What is a Forest School? Is it actually in a forest?

(12 Posts)
CruCru Sat 13-Apr-13 18:07:01

I don't have one near me but a friend has set up a free school in another town and I think it is / was meant to be a forest school. Does it just mean that they do a lot outside?

mrz Sat 13-Apr-13 18:48:25

It's based on an idea from Scandinavia and has been around in the UK for about 20 years. It normally involves the children learning outdoors with a qualified Forest School Leader on a regular basis throughout the year (ideally once a week) in a woodland area or designated Forest area.

ipadquietly Sat 13-Apr-13 19:12:55

It's useful to have a copse or two nearby!

Schools can call themselves 'Forest Schools' if they have staff who are FS leader(s), and children regularly go to the woods. In a session, children may build fires and shelters, learn how to knot and use (dangerous) tools - general woodsman skills. More importantly, the children learn co-operation/communication/confidence skills, and when and how to take risks (climbing trees, using tools, etc). The children who find academic work difficult suddenly find themselves on a level playing field with everyone else - one where they can feel proud of their achievements. Lots of the children in my class plan what they're going to do in the woods days ahead!

It's a truly fantastic thing to do, and I wish your friend every success. I'm a wee bit envy!

CruCru Sat 13-Apr-13 21:59:40

Ah, that makes sense. I don't think her school is actually in a forest (it's in a town) but getting the kids to regularly go into the countryside sounds like her thing.

pointythings Sat 13-Apr-13 22:22:10

My DDs did this in their out of school/holiday clubs and loved it - they got to build fires safely, learned about survival and building shelter, learned about foraging and cooking in the outdoors. It's brilliant. All schools should do it at least at primary level.

Katybabes Sun 14-Apr-13 08:14:18
kickedatschool Mon 15-Apr-13 23:49:26

we looked around a school that had a forest school section. I think there were a handful of saplings. grin it is more about the activities than the trees!

kw13 Tue 16-Apr-13 14:45:57

At my DS's school every class (including Reception and up to year 6)does forest school for a morning/afternoon per week - it seems to have involved so far (he's in Yr2 now) an incredible amount of mud, learning about insects, having fun, lighting fires, cooking outside, looking at insects, bird song recognition, measuring. They go out in all weathers regardless (he's been out in the snow, wind, rain, hail, sun). He loves it. Lots of the primary schools near us (Oxford) do it. DS's school has a large playing field and has made a wild area - complete with bog, logs, etc. Some teachers are trained in the additional skills needed and they have parent helpers.

lisson Tue 16-Apr-13 14:47:28

Isn't this what brownies, cubs, scouts etc teach?

ipadquietly Tue 16-Apr-13 18:37:57

No, activities at brownies, etc, are much more prescribed.

This actually has an educational aim that the benefits get transferred to the classroom. The benefits revolve around the '7 cs' : co-operation, collaboration, co-ordination, concentration, confidence, communication, creativity and competence. In addition, the children are encouraged to take (reasonable) risks, and to use their initiative. We usually have an activity planned if the children want to do it, but we have found, as time has gone on, that they choose to do their own activities (which they base on the resources available - it's not everywhere you can sit in mud and mix potions!)

The children go to the same site every time - it is their outside classroom, and they are familiar with the resources there, in different seasons.

The added bonus is that the teacher sees the children in a totally different light. Some of the most reticent children become really rowdy and enthusiastic once the wellies go on!

I have run forest school sessions on school fields, parks, gardens and in woodlands. I know of forest schools in inner city areas using a concrete play ground and importing their own sticks. It's better to have regular contact with the children so my main work is weekly sessions as an after school club. I've had some of the children come to me for more than 3 years so I get to see them grow which i think is such a privilege. It's a brilliant way to get children outside and appreciating nature.

WarmAndFuzzy Mon 06-May-13 15:10:16

There's one near us that does holiday camps for 5-11 year olds which I've been looking at. They sound amazing. We're in London btw but they've based them in areas of London which actually have some forest (Wimbledon Common, Highgate woods etc.)

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