by giving them the skills, resources and time to focus on independent projects either alone or alongside their peers. There is a fifteen second rule in Forest School, allowing children thinking time to develop their ideas or think through a solution.

Creativity: The natural world has inspired countless artists, sculptors and writers. Many of whom were inspired by the New Forest, most notably, Rev. William Gilpin, Heywood Sumner who lived in Gorley, Oscar Wilde whose home was in Brook, Lucy Kemp Welsh and recently Barry Peckham. (Coles, 1999) By working with and observing nature and its riches your child will be free to experiment with many natural resources, building shelters, using clay to make creatures and faces in the trees, making up and acting out stories, the opportunities are endless.

All of these skills and experiences will be carried by your child back in to the classroom and to their academic studies enabling them to thrive in challenging situations. 

How does Forest School promotes appropriate risk-taking and how this impacts learning and development?        

The children of today will face many risks and dangers as they grow up. Our job as their parents and educators is to provide them with the skills necessary to assess the risks and identify the hazards and benefits of the activity they are faced with. Why is this important? Well... one day we won’t be by their side to guide them towards the right choices.

Forest school enables children to take appropriate risks and teaches them the importance of analyzing the risk. Is it worth it? Well usually it is worth it. A saw is sharp and you could cut yourself badly if you use it inappropriately but if we follow safety guidelines and use the saw carefully, we can cut down a tree, make a badge, construct a model or feed a fire. A fire is also dangerous, we could burn ourselves but the benefits are clear, we’ll be warm, we can heat water for hot chocolate and cook lunch over it.

We are descended from the apes who climb and swing through the trees with ease. Very small children climb long before they can walk. Some of today’s greatest adventurers are climbers who seek to climb the highest, wildest, most remote mountains, tomorrow’s great adventurers begin by climbing a tree in the woods, what’s the point? Fun, excitement, thrills. Learning to judge risk and weigh up the hazards and benefits are fundamental life skills which will present our children with endless possibilities and the skills to say no when the benefit does not outweigh the risk.

Risk and danger are exciting, I know that when my children are teenagers I would much prefer that they go wild camping with their mates than seek thrills and danger in other ways… Let’s inspire our children to love nature through Forest School and enjoy the risks and challenges that nature throws at us.

Bibliography

Coles, R., 1999. Artists and illustrators around the New Forest and Solent. Lymington: Robert Coles.

Knight, S., 2011. Forest School for All. London: SAGE.

Louv, R., 2005. Last Child in the Woods. St Ives: Atlantic Books.

Millar, R., 2000. A brief introduction to holistic education. [Online]
Available at: http://infed.org/mobi/a-brief-introduction-to-holistic-education/
[Accessed 14 January 2016].

Murray, R. & O'Brien, L., 2005. ‘Such enthusiasm – a joy to see’ An evaluation of Forest School in England, s.l.: Forestry Research & NEF.

 

Hyde Fordingbridge
SP6 2QL
Tel: 01425 653350

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