There is something quite idyllic about learning in the woods. Our Forest School is set in a wonderful location, a five minute walk from the School. We make sure we go every week whatever the weather, and everybody enjoys the opportunity to be outside, getting some fresh air.
There is lots of space to explore and investigate all the different types of trees and shrubs and follow the signs of the animals that reside there. There are trees of all shapes and sizes to climb, swing and balance on; there are places to build dens to share with friends or dens to hide away in. Children can find space to be on their own and reflect on their feelings if they want to. Plus we have plenty of well-established Rhododendron bushes with gnarly branches that have twisted and turned as they’ve aged, and knotted together so that only the most agile bodies can crawl through.
Forest School may conjure up images of children running freely through the woods without a care but, in fact, Forest School epitomises child-led learning. Entering the forest is like going on a journey, every time a child enters the woods the experience will be different depending on their emotions that particular day, the weather or the season we’re in. One thing is guaranteed and that is the sense of calm and well-being of all the children (and the teachers!) by the end of the session.
There are six main principles for Forest School learning: it should take place regularly, in the same area for a sustained period, so that the children have plenty of opportunity to explore and connect to their surroundings. Forest School allows children to take risks as they explore and learn about the environment around them.
It is a very holistic approach - learning takes place very subtly and affects all areas of child development from language skills as children learn to listen to each other’s ideas, to negotiation and taking turns, to creativity and imagination skills as they learn how to use their natural surroundings to invent and create. Physical development of gross and fine motor skills through digging, climbing, balancing, weaving, collecting and making also come to the fore, as well as learning specific skills like how to handle tools for whittling, sawing and tying ropes. Lastly, and probably most important of all, children learn about the environment, to respect and use it so that others may enjoy it after we’ve left.
We enjoyed sunshine and showers in the woods today, the birds were particularly vocal and there were many variations of birdsong. The bluebells have now started to die down and the children noticed how the ferns have taken over and some are now bigger than the smaller children! The potatoes we’d planted before Easter are growing strongly and the courgettes are in flower.
The children have set up a thermometer and rain gauge at the site so they can monitor the conditions as part of their science topic.