What is Forest School?
The Forest School Ethos at Drake
Forest Schools is a unique educational experience and process that offers children the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment. Children engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities throughout the year and in almost all weathers.
Children work with tools, they play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, grow in confidence, self-esteem and motivation whilst developing an understanding of the natural world. The Forest School concept originates in Denmark, originally aimed at preschool children, where it was found that children who had attended Forest School then arrived at school with strong social and communication skills, having the ability to work in groups effectively, generally had high self-esteem and a confidence in their own abilities. These foundations helped them to raise their academic achievements. At Drake Primary, we currently provide Forest School for Reception, Key stage one and Key stage 2 children (R to year 5) to compliment and extend the curriculum.
Principles of our Forest School
Our Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education. The principles are shared by thousands of trained practitioners across Norfolk, the UK and beyond. Forest School At Drake is
Children who take part in Forest School are seen as
Forest School is an inspirational process that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. At Drake we
How holistic development of the children is facilitated at Drake
Holistic development in children is when we focus on addressing all the needs of a child’s life. In the classroom, individual lessons are planned and structured to meet certain outcomes and criteria. However, with consistent and long-term visits to a Forest School site, this will support and develop all areas of holistic development using the natural environment. By applying SPICES when planning, as a forest school leader I will be supporting holistic development for every child.
Here are some examples of how I develop all areas of holistic development in Forest School:-
How self-esteem and emotional intelligence has been promoted
As a Forest School leader we promote high self-esteem but also ensuring it is realistic self-esteem. We also promote emotional intelligence which is the ability to identify and manage their emotions and the emotions of others. Our Forest School is child-led therefore promoting motivation for the children to explore their interests using their preferred learning style and we as practitioners encourage the children to follow but also lead activities which will further support and develop their motivation. We work to ensure that children develop positive relationships in order to believe in themselves, each other and to be proud of what they have and can do. With regular and consistent visits to our forest School our children will experience and enhance their skills which will support and strengthen their self-esteem and emotional intelligence.
We promote self-esteem by continuously giving positive praise to our children. Things that we praise are risk taking and challenging themselves, their ability and safe approach to activities, working together and supporting each other and resolving conflicts independently.
We provide our children with experiences and challenges to take risks and be brave, but ensuring they are achievable so the children don’t experience failure. These experiences promote a feeling of satisfaction and achievement that will encourage the children to challenge themselves further. This also promotes self-awareness. Children will reflect on these activities and they will self-assess and analyse both successes and failures (which there are few as children show a great deal of determination and perseverance). Children will reflect over the process and think of alternate ways to succeed.
Each of our Forest School sessions is concluded with circle time. This gives children the opportunity to shine as this is allocated time to share their achievements/successes with the group and celebrate the things they have made. It allows discussions of feelings and emotions which the adults can express and share to emphasise and encourage openness, but also to show the children that it is okay and acceptable to talk about to others. These opportunities will develop the children’s empathy when they talk about their feelings
How risk taking influences our children’s learning and development
Risk taking is a common choice or activity at our Forest School. Children enjoy climbing trees and for some this has been their first experience. I have observed children attempting to climb, but being very cautious, yet after a few attempts they start to show more confidence and ability to achieve. Children set themselves challenges i.e. how far they can climb or a route they will take to reach a certain point. Children who have encountered this experience then use their confidence and belief in themselves to try other activities. This will be a skill that will be used throughout their lives.
Children at Drake Forest School like to roll down the hill.
The use of tools is another risk-taking activity however it shows we trust our children to be sensible and safe. Children enjoy the experience of using peelers, saws, knives, palm drills etc. to create and it’s possible that not all children have experienced this opportunity before. Children have to risk asses for themselves when using tools i.e. blood bubble, working away from themselves, making sure the non-working hand is at a safe distance etc.
Our children need and want opportunities to take risks. They like to challenge themselves to see what they can achieve but also to push themselves to achieve more. Through risk taking children gain and develop their confidence, a belief in themselves, an awareness of their own limits and boundaries. This all contributes to their self-esteem. By taking risks our children learn how to be safe.
The key principals at Drake for free-flow, independent, participant-led play
Forest School is a specialised approach to learning that offers every child an opportunity to learn outdoors in the natural environment. This gives the children a special place away from the norm where they feel free and are given the sense of timelessness and space. The children lead the sessions giving them the freedom and knowing that their choice is respected allowing then to apply their own decision making skills.
When our children enter the Forest School site for the first time they look to us practitioners to be told what to do and how to do it. With our support, they very quickly learn that the session is about them and their choices of what they would like to do (participant-led).
Our Forest School sessions are not structured or subject specific so the children can learn independently through play and experiences of their choice. We provide different resources for free-flow activities however this is to give children opportunities if they wish to have a go. It is not about having lots of activities but giving the children the experience of connections and relationships.
As a Forest School leader, I ensure that where appropriate I will take part in activities to show awareness that everyone is an equal. This helps to encourage others that aren’t sure to have a go and positive praise and support is given to ensure a positive experience is had. Once children have tried activities I have seen them revisit independently as they feel more confident and able.
How Drake Forest School has fostered resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
Our Forest School sessions were first introduced in 2016 and the number of sessions being run has significantly increased in 2019.
I have observed children across the sessions and have found it such a positive experience with positive outcomes to date.
At the end of most sessions we have circle time using a talking stick. The children enjoy this time to reflect on their time in Forest School and share their experiences and ideas. This helps develop their confidence, self-esteem and it extends their ability to speak in a group, listen to each other and understand everyone has different experiences and opinions etc.
“I like rolling down the hill and I love playing in the trees”
“I really like playing with everyone because they are kind and helpful. I splashed in the puddles and got dirty and muddy”
“I like making creatures with the conkers”
“I like looking under logs for creatures and putting them in the hotel”
“Me like breaking the ice”
“I liked playing in the secret den”
“I loved playing on the swing”
“I loved sitting on the tree and jumping in the mud”
“I liked Rolling in the barrel and the sun on my face”
“Listening to the birds” (sit spot)
“It made me feel relaxed and happy. I heard the wind blowing against the leaves” (sit spot)
“I saw a bee and he was taking the flowers and it made me happy” (sit spot)
“I liked making the house for a slug that we found”
“I liked going on the trees and I was swinging on the trees like a monkey”
I liked peeling the sticks and climbing trees”
“I like watching the fire burn the wood and I liked the smoke coming off”
“I liked building the den with friends for the fairies”
“I liked building the den for the insects”
“I liked doing face paint with mud”
“I liked playing on the swing and trying to break the ice”
Year 1 were asked what they have learnt during their time in Forest School
“I learnt that when we climb the trees we have to stand back when the other person is up the tree”
“I learnt taking turns with other people”
“I learnt making a gods-eye in reception”
“I have discovered the snowdrops have grown back”
“I learnt how to make slime out of mud”
“I found there is a new way to roll down the hill in the barrel”
“I like making things out of mud”
I liked the challenge of putting the swing up”
“I just like to be outside with nature”
“I enjoyed making a bridge”
“We played a tyre race”
“I liked playing music with the logs”
“I heard our feet crunching on the ice”
“I liked being adventurous and making a kite”
“Today I liked building a sitting area and looked for the Robin”
“The best thing I done today was going in the barrel down the hill”
“I felt centred and calm” (sit spot)
“Forest school is an amazing, fun place to make friends and learn about nature”
“Forest school lets me be really imaginative and free”
“It made me feel like my soul was free to go wherever I wanted”
“It made me wonder what birds do all day”
“I enjoyed carving a stick”
“I enjoyed playing a clown on the see-saw”
“I enjoyed having pancakes”
“Team work makes the dream work”
“Being a blind bat”
Year 5 were asked what they have learnt during their time in Forest School
“Taking risks is fun”
“I have learnt that nature is very important and we should protect it”
“I learnt that in the barrel you get dizzy going down but not in a bad way, in a fun way”
“Learnt to play with new people”
“To be safe and keep whole body inside the rolling barrel”
“When on tyre swing, never put people near tree”
“I learnt how to do a flag”
Child C started Forest School in reception and is now in Year 1
Reception – 2017/2018
In year 1