What is Forest School?

“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.

At Forest School all participants are viewed as:

  • equal, unique and valuable
  • competent to explore & discover
  • entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
  • entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
  • entitled to experience regular success
  • entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
  • entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

This learner-centered approach interweaves with the ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference. Yet each programme does also share a common set of principles, aimed at ensuring that all learners experience the cumulative and lasting benefits that quality Forest School offers.”

https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school

How does Forest School do this?

The 6 principles of Forest School

  • FS is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off event or infrequent visits to a local outdoor space. The cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review link each session to the next.
  • 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-centered processes to create a community for being, developing 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.

What does it look like in practice?

A great deal of fun and discovery. Sessions include natural free play - balancing on logs, climbing trees (with supervision, of course!) building dens, looking for bugs, evidence of animals, cooking on the fire, using tools to create, knots in ropes to build swings and walk-ways and much more. Developing awareness of the environment and the importance of assessing hazards and risks - learning to consider what might be a reasonable risk and to experience the consequences of choices made.  It is common knowledge that we learn best from our mistakes and Forest School provides opportunities to do just that and a place to celebrate our achievements too! 

Evidence

There is now a wide range of published data and evidence that children who take part in Forest School sessions develop better writing and speaking skills than those who are only classroom based; are able to concentrate longer on what they are doing; have improved social and personal skills, better physical health and work collaboratively within a team.

Some research papers can be found here - Research papers