is a branch of education where children have regular contact with the outside ‘classroom’. This is often an outdoor area in a woodland or forest area where trained practitioners set parameters in a controlled setting where children can explore and learn in a secure outdoor environment.
Children have forest school sessions built into their curriculum and have access to the outdoor setting as a regular part of their learning. During these sessions children might be den building, climbing trees, building fires, learning about the plants and creatures in the natural world around them, to name but a few. Practitioners in the forest school employ the same cycle of planning, observing, reviewing and adapting as practitioners in a ‘regular’ classroom setting, to build and extend children’s learning.
Over a period of time of regular forest school sessions children will develop many skills and benefits to their development:
- Being healthy – being in the fresh air, children naturally get exercise while exploring the natural environment.
- Gross and fine motor development - Running, skipping, jumping, climbing, negotiating uneven ground are all excellent ways to develop gross motor skills. Collecting twigs or leaves, mixing mud pies are just a few of the great fine motor activities children participate in.
- Risk taking - children have opportunities to assess and take controlled risks in real life situations such as climbing trees and using tools.
- Social skills - children will often work or play together with others; exploring together and talking about what they find, role playing, story telling.
- Communication - children often want to talk and ask many questions about what they find outside.
- Concentration and Motivation - the outdoors is an exciting, stimulating and fascinating place where children often concentrate on activities for long periods of time.
- Many of the activities children experience when learning outside promote their Problem solving skills and develop their confidence and independence.
At BISB we have been providing our Early Years children with weekly forest school experiences, either in the outdoor area within the school grounds or in the local woodland.
Children have experienced building a fire, where they can toast marshmallows and pop popcorn. They have learnt about the local wildlife and how they can support animals in the cold winter months by building a hedgehog shelter and creating their own bird feeders. Even mythical creatures have been included and the children have made their own garden fairies out of natural materials found in the environment, to decorate the outdoor setting.
One of the lovely things about the outdoors is that it is a constantly changing environment, no more so than with the changing seasons. Currently the children are watching how tiny buds and shoots are forming and beginning to open and bloom, they are learning about the life cycles of plants and what plants need to grow. They are learning about new animal life as Spring brings the animals, birds and insects back to the gardens.
As an Early Years practitioner I enjoy seeing the learning that takes place outdoors and often see a different side of my children when they are learning outside. I encourage you to take the children’s learning outside the classroom and see what can be achieved!
Helen Giddens, Reception A Class Teacher & Reception and Year 1 Phase Leader