Forest School is a really good idea ... I got to do things with my son in the outdoors, which was great. I enjoyed every second! (Parent of Y4 child 2019)
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 complements the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.
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.
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-centred 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.
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. See the full principles and criteria for good 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.
Forest Schools Clothing
A part of the ethos of forest school is “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. The idea is that if sufficient, comfortable and appropriate clothing is provided, all children can enjoy the forest school experience in all weathers. The only exception to this is high winds and lightning, it not being wise to be under the trees if there is a risk of falling trees or branches, however other areas of our school grounds can be utilised.
It is recommended that all children bring the following kit to change into before each forest school session;
Boots – we find that a good pair of walking boots are much better than Wellington boots. Plastic wellies offer very poor insulation and children’s feet quickly get cold. If they must wear wellies, then several pairs of socks are essential.
Long trousers – both in summer and winter, to keep warm and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn.
Long sleeved top – both in summer and winter, to keep warm and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn.
Layers of clothing appropriate to the temperature and the season – in winter the children will need at least three layers to keep warm. We find that long johns or pyjama trousers, trousers and the waterproof dungarees work well for their bottom half, and for the top half, a base layer, fleece, long sleeved top and waterproof jacket is a good mix. It is best to avoid cotton next to the skin as it absorbs water rather than wicking it away from the skin.
Waterproof top and trousers or a waterproof all in one suit
Hat (for sun or warmth depending on the season) and waterproof gloves.
These should be old clothes or clothes that parents/guardians do not mind getting dirty. They will get dirty.
Children should change back in to school uniform after each forest school session.
In summer, it is recommended to wear long trousers and long sleeved tops because it is cooler under the trees and they help to protect from insect bites and scratches.
We also ask that all clothing is named so that any mix up of clothing is soon rectified.
- Sturdy Boots/ Shoes or Wellies
- Several pairs of socks if they have cold feet.
- Long trousers such as jogging bottoms, jeans or trousers. No leggings unless these are worn as a base layer.
- Long sleeved tops/shirts and jumpers to ensure the children’s arms are covered to protect them from the sun, scratches from sticks or insects that may bite and also extra layers to prevent them from getting cold.
- Waterproof jacket.
- Waterproof over trousers (or a spare pair of trousers if wet).
- Hat. (Sun or winter).