The Forest School Approach to Learning
I often get asked what is Forest School and how does it differ to outdoor learning? Well I love teaching outdoor learning but in those sessions I have a fixed goal in mind whether it be teaching life-cycles or how to build the best den, the structure of the session is set by me. However in true Forest School sessions this is different....
Before setting foot in any outdoor environment Forest School’s approach to learning is unique in the way it looks at the “whole child”. This type of learning addressed all a child’s separate needs be it physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Forest school is about how a child builds a relationship with the natural world around them, and how it can help them develop self-worth, confidence and an appreciation for our environment.
Forest school uses the open space to give the child a chance to explore, this taps into a child’s natural sense of curiosity, which, in turn encourages the child to interact with their surroundings on many levels. This use of “free play” allows the child to learn at their own pace and concentrate on what is interesting to them most at the time. Forest school also encourages “managed” risk. This, after careful observation of the child, puts trust in them to carry out tasks which, to the casual observer may appear too high risk for a child to do. For example, the use of tools and fire lighting can be introduced when the practitioner feels that the child is ready.
Although called “Forest” schools it is also worth noted that an expansive outdoor area isn’t what is important about the sessions. Instead it is the ethos around free-play and allowing the learners to lead the sessions which is important. Forest school sessions are just as beneficial in a school playing field or local park than in a heavily wooded area. There is however, an emphasis on the importance of “regular” continuous contact with the outdoors and it is agreed that weekly sessions over a prolonged period of time are required to make a marked different on children’s self-esteem and confidence.
The practitioner who is carrying out the sessions is fluid in their approach and prepared to adapt sessions depending on mood of the group to best suit their needs. This “child-led” approach is adopted by Forest Schools as they believe that a child will develop more if they are given some control over what they are doing. The practitioner’s own process of self-evaluation is important to the overall development of the Forest school as we are constantly looking for ways to improve our practice and develop sessions tailored for each individual group.
Hope this clears it up!