What is Forest School?

Forest School has been described in various ways.

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)

“A Forest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning.”

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.

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)

A practical definition is:
FS 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.  (IFSA, 2017)

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.