Forest School is an outdoor learning environment with a child-centred learning process that focuses on play, exploration and supported risk-taking. Both problem-solving and self-discovery are important features of Forest Schools.
Encouraging children to learn through hands-on experiential learning in a natural setting helps to develop their confidence and self-esteem. Outdoor learning and Forest School form a central component of pupils’ personal development and social, emotional and mental health provision.
Forest Schools encourage children to be physically active. The variety of sessions and activities that are offered provide a host of learning experiences for the child. As well as the physical and educational benefits of attending a Forest School, the social and emotional development of the child are at the forefront of Forest School learning. We know many children are less physically active than previous generations (1 in 3 have never climbed a tree, and 60% of primary aged children say they would prefer to play computer games indoors than be outside*), and so regular Forest School activities help to ensure that pupils have access to fresh air, exercise and time spent in natural surroundings.
Forest Schools focus on the social, emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual development of their learners. The nurturing environment encourages children to develop a positive relationship with the outdoor, natural world. The ethos of a Forest School is based on a fundamental respect for children and the encouragement of their curiosity in the world. The Forest School Curriculum is inclusive for all children, including those with SEND. A core provision is available to pupils which they will become familiar with from EYFS (e.g. mud kitchen, garden area and shelter building area). Enhanced provision is detailed in the ‘Forest School Curriculum Overview: Progression of knowledge and skills’, acting as provocations to further interest pupils and provide opportunities for the development of specific knowledge and skills. Pupils are supported in understanding how to shape their own learning experiences using a combination of the core and enhanced provision.
Forest School sessions take place outside, in all weathers (in accordance with risk assessments). If a risk assessment deems that the outdoor classroom is unsafe, elements of enhanced provision will be followed indoors to maintain as much consistency of experience/learning as possible.
Lessons are two hours in duration to ensure that pupils have adequate time to engage in core and enhanced provision.
Lessons are cross curricular and link with other key areas of learning in each curriculum year group to support the embedding of key knowledge and skills in other subject disciplines. Sessions are delivered by a trained Forest School Leader in the school grounds. The implementation of the curriculum is underpinned by Turner Schools’ Expert Teaching
Principles, including challenge and accessibility to promote inclusion for all pupils. Forest School rules are known and understood by pupils to support the effective use of the outdoor learning environment and maximise learning.
The outdoor learning environment is well-resourced to promote high levels of engagement and interest.
Risk assessments are in place for specific activities: these help to shape pupils’ knowledge and understanding of safety and risk-taking.
Forest School provision will feature in schools’ programmes of quality assurance. The impact is identified through a range of monitoring activities including lesson visits, pupil and teacher discussions, lesson outcomes/ samples of pupils’ lesson outcomes, and celebration of learning over time through assemblies and open events.