‘Forest School’ is a unique educational experience; offering children the opportunity to succeed, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning in a woodland environment.
The Forest School concept originates in Denmark, where it was found that children who had attended Forest School developed strong social and communication skills, having the ability to work in groups effectively, had higher self-esteem and a confidence in their own abilities. These foundations helped them to raise their academic achievements.
Year Five participate in our Forest School programme at our sister site Moon Hall Reigate led by a qualified Forest School leader for one term each year.
Children engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities in (almost) all weathers. Children work with tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour (both physical and social), develop resilience and motivation whilst fostering an understanding of the natural world.
Forest School at Moon Hall fits well with our School Values of Respect, Tolerance, Courage, Resilience and Integrity
Children work together on a range of activities and challenges; the ideas of everyone are respected. Shelters for example cannot be built unless we work together to move and secure the resources needed to build them.
The natural environment and its inhabitants are respected. We learn about the changing seasons and how to manage our woodland to ensure that it is protected for all who use it.
We aim to leave no trace that we have been there. Understanding the local fauna and flora help us to achieve this.
We respect that the outdoor environment carries risk and the tools we use can cause harm if we do not respect them. Children learn to assess risk and understand the safe ways to manage a range of risks.
We respect the children’s interests and are often led by their interests when offering activities to help them to discover more.
Working together on activities sharing tools and resources requires tolerance for one another. The tool we may want to use may be in the hands of another busy child. An animal may have set up home in the woodland in an area where we had planned to gather resources, so we have to adapt to not disturb them.
Many of the activities we offer are challenging and are often new to children. They need courage to take on these new challenges and to overcome the fear that they may not be able to master the challenge itself or develop the skills needed to do so without working hard.
We work with tools including fire steels, saws, secateurs, loppers, drills, woodland hatchets, Kelly Kettles and knives or peelers. Each tool needs us to understand how to use it effectively, to handle it safely and to have the courage and confidence to know that we can use it safely to achieve our goals. We always have a fire. The benefits of being able to sit around a fire to share our thoughts and ideas, our fears and our achievements is priceless, as is the opportunity for gaining life skills relating to fire safety first hand. Of course it is wonderful too, on a cold day especially when enjoying a hot drink or snack that we have made over the fire.
The use of tools in many of our Forest School activities develops resilience. The children want to learn and to be able to use them. They are determined to master them. Mastery is not guaranteed. The children at Forest School show determination to achieve and display a focus to learn that is often unparalleled to other learning experiences in daily life at school, but that can be transferred back into the classroom to enable them to move forwards in all of their learning.
Part of the definition of integrity includes the idea of ‘unity and wholeness’. We are part of the natural environment and want to use the natural world at Forest School without damaging it but rather to benefit it. Working closely with nature and the environment the children will become more connected to it and take with them an honesty for life as well as learning to appreciate the world around them.
In Summary, Forest School encourages children to:
- Develop personal and social skills
- Work through practical problems and challenges
- Use tools to create, build or manage
- Discover how they learn best
- Pursue knowledge that interests them
- Learn how to manage failures
- Build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk
- Develop practical skills
- Understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
- Explore connections between humans, wildlife and the earth
- Regularly experience achievement and success
- Reflect on learning and experiences
- Develop their language and communication skills
- Improve physical motor skills
- Become more motivated
- Improve their concentration skills