What is Forest School?
The Forest School initiative originated in Scandinavia in the 1950s, where it was commonly believed that children benefit greatly from the hands on learning opportunities inherently present in a woodland environment. Following a visit to Sweden in 1993, Bridgewater College in Devon developed a Forest School programme which has since developed and become widely accepted across the UK as a valuable model for learning for all ages.
Forest school is a long term educational approach to outdoor learning that supports the holistic development of children. The Forest School philosophy aims to inspire and encourage individuals of any age to enjoy the opportunities offered by the environment through a mix of child initiated natural play, exploration and learning.
Through careful observation and positive encouragement, Forest School builds on the skills shown by the children. The Forest School leader matches activities with preferred styles of learning which sets children up to succeed. This accelerates learning, develops self-confidence and promotes self-esteem.
How does Forest School help my child?
Time in an open space at Forest School aims to “give children time to reflect and explore their thoughts, feelings and relationships, developing an understanding of the world, the environment and everything within it through the use of emotions, imagination and senses” (Forest School Education)
Research by the Forestry Commission has shown that it specifically helps to develop:
Confidence: children have the freedom, time and space to learn and demonstrate independence
Social skills: children gain an increased awareness of the consequences of their actions on peers through team activities such as sharing tools and participating in play
Communication: language development is prompted by the children’s sensory experiences
Motivation: the woodland tends to fascinate the children and they develop a keenness to participate and the ability to concentrate over longer periods of time
Physical skills: these improvements are characterised by the development of physical stamina and gross and fine motor skills
Knowledge and understanding: the children develop an interest in the natural surroundings and respect for the environment
To find out more information about Forest School at Great and Little Shelford, please click on the link below.
To consolidate what they'd learnt about bugs the previous week, we started today with some forest art; creating natural pictures of their favourite creatures. The children had some amazing ideas about the materials they could use to recreate their bugs and included some wonderful features!
To carry on the theme (and work with their seemingly innate desire to care for their new found friends) we made bug palaces today to ensure that any creatures visiting our forest would have a safe place to hide. They produced some really creative work including all sorts of details including food traps, furniture and tunnels and displayed amazing persistence and concentration when trying to make their structures stay standing up. We remembered to keep ourselves safe by only collecting sticks 'shorter than our arms' and the children showed wonderful collaboration and cooperation skills again when working as a team. Well done!!
To start our session today we played a game (Mummy, Daddy, Baby Worm) to learn and consolidate the rules we needed to follow to keep ourselves safe whilst working around the pond (only 3 at a time / only one door in and out). The children loved it and subsequently behaved excellently whilst around the pond. Whilst waiting for a safe moment to explore the creatures in the water, the rest of the children had great fun looking for bugs all around the forest today. They showed great care and concern for the creatures and cooperation and communication levels were at a high as they shared equipment, talked excitedly about what they'd found and discussed where best to put the bugs back to keep them safe.
Following last week's interest in sticks, we started off today making and sharing stick collections with the most amazing outcomes. Children talked about similarities and differences between them all and then spontaneously started a 'band', singing along as some tapped out the beat on their logs, This continued throughout the session culminating in a forest school 'stick band' performance!
We also had great fun exploring the trees around the meadow and made bark rubbings to reflect all the different patterns that we discovered. A highlight though was our 'forest bathing'. Simply lying on the floor and looking up at the forest canopy, the children were in awe of the natural world around them, noticing all sorts of colours and patterns above.
Our warm up games this week all focused around developing our use of our senses to explore what's around us. After collecting and rolling logs to make our forest circle, the children were challenged to find their way safely to the end of a rope trail..with their eyes shut!! They decided the safest way to do it was to crawl. "It was a bit lumpy and bumpy, but fun!!"
The next challenge was a bit trickier, but the children had great fun playing 'hug a tree' where they had to guess the tree their friend had led them to just by feeling them!
This week we started our session with a new game called 'Bird's Nest'. The children collected sticks and built them up to create a twiggy circle - 'our nest'! We talked about the importance of a nest to keep delicate eggs and chicks safe inside and dangerous predators out, then widened this rule to our 'forest circle' where we walk around the outside (rather than across the middle) to respect whatever may be inside!
This week we heard the exciting news that the woodland elves had moved into our wildlife area. Sadly they had to leave their old homes because people weren’t looking after their forest and it was left full of rubbish and torn apart! Luckily we found their friendship tree on the way to the woods and used threads from their magical cloaks to wind into friendship bracelets to show them that we would be friendly and caring.
Some children thought it would be hard to make the bracelets, but persevered and in the end decided it was much easier than the stick men!!
Of course no forest session is complete without a bit of bug hunting..Today's excitement was a massive worm! Some were brave enough to hold it and carried it safely to our bug hotel to hide. "It felt all wriggly and tickly!" they said.