Learning

If you go down in the woods...

There is an estimated 3.24 million hectares of magnificent woodland in the United Kingdom – and it’s lovely to think that some of it is now being used as a backdrop to learning for kids. Forest School are growing fast in popularity. So how do they work, and what benefits could they bring your child?

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Education comes in many forms –and it doesn’t always have to be in a formal classroom setting. Children are constantly learning from everything they experience around them – and one very special way of doing it is at a forest school.

What are forest schools?

They are education centres that use the natural environment to encourage exploration. Forest School Leaders aim to nurture a child’s curiosity about the world around them, rather than directing exercises. Each child might be interested in a different aspect of nature and learning, and it is the leader’s job to develop this intuitive exploration.

This is a holistic education approach which allows children to approach risk and problem-solving at their own rate and own comfort level.

Forest School Leaders aim to nurture a child’s curiosity about the world around them, rather than directing exercises.

What are the key principles?

A main principle is child-led learning. Rather than traditional education systems which rely on a syllabus and teacher-led learning, forest schools encourage the curiosity and interests of your kids. Children can explore using the natural textures of the landscape to educate themselves.

Unlike traditional schools, there are no set outcomes and grading systems. While there is some planning, observations, and reviewing, the lesson plans can be altered in a collaborative way, with children and Leaders adjusting activities and exploration together.

Another key principle is respect and understanding of nature. Forest schools, as the name suggests, take place outside. The environment must be broad enough to encourage exploration, yet sufficiently confined to ensure children are monitored and safe.

Benefits of forest schools

Education through a forest school system fosters confidence in children. As they get to explore their environment free from influence, they can approach risks and decision-making on their own. This allows them to develop a strong sense of self, their own boundaries, and a better understanding of their role in interactions with the environment.

Another benefit is that forest schools can help to improve children’s physical wellbeing. They are centred around exploration through movement. This can refine your child’s fine motor skills, such as through detailed activities with leaves, as well as their physical stamina from prolonged periods of movement.

Whether you want to encourage your child to spend more time away from devices, or you would like to try a different method of learning, a forest school can help them to develop a better sense of self, their environment, and empathy with other children.

The forest school environment also helps to develop social skills and communication abilities. As children learn to interact with other children, they develop their language capabilities – including communicating their wants and needs as they lead their own exploration. They might also learn to recognise their own influence on the group as play and sharing is encouraged with the other children.

Whether you want to encourage your child to spend more time away from devices, or you would like to try a different method of learning, a forest school can help them to develop a better sense of self, their environment, and empathy with other children. And what better way to learn than to spend time exploring new environments in the fresh air?

Visit Muddy Puddles

THE FOREST SCHOOL HANDBOOK

By Naomi Walmsley and Dan Westall

(From GM Publications, price £14.99 paperback with flaps)

This handy-sized book, easy to fit in your jacket pocket or rucksack, is perfect for taking on adventures outdoors with the kids! It includes over 75 activities for children ages 5 to 11 on how to build simple but effective shelters and dens, how to tie an array of useful knots, how to collect and filter water, how to forage safely and a multitude of other outdoor crafts that will give them confidence and a life-long love and appreciation for nature and enjoying it responsibly.

Visit amazon.co.uk

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