Forest School is a holistic approach to education which has been described as:
“an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults, regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.“ (Forest Education Initiative, 2010)
The key features of a Forest School are:
- a safe woodland setting;
- a high level of adult supervision;
- an outdoor approach to delivering the curriculum (Curriculum for Excellence);
- opportunities for exploring freely and being creative;
- regular visits to the woodland setting.
These features ensure that a secure, stimulating learning environment is provided, in which children can follow their own interests and develop their natural curiosity about the world around them. Forest School offers a flexible approach to learning, and the activities enjoyed may include transient art, den building, wildlife tracking, balancing and climbing, working with tools, cooking on a fire, storytelling and singing.
Where did Forest School come from?
Forest Schools were developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s as a way of teaching children about the natural world, and by the 1980s they were an integral part of the Danish early years programme. The benefits of Forest School were witnessed by a group of British nursery nursing students who visited Denmark in 1995, and they brought the idea back to England. Since then, Forest Schools have spread throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
What are the benefits of Forest School?
Research has shown that Forest School can have numerous benefits, such as:
- increased health and well-being;
- improved risk management skills;
- greater independence and confidence;
- increased ability to work as part of a team;
- improved creativity and problem-solving skills;
- greater enjoyment of, and connection with, the natural world.
O’Brien & Murray, 2006
O’Brien, E. & Murray, R. (2006).
A marvellous opportunity for children to learn: a participatory evaluation of Forest School in England and Wales.
Surrey: Forest Research