What is Forest Schools?

Forest Schools are running in a huge variety of settings with a broad range of participants form early years to adults.  Whilst no two Forest Schools are exactly the same participants are encouraged to:

  • develop personal and social skills
  • work through practical problems and challenges
  • use tools to create, build or manage
  • discover how they learn best
  • pursue knowledge that interests them
  • learn how to manage failure
  • build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk
  • develop practical skills and physical ability
  • understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
  • explore the connections between humans, wildlife and the earth
  • regularly experience achievement and success
  • reflect on learning and experiences

The Forest School concept originates in Denmark where it is has been used extensively with pre-school children. Children attending forest schools were arriving at school with strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively and generally children had high self esteem and confidence in their own capabilities. This proved to be a fantastic foundation for learning that had a very positive influence on later academic achievements. 

A team from Bridgewater College visited Denmark on an exchange trip during 1993.  The team were so inspired by what they saw they set up a Forest School in the UK.  Forest Schools is now widely accepted as a valuable learning format and has been taken on as an effective educational tool in a variety of settings.

The philosophy of forest schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through an ongoing programme of positive experiences and participation in engaging and motivating achievable tasks and activities in a woodland environment. Forest Schools has demonstrated success with children, young people and adults. The developmental programmes run throughout the year with groups going to the woodland in almost all weathers. Children and young people work with tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, grow in confidence, self-esteem and motivation.

Forests Schools:

  • increases self-esteem and self confidence
  • improves co-operation, communication skills and awareness of others
  • increases motivation, self discovery and positive attitude towards learning
  • encourages ownership and pride in the local environment
  • encourages a better understanding of the outdoors
  • Increases the skills and knowledge of the individuals that take part

Activities might include:

  • shelter building
  • woodland and traditional crafts
  • developing stories/drama and meeting imaginary characters
  • art and sculpture work
  • exploring the landscape and history
  • playing team and group games
  • studying wildlife
  • rope and string work
  • fire lighting
  • sensory activities
  • tool use
  • cooking on an open fire        

Programmes and activities can be directly linked to almost any topic or theme of work, and there are limitless opportunities to connect forest schools activities to classroom based learning.

A Guide to Forest Schools in Wales is a booklet introducing Forest Schools published by Forestry Commission Wales

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