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Forest School

What is Forest School?

 

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“The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky” Margaret McMillan, pioneer nursery educator.

 

Forest School is characterised by providing children with the time and freedom to enjoy child-initiated play in a natural woodland environment.

 

Time spent in Forest School has been shown to impact greatly on children’s learning as well as their emotional, social, linguistic, physical and spiritual development.

  • At St. James and St. John School we are very lucky to have our own Forest School area located within the grounds at the Akeley site.
  • All EYFS and KS1 children are given the chance to attend in small groups.
  • Blocks of weekly sessions lasting an entire afternoon are led by a qualified Forest School leader for a period of six weeks. Attending Forest School in a series of consecutive sessions enables children to develop and build on their skills week on week.
  • Session blocks are rotated throughout the year in order to give the children the chance to experience and observe the natural environment at different points in the seasonal calendar.

What will the children do during their Forest School sessions?

  • Children are naturally curious and the Forest School ethos encourages this through allowing them to be self-directed in their learning.
  • Activity ideas, resources and adult support are available to the children if and when they require it.
  • Very importantly, extended periods of uninterrupted time are given to children in their activities to enable them to fully engage in and get the most out of their learning experiences.
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Some of the activities children choose to engage in may be:

  • Discovering nature and studying wildlife.
  • Shelter building.
  • Constructing temporary play structures such as see-saws, rope swings and ladders.
  • Playing team or group games.
  • Sensory activities.
  • Tracking games.
  • Physical movement activities.
  • Creative activities using natural materials.
  • Mark making with natural materials.
  • Developing stories and drama.
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Dependent on age, ability and experience, children are also permitted and encouraged to engage in the following activities but only ever in the presence of an adult.

  • Tree climbing.
  • Whittling sticks.
  • Building, lighting and extinguishing camp fires.
  • Cooking on camp fires and boiling water using a storm kettle.
  • Bushcraft activities that require tools such as bow saws or hand drills.
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The importance of risk

  • Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
  • Having the courage to take both physical and emotional risks is very important in children’s development.
  • Permitting children to engage in activities that carry an element of risk such as tool and fire use or climbing trees is of huge value in building their confidence and self-esteem.
  • All Forest School activities and equipment usage that are considered to pose a risk to participants’ health and safety are thoroughly risk benefit assessed and only permitted to proceed when mitigating factors are in place to reduce the risk.
  • In order to develop their self-awareness, children are encouraged to engage in the process of assessing the risk to their health and safety and that of the other members of the group throughout their time spent at Forest School.

Creativity and problem solving

  • The open-ended nature of the materials found in a woodland environment permits for ingenuity and creativity when used in play. To a child, a stick can be a metal detector, a wand or a musical instrument – the possibilities are endless.
  • Children are encouraged to think creatively and outside of the box with adult intervention centering on supporting children as they work through difficulties themselves.
  • Overcoming challenge creatively and allowing learners opportunities for successfully solving problems is of enormous benefit in building their perseverance and resilience.
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Why does it need to be in a woodland?

  • The natural environment forms an integral part of the Forest School ethos.
  • As a natural habitat, a wooded or wild area offers children ample opportunity to observe and experience nature close up. It also provides natural materials that can be used creatively in both large and small self-directed projects.
  • Sustainability and protection of the environment is an ever-recurrent theme at Forest School. Spending time in a natural environment helps build children’s affinity with nature and develops their pro-environmental and pro-nature attitudes and behaviours.
  • It actually doesn’t need to be in a wood, in some coastal parts of the country, “Beach School” follows the same principles. Sadly, not really an option for us here in Bucks!
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What can you do to support your child at Forest School?

  • Trousers, long-sleeved tops and closed toe footwear are essential all year round as the site is home to a number of plants that may scratch or sting.
  • Please also help us to ensure your child is attired appropriately for the weather. Forest School runs throughout the year and in the colder months, it is essential they are warm enough in order for them to engage best in their learning.
  • Please do let school know if you have any difficulty providing appropriate clothing and we will endeavor to help source suitable items for your child.
  • Please do encourage your child to share with you what they have been doing during their time at Forest School. If their response is “I just played!”, bear in mind that “Play is the work of the child” (Maria Montessori); it is essential for children’s healthy development. Through outdoor play at Forest School they will have been building on a whole raft of skills essential for their holisitic development. Not bad for an afternoon spent out in the fresh air with their friends!
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Forest School Consent and Medical Information Form

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