Forest School is a unique method of outdoor learning. At Birchwood our aim is to encourage and inspire children through positive outdoor experiences. Children will have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. The children use full sized tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated.
At Birchwood we are lucky to have an area within our school grounds that is dedicated to Forest School and the Eco Team. Our Forest School Programme is tailored to meet the needs of individuals within our school and will be continuously developed as the children grow in confidence, skills and understanding. The woodland environment is central in supporting this approach to learning: the changing of the seasons, the contemplation of an ancient tree, the dynamic nature of an outdoor environment - an infinite source of smells, textures, sounds and tastes and a range of visual stimuli all contribute to the Forest School learning experience.
Our 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
We aim to give all children a collective insight into the ethos of Forest School. Forest School builds on a child’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves. The Forest school learning environment provides opportunities for children to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, to form positive relationships with others, to develop a growing awareness of their emotional needs and the needs of others. Children learn to cooperate and work with their peers and adults and to develop strategies in order to take risks within the boundaries of safety.
Forest School is about exploring and experiencing the natural world through practical activities. The children go out in all weathers, all year round, exploring and learning from the seasons and environment changes. Appropriate clothing will be worn and during high winds it will be considered unsafe to go into the wooded area. The children’s interests along with the varied natural resources in our woodland are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development. One of the principles of Forest School is to promote environmental awareness and encourage sustainability. The children are taught about respect and responsibility for the world around them. Both the children and adults are encouraged to respect their environment and to be aware of conservation issues of the wild area around them. The aim is to promote respect for wildlife, which will be achieved through detailed session plans and evaluation. If appropriate, reclaimed, recycled and sustainable resources will be used to maintain and develop our forest school site. Encouraging children to care for the environment is an essential part of Forest School. In order to encourage the children to look after the site we will always leave it tidy and never damage anything growing in it. We will only collect things that are on the ground and leave the area as we found it when we leave. The Forest School Leader will monitor the site so that it does not become overused.
Some activities might include:
- Shelter building
- Fire lighting and cooking on an open fire
- Using a Kelly Kettle
- Tool use
- Studying wildlife
- Playing team and group games
- Sensory activities
- Rope and string work, tying knots
- Art and sculpture work
- Woodland and traditional craft
- Woodland management
- Developing stories and drama, and meeting imaginary characters
- Fire lighting/cooking
The impact of Forest Schools is reflected in having well rounded, happy and confident children who seek adventure and have confidence to take risks. Having more awareness of the world around them and the influence we as humans can have on the environment.
The success of forest school allows the children to grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate. Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social skills. The sensory experiences provided by Forest School helps prompt language development. Improving communication skills has a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem and is a crucial part of their development.
High levels of interest lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in the woodland is exciting for a child. It tends to fascinate them which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time. The increase in outdoor activity has a positive physical impact. Not only does the development of physical stamina improve but also gross and fine motor skills. Children develop an interest in the great outdoors and respect for the environment. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world will help in protecting the environment for generations to come.
When children really engage with Forest Schools they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently.
We measure the impact of our curriculum through the following methods:
- Images and videos of the children’s practical learning.
- Interviewing the pupils about their learning (pupil voice)