“Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.” – Forest School Association.
History of Forest School in the UK
Forest School came over to the UK after a group of nursery nurses visited Denmark to look at their pre school system in 1993. They could see how much the outdoor, child- centred play enthused the children taking part. They decided to take the Forest School ideals from Denmark and bring them back to their own college crèche. Their children blossomed and went from strength to strength. From there the college set up their own courses in Forest School mainly for early years but everyone soon saw the impact it was having. Local authorities began to offer courses and since then a lot of schools all around the country offer Forest Schools to their pupils. The Forest School Association was set up and came up with six main principles.
- 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.
- 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.
- Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
- Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
- Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning
Forest School at Medlock
We have had a dedicated Forest School programme at Medlock since September 2015. Nearly every child from Reception through to year 6 have taken part in Forest School sessions. We are very lucky to have the space on site for our own Forest School area. This area has many features such as: Log pile to encourage wildlife, digging area, fruit trees, variety of native trees, bird boxes, bath pond, new tree saplings. The children are taught to respect, observe and care for all flora and fauna on the site.
At the beginning of every session the children are asked if any seasonal changes have been observed in the area to encourage them to look closely at the area around them. They then have time to explore and check the area, they have become very good at pointing out any litter, new plants or mini beasts. We then discuss the sessions task, this isn’t always carried out as the children can choose what they want to do, working together to make a den is always popular. We always like to look at what we have been doing and give positive feedback to each other at the end of the session. The last session of every group we try to have a campfire so the children can toast marshmallows, this is always a highlight.
Take a look of what we have been up to.
I have set some of our pupils a Forest School challenge. We have been looking at animals that hibernate and what they need to survive. I asked them what would they need to hibernate and set them off in 2 groups to create their hibernation home.
Their homes need to be:
- Save from potential predators (there isn’t any really)
- stable and windproof
- food and water supply nearby ( I’m going to supply snacks and hot chocolate)
Everyone in the group needs to be able to fit inside the houses and I will be testing to see if it’s waterproof!
Wednesday 10th May – Year 3
Year 3 have been learning about the stone age, as part of this they have been finding out how they found food and how they made their tools. We used slate sticks and string to make our own miniature axes. This was a little bit more difficult than they first thought but we all got there in the end.
Thursday 11th May – 2 Year Olds
The 2 year old provision have been exploring the outside and this week they came over to the Forest School area. There was lots to look at, touch and climb. I think they enjoyed themselves!
Tuesday 25th April – Year 3
This group of children hadn’t been to Forest School since year 2 and they had remembered lots of things to keep them safe while outside including avoiding the stinging nettles! They had a good look at the pond which has lots more plants in now. One of the children started climbing the tree and they all got in line to follow. This is something I didn’t think they would remember from year 2.
Over the past year in Forest School we have been really busy. We have gained a statue/scarecrow and a mud kitchen. We have had a visit from the RSPB, who have given us plenty of ideas of how we can make the area better for wildlife. I hope to continue improving the area with compost bins and a planting area in the coming months.
In the autumn we made art work from leaves inspired by Andy Goldsworthy.
The mud kitchen is always very popular and everyone enjoys the mud being splashed about, usually while people are making ‘McDonald’s’.
The year 3’s have still remembered the den building skills that they learnt in Delamere Forest last year. They did a great job!
Year 2’s had a great time with the little bit of snow and ice that we had.
We all had a go at making musical instruments. I couldn’t believe the amount of different sounds the children came up with from some old pans and natural resources. There are definitely some imaginative children at Medlock.
Making animal shelters and pretend cooking are always a popular activity.
We always finish each group with toasting marshmallows round the campfire, everybodies favourite session.
By Miss Zoe Hopkins