What is Forest School?
Forest School is a learner-centred or child-led process with close links to regular curriculum objectives.
The success of Forest School is to a large degree dependent upon the skills of the Forest School leaders who can identify and capitalise on the varied opportunities for learning that emerge from the children’s interaction with the setting.
The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences.
By participating in engaging, motivating and achievable tasks and activities in a woodland environment each participant has an opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation, sound emotional and social skills. These, through self-awareness can be developed to reach personal potential.
KEY PRINCIPLES OF FOREST SCHOOL
OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE RISKS
what is forest school?
Forest School has been described in various ways:
A practical definition of a Forest School is:
Forest School is an opportunity for the same group of learners and leaders to spend a sustained period outdoors, once a week, in a wooded environment, ideally year round.
A regular routine is followed that is learner-led and facilitated by trained leaders. Learning is holistic and closely related to developmental stage and regular curricular requirements.
There must be a high ratio of leaders to learners, everyone must be suitably dressed and a risk/benefit approach to health and safety is followed by all.
“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. (FSA 2013)
The Forest School Association (https://forestschoolassociation.org/) has set out extended descriptions of the full principles and criteria for good practice that are very helpful.
Forest School is primarily about developing caring relationships with myself, with others and with the natural world through spending extended periods of time in nature.
It is an ethos or a way of being that values all learners as equal, unique and valuable; as competent to make decisions and as able to make choices and to initiate and to drive their own learning and development. Forest School must enable all participants to experience regular success and appropriate risk and challenge.
All six principles must be operating together in order that we can call what we are doing Forest School.
“A Forest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning. Forest Schools has demonstrated success with children of all ages who visit the same local woodlands on a regular basis and through play, who have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. Forest School programmes run throughout the year, for about 36 weeks, going to the woods in all weathers (except for high winds). Children use full sized tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated.” (Sarah Blackwell, FSE)
An Taisce Green Schools
CRANN Trees for Ireland
Native Woodland Trust
Leave No Trace
Field Studies Ireland
Heritage in Schools
Forest School Association (England)
Children and Natural Alliance of Canada
Outdoor & Woodland Learning in Scotland (OWL)
Lasmuigh – the professional practice journal for the Outdoor Sector on the Island of Ireland