What is Forest School?
Forest School is an educational ethos that follows the following six principles as laid out by the Forest School Association. It can be delivered in school, as an alternative to school, to younger children pre-school or as an out of school activity.
The principles are the same regardless of the age of the children or how they come to us.
We build communities, and we do this by putting the participants in the lead. We implement learner-centred paedology which empowers our groups and creates strong connections between participants, with the setting and with themselves.
Our practitioners are part of these communities which we consider democratic, reflective and respectful. We plan and deliver activity based on those reflections and create spaces for communities to gather and grow.
2. Long-term Engagement
Participants take part in frequent and regular sessions in woodlands, experience different seasons and build relationships with their peers, the practitioners and the setting.
For parents, that’s why we prefer block bookings for most of our sessions. We know that people like to try before they buy so we do offer trials but in general, we expect children to be with us for at least 6 weeks before we start to see real engagement.
For schools, we know that financial restraints mean this isn’t always possible. Everything we do, even if it’s a one-off workshop, stays as true to the Forest School principles as possible whilst understanding the practicalities of funding in schools and communities.
3. In a Woodland Environment
Forest School should take part in the forest to develop meaningful relationships between participants and the natural world. Woodlands afford endless loose parts for imaginative play and as such are the best hosts for our child-led play-based provision.
Not all schools and urban communities have easy access to woods, and we understand this. We can successfully deliver the forest school model in school grounds, parks and fields, we just need to think more creatively about the loose parts that we provide!
4. Holistic Development of the Child
Our focus is developing the whole child; physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and mentally. Our skilled practitioners use observations to plan invitations for play based on individual needs and interests. Forest School compliments the curriculum but does not teach it or attempt to make links to it.
We understand the pressures that schools are under to achieve results, and also that sometimes the children can feel these pressures too. Forest School provides a wonderful antidote to outcome-based learning, but we also find that curriculum links occur naturally through play, and practitioners can make these links in observations after the sessions to compliment topic and curriculum learning. Mostly we accept that children need time and space to play without trying to fit it in a box, so we leave the curriculum back at school. But the option is there if you want it.
5. Facilitating Risk
We support participants to take managed risks. Hence tool use, fires, tree climbing, roaming distances. This links back to the long-term process. We work with the group to understand their needs and slowly introduce risky activities over time. Eventually, our long-term participants are given autonomy over most of their learning. Being able to assess and manage risk is a skill that many young people are not given the opportunity to develop. It encourages resilience, self esteem and confidence, and studies show it increases attainment at school long-term.
6. Delivered by Fully Trained Practitioners
All of our leaders have their Level 3 Forest School training, Outdoor Paediatric First Aid training, safeguarding training and enhanced DBS disclosure. We support our team to take part in regular training and skills development to keep their practice up to date and relevant. We maintain high adult:participant ratios, usually 1:6, to ensure activities are safe, responsive, and meet the needs of the individuals.