Forest School

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.

Forest School Activities
 
In the Spring of 2017 the children in Reception started their first forest school sessions in our school wildlife area and meadow. 
Please scroll down to see a 'blog' outlining some of the exciting activities that they got up to in the first couple of months!
 
In the Autumn of 2018 the forest school ethos started to be rolled out across the rest of the school with 6 week blocks of Forest School sessions being led from Year 1 to Year 6. Year 1 enjoyed their activities so much that they now run their own regular outdoor sessions called 'Forest Fridays!'
Watch this space..Photos coming soon.
 
WEEK 8: BUG PALACES 

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!!

 

WEEK 7: BUG HUNTING

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.

WEEK 6: STICKS AND TREES

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.  

 

During free play, the children were full of ideas today and really keen to challenge themselves in a whole range of activities. They were very eager to explore tree climbing and tree swinging so we brainstormed ways of keeping ourselves and the environment safe and drew up our own list of 'safe ways to play' e.g. We only use the 'tree-climbing tree' for climbing (the others might not be strong or safe enough) and we only climb a tree with an adult present. It's clear the children are becoming much more confident and resilient at Forest School, worrying less about minor injuries and showing more interest in exploring new corners independently. Other amazing creations today included a knight's helmet and visor (made from woven willow), a wonderful hot chocolate cafe and there was a great interest in the use of a tree ID book to find out more about the forest around us. 
WEEK 5: SENSES

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 a parent had kindly donated some bright dogwood and willow for us to work with. The children were very taken with the colour and texture of the wood, so once in the forest they soon got to work creating a whole host of objects from 'crowns' to 'peep-holes' to 'doors' and even a 'whale'! It was hard work manipulating the sticks, but the children showed real persistence and resilience in their determination to carry on and complete whatever they had set out to achieve, with great results. They were deservedly proud of their achievements. Well done!
WEEK 4: MUD PIES and POTIONS

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!

Back in the forest, we discovered that the woodland elves had stayed and left us a note saying 'Thank you!' so we decided to celebrate by creating a woodland feast! The children had to work hard to gather all the ingredients they could find to make mud pies, potions and pancakes or even mud smoothies and tea!! They thought carefully about how to make them thicker or more runny and even added decorations and straws to some!! We all got lovely and messy, but had great fun sharing them all on our picnic rug at the end!
WEEK 3: MINI DEN BUILDING

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!!

Unfortunately when we finally arrived in the woodland clearing we discovered sticks strewn all over the place ..their homes had been destroyed! Determined to make them feel welcome however, Reception jumped to the task of rebuilding their homes so they’d stay. They started by creating or finding a strong structure to build around so that they wouldn’t fall down again, choosing a variety of places and materials to create tall, short, over ground and underground dens. By the end of the afternoon, a whole village had been recreated and tours were led around the homes to explain to others what was there!!

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.

To end our woodland session today, we returned to our forest circle and played a calming game called ‘A Fist Full of Sounds’. All the children had to shut their eyes and just use their ears to see what they could hear, putting a finger up in the air each time they heard a different sound until they had a fistful. There’s so much going on in the forest!!
WEEK TWO: MAKING STICK MEN on WORLD BOOK DAY
Today we explored the meadow area at school as part of our forest school. We started by playing a game of 1,2,3 Where are you?. The children found some good places to hide and were really good at listening, responding and coming back to our 'home' when it was time. Last week we found some miniature treasures, so this week those children who wanted to went hunting for some bigger treasures; sticks of all shapes and sizes, to turn into stick men! They had their first go at knot tying and square lashing, displaying great cooperative skills whilst they wound the string 'over the body and under the arms' to secure the head and body together. Don't they look great? At the end of our session everyone had the chance to share what they'd done in our 'campfire circle'! We look forward to hearing all about the adventures their stick men get up to when they go exploring further afield!
WEEK ONE: MINIATURE TREASURE HUNT
It was a bit blowy today, but everyone enjoyed their first trip and introduction to forest school. The children learnt how to keep themselves safe by walking carefully around the forest and 'bobbing down' when the wind started to blow, then had great fun collecting miniature pieces to fit in their matchbox treasure boxes. Items they found and collected included catkins, beech nuts, sycamore seeds, bobbly sticks, bark, feathers and much much more. We discovered a few snails and woodlice as well, but left them behind in their homes in the forest!