Forest school has become more popular across the UK and within the Local Education Authorities. It has been defined as ‘an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment.’ The approach to forest school follows the ‘Learning outside the Classroom Manifesto’ which was produced by the government in 2006 to encourage learners to experience the world outside the classroom. Forest School is being used in a range of different groups, from early years, special needs and young people and adults with emotional and behavioural difficulties, due to this the setting has shown to be adaptable and allows for a flexible approach to learning, which will also accommodate to a range of learning styles. The Forestry Commission funded research regarding the impact of Forest School on young people to better understand the effects and benefits forest school brings to learners' education and personal development. The research found that there were eight themes which were identified, six regarding the impact on the learners and two concerning the wider impacts, these included:
Due to the learners having freedom, time and space to learn and demonstrate independence
- Social Skills
Learners learn the consequences of their actions on their peers through team activities.
Language development was pushed by the learners’ sensory experiences.
- Motivation and concentration
Learners would become fascinated by the woodland and develop a keenness to participate and the ability to concentrate for more extended periods of time.
- Physical skills
These skills were shown by the development of physical stamina and gross and fine motor skills
- Knowledge and understanding
Learners would show interest in and respect the natural environment around them.
The two themes regarding the wider impacts:
- New perspectives
Forest school gave teachers a new understanding of the learners as they observed them in a new setting.
- Ripple effects
The young people would speak of their experiences at home leading to friends and family visiting woodland spaces more frequently.
Staff can train to become Forest School leaders at a number of different levels, across our Trust we have multiple members of staff who are trained to lead Forest School sessions and those who are trained to assist with these sessions, our Forest School Lead is Mr David Cowler.
The advantages of working in the woodlands and/or an outdoor environment:
- The use of natural materials found, such as materials that allow learners to create art, structures and dens
- The use of imagination - the woods allow learners to create secret places where they can explore and do creative play.
- Opportunities to come in contact with a range of flora and fauna, this is great for experiencing different textures and listening to different sounds
- A more natural and wild environment will engage the learner's imagination
- More opportunities to interact with the environment, such as making fires and climbing trees.
- Creating or finding a natural shelter in the woods to get cover from bad weather
If you would like to know more about this programme within our Trust please contact us on 0191 298 6950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.