What is Forest School?
The Forest School is defined by Forest School England 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.”
Forest School is for all children and young people. Forest School builds on a child’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves. Forest School is organised and run by qualified Forest School leaders Forest School maximises the learning potential of local woodland through frequent and regular experiences throughout the year, not a one-off visit. Forest School helps children to understand, appreciate and care for the natural environment.
The forest school six principles are:
· Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
· Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
· Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
· Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
· Principle 5: Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
· Principle 6: Forest School uses a range of learner-centered processes to create a community for development and learning
As the children feel comfortable in the woods, the sessions become increasingly child-led and as such, Forest School is not about a set programme of planned activities. Children are given encouragement to direct their own learning. Forest School sessions are developed around the interests of the children participating. This is achieved through the Forest School Leader and other adults observing and reviewing what the children are interested in and development of skills.
The History of Forest School
Forest Schools originated in Scandinavia (1950), they were set up as a way of teaching children about the natural world and based on the work by Frohen. By 1990s, forest school was firmly established across Scandinavia. Children spend most of their pre-school experience outside in all weathers. The actual concept of forest school can be tracked back to the principles and thoughts of Pestalozzi, Rousseau and Frobel.
In 1995, a team from Bridgewater, Somerset, went to on an exchange trip to Denmark. They were interested in the forest schools and its unique approach. On returning to the UK, they set up their own version of Forest Schools and very quickly began to grow and expand to other locations. By 2006, there were over 100 Forest Schools in England and 20 in Wales. Forest School has become a very popular over the past decade and it is becoming more and more widely accepted as an effective way of learning. In 2012, the beginning of a new phase in the history of Forest school, the Forest School Association (FSA) was launched, a UK professional body, maintaining excellent standards within the Forest School training community.
In 2006, Kent County Parks began to run their own Forest Schools at Shorne Woods and has since extend this to it other parks such as Lullingstone and Trosley Country Park. In 2014, Kent County Parks provided its first level 3 training programme. Forest schools are becoming increasingly more popular and being set up throughout Kent. Halfway Houses Primary School are the first school on the Isle of Sheppey to set up its own Forest School.
Forest School at Halfway Houses Primary School
At Halfway Houses we are fully aware of the benefits of Forest School has for our children and their holistic development. We fully support the forest school ethos and the way forest schools offers them a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that will foster and support their growth as confident and competent learners. We know that Forest School will improve our children’s self-esteem, confidence and well-being.