Locking Forest School
Forest School builds confidence, independence, creativity and resilience through use of outdoor activities using the outdoor environment. It is an approach to, not only taking learning to the outdoors, but of using the environment to build self-esteem and confidence.
We will plan lessons incorporating the curriculum but we will be led by it not driven by it. Each lesson plan will be flexible so if it is taken off in a difference direction due to a child’s questioning then that’s fine. Adults will facilitate learning and avoid telling the child what to do, but rather aim to be encouraging, where observation is key.
Forest School will take place in all weather conditions, with the children learning from the unique environmental changes and season variations. The freedom of the outdoors allows the children the opportunity to experience new activities - examples of which are fire lighting, using saws, peelers and hand drills to make pendants or wands, building shelters and cooking home grown produce from the school.
Experience in other settings has shown Forest School to be inspirational, opinion changing and challenging. It raises expectations and develops insights into individual learning styles and schemas. It is personally and socially uplifting so laying the foundations for other learning. Unlike other forms of outdoor education which generally concentrate on team-building, challenging activities or competitiveness, the Forest School embraces an entirely different approach through the nurturing, support and development of the self-esteem of participants.
- Conduct a risk assessment of site within an hour of site being used.
- Ensure child to adult ratio is correct
- Ensure all adults involved in forest school have read and understood handbook
- Ensure kit bag is complete and all kit checked.
- Gather children and ensure they have correct clothing/footwear.
- Make a flask of hot chocolate (cold drinks in summer)
- Check medical consent forms are in kit bag
- Complete register
- Run through safety talk
- Introduce activity and set children to the task
- Give lots of praise and encouragement
- Towards the end of the session, come together as a group, have a warm drink and discuss the sessions learning.
- Collect all equipment and ensure the area has been left in a suitably manner with any potential hazards removed.
- Write up any notes/concerns about session for future use and evaluate for future planning
- Check kit and return to storage in good order – ensuring waterproofs are dry, kit bag replenished
- Ensure children are returned to classroom
We use a designated site within the school to help ensure any features set up in the site will not be inadvertently destroyed by others. We constantly monitor its ecological effect and move activities around the site to limit the impact and over use of an area. Children are encouraged to walk on the paths when possible and we explain to them about the damage of picking living things to encourage them not to do so. When building a fire, we have an established fire circle and use a fire pit to limit the damage to the surrounding area. We aim to leave the area as we found it or to improve the conservation.
Parents/carers will be informed in advance of their child taking part in forest school – and they will have to sign a consent form. They will be notified of the forest school ethos and aims plus informed of clothing/equipment their child may need. Emergency contact details and any relevant medical details including allergies will need to be supplied and taken to each forest school session.
A copy of the schools insurance, that covers forest school, is contained in the handbook. This complies with the guidelines of the schools health and safety policy.
Mrs Denise Garfield
Forest School BTEC Level 3 Advanced Award in Forest School Leadership (pending)
Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools Advanced Apprenticeship
Paediatric first Aid 2 day
Mrs Nicola Peach
Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
Toilet and shelter
Locking Forest school is based on the school site so toilets are available to use. However we do discourage this as it can disrupt the session. Children are invited to use the toilets before the start of forest school. If a child does need to use the toilet during a session, a responsible CRB adult will escort them.
Forest School will continue in all weather conditions except high winds or electrical storms when it will be moved indoors. In the case of heavy rain, a shelter will be constructed and activities will take place underneath. Weather conditions are included in the risk assessment.
Eating and drinking
Children will be prevented from eating anything found in the forest school site, such as berries and seeds but will be educated about them to increase their awareness. They will be reminded to keep their hands away from their faces in case they have touched anything poisonous. If food is eaten outdoors, children will be given hand gel/wipes to use before touching it.
A copy of the forest schools risk assessment form is contained within the handbook. Within an hour before every session a risk assessment is done to check for any further hazards. If there are any hazards these are dealt with then are written into the risk assessment to be checked for the next session.
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.
Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.
‘Forest School is a feeling you can’t put into words.' Tonicha, aged 9.
The ethos is shared by thousands of trained practitioners across the UK and beyond. Its roots reach back to early years pioneers in outdoor learning and across the sea to Scandinavia.
‘I don’t have ADHD when I`m out in the woods.’ David, aged 14.
Principles of Forest School
These principles were first articulated by the Forest School Community in 2002. They were reviewed in 2011 and sent out for a 5-month consultation to Forest School networks and practitioners in all UK nations. They were published on the Institute for Outdoor Learning Forest School SIG page in Feb 2012, and in the minutes of the GB trainers’ network.
- FS is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
- FS takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- FS uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
- FS aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- FS offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- FS is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
This ethos creates learning communities where deep-level learning and progression are the norm. Below, we’ve collected some recent examples of ‘Forest School moments' from some of our directors to illustrate the kinds of things that often happen at Forest School.
You can also visit Forest School myth busting for information on what Forest School is not!