Head of Department: Mr Mainey
Teacher of Forest Schools: Mr Mainey
Forest School is an outdoor education session based in our local woods.
Forest School uses the woods and forests as a means to build independence and self-esteem in children and young adults. Topics are cross-curriculum including the natural environment, for example the role of trees in society such as a fuel in our camp fire, the complex ecosystem supported by a wilderness, and recognition of specific plants and animals. However, the personal skills are considered highly valuable, such as teamwork, communication and problem solving. The woodland environment may be used to learn about more abstract concepts such as Biology and communication. Each forest school programme is tailored to meet the needs of the individual. The ethos of Forest Schools allows learners the time and space to develop skills, interests and understanding through practical, hands-on experiences. It also allows practitioners to step back and observe the children in order to then encourage and inspire individuals to achieve through careful scaffolding and facilitating.
Why Forest Schools?
Research now backs up what Forest School practitioners have known all along – that children and young people are stimulated by the outdoors and typically experience, over time, an increase in their self belief, confidence, learning capacity, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving skills and emotional well-being.
Benefits and outcomes for Forest Schools:
- Confidence: Forest School helps children to grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate. The pupils can choose to work at their own ability and choose their own tasks.
- Social skills: Activities such as sharing tools, cooking on a camp fire and participating in play help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social ties.
- Communication: Group tasks and games require a degree of communication to get the most out of them, the children will work together and delegate tasks working as a group.
- Motivation and concentration: Interest in the tasks and games lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in the woodland is exciting for pupils, out of the class room and away from pens and paper. It tends to fascinate them which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time.
- Physical skills: The increase in outdoor activity is bound to have a positive physical impact. Not only does the development of physical stamina improve but also gross and fine motor skills.
- Knowledge and curriculum links: Children develop an interest in the greater outdoors and respect for the environment. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world will help in protecting the environment for generations to come. Pupils will get to see seasonal changes, and the impact the sessions have on our local woodland. These areas can be further developed in English, Geography, Art, Science and Design Technology.
- New perspectives: Forest School isn’t just beneficial to children it is also beneficial to teachers. Observing their class in a different setting allows them to gain a new perspective and understanding of their class. Some pupils who may be less likely to volunteer in a classroom, will become more outgoing and express themselves more.
- Ripple effects: When children really engage with Forest Schools they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently, or visit the countryside.
- Levels the playing field: Taking children outside of the classroom removes the pressures of the classroom and allows them to play to their strengths. This is beneficial to children who struggle in the classroom because there is more of an opportunity for them to learn at their own pace.
- Enjoyable for the children: Forest Schools are fun! It is educational whilst also allowing children to play, explore and discover. Children who participate in Forest Schools are generally observed to be happier. The fresh air, the excitement, getting mucky – it doesn’t get child friendlier than that.
- Residential experience
- Walk up a mountain
- Learn about plants and animals
- Go camping
Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children and young people opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem, through hands on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.
National definition: by Forest School (England) Network
Health and Safety
The health and safety of all participants is central to everything done within a Forest Schools programme.
Forest School leaders are fully trained in risk assessment and emergency outdoor first aid. Finch Woods Academy Forest School has a Health and Safety policy; a seasonally and daily risk assessed site; risk assessments for activities; trained adult helpers; first aid and emergency equipment. Some of the activities the children may participate in are ‘higher-risk activities’ (such as campfire cooking or tool use). However, these activities are not available to the children until certain behaviours and boundaries are established. Children are encouraged and supported in recognising and managing risk for themselves, through real life situations and experiences.