Forest School

Learning with Nature at Forest School

The Forest School Approach to Learning

Over the last one hundred and fifty years theorists have studied and practiced the philosophy behind holistic development. Theorists like Froebel; Steiner and Montessori supported the belief that a child should take control of their own learning by freely playing and exploring, discovering their own innate learning style. A child will develop important life skills that focus on the whole person and not just the intellect.

The Nature Reserve at St James Primary School offers the open space of the outdoors to learners: fostering hands on practical experiences. Regular weekly visits provide the child with opportunities to explore and discover interesting things about themselves, other people and our natural world, in the freedom of a natural setting. A teacher is considered to be a facilitator, someone to support individuals with learning steps to future development. Activities may be tailored to begin with but thereafter children are given the space and freedom to lead activities for themselves. Child initiated learning enhances and inspires intrinsic motivation, resilience, independence and most importantly a greater well being of the whole body and mind.

We ensure safety and positive learning for all participants.
Risk assessments and risk benefits are carried out prior to every session that takes place.

Engaging the Learner

All children love to play. It is an innate motivation within every child which should not be suppressed or ignored. Through play children discover valuable lessons in life.

Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul. Friedrich Froebel

Tailored learning activities promote learning and development through play.

Collecting autumn leaves and making a picture is truly expressing the creativity and imagination of a learner.

Building dens is a multi dimensional learning activity that supports many factors to development. Students will learn how to problem solve and work together as a team. If they fail in a task it will help build up their resilience: when they try again and are successful they will have gained a sense of well being and achievement. Motor skills and spatial awareness will also be strengthened in such activities

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Fred Rogers

How Holistic Development is facilitated through Forest School

Forest School provides learners with the outdoors as a multi-sensory learning ground.

  • The natural environment will teach learners about seasonal change and the ecological system of woodlands. Throughout the programme a wide range of practical activities will be offered: building on physical, emotional, mental and social development. This will help build secure platforms for future learning.  The child initiated approach to learning allows a child to discover their own interests and learning styles.
  • Physical development will naturally strengthen as children partake in activities. Making dens or hunting for bugs will help develop co-ordination skills and spatial awareness.  Tying knots is an important task at Forest School and so is making natural objects from woodland materials. These types of activities will support the development of fine motor skills.
  • Language development is promoted by the child- led approach. The inquisitive child will want to ask questions about their discoveries and experiences. Conversations that interest the child will help develop vocabulary and listening skills.
  • Team building activities will help learners to develop an understanding about themselves and other people. They will learn about problem solving: taking risks and building resilience when things go wrong. Collaborative thinking will influence positive achievements and support friendships, promoting emotional well being

The repetition of activities throughout the programme will help strengthen the learning process for the future, at the same time as supporting a healthy and positive development of confidence and self esteem.

The Five Senses

Our senses work together to give us a clear picture of what is around us. The five senses allow us to learn, look after ourselves and enjoy our surroundings. The experience of Forest School will promote and facilitate the use of all the five senses. They will instinctively start functioning when a child has the opportunity to engage with nature.

Climbing a tree will include the five senses working together:

  • Look at the tree
  • Hear the wind blowing through the branches
  • Taste the fresh air
  • Touch the bark
  • Smell the wood/leaves

When all the five senses are working together in unison a child develops a greater understanding of our multi- sensory world that is full of natural beauty and dangers.

The Inspiration behind Forest School

The inspiration behind ‘Free Open Air learning’ stems back as early as the 1800’s, influenced by Wordsworth and the Early Romantics.

Famous Scandianavian theorists Pestalozzi and Steiner led this alternative approach to teaching. Fredrich Froebel also believed in the philosophy behind the teaching: Maria Montesorri founded an Early Years philosophy based programme in the 1900’s. Her theories are still in practice to this day.

Robert-Badon Powell had an insight … He took a group of 20 boys on a survival camp to Dorset. In 1908 his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ was published and the Scouting Movement became inspirational.

In 1993 Bridgwater College in Somerset sent a group of lecturers and nursery nurses on a visit to Denmark where open air learning is widely practiced. The findings were astonishing and soon after their return the


built by peajaykay