What is Forest Schools?
'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.
Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and complements the wider context of outdoor and woodland education'.
Forest School Association- 2019
Forest School at Stepgates
At Stepgates, all children will be able to take part in Forest School sessions. This year, each class will take part in sessions across a 6-week period. Each class will be split into two or three groups and will travel to the farm in the school minibus.
Our aim at all Forest School sessions is to provide children with opportunities to practice and support their spiritual, practical, intellectual, communication, emotional and social development. This holistic approach provides opportunities to improve the children's personal development and understanding of their world. The sessions are not outcome driven; sessions are built around children's interests and needs. Practical activities, games and discussion are on offer to help support the children, to drive their interests and deepen their understanding of their own needs and knowledge of the world around them, developing their confidence at the same time.
By being in a natural environment, the children are able to face new challenges whilst giving consideration to the environment itself. The children are given the opportunity to learn about their impact on the natural world and what they can do to take positive steps to support its development.
Whilst at the farm, the children are given the responsibility of taking ownership of the site, working with Mr Ruby, the landowner, to ensure the woodland is looked after and maintained.
Our Forest Schools Site - Merrywood Farm
Merrywood Farm is a working pig farm in Lyne, Surrey. We are lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to use the woodland attached to the farm for our Forest Schools sessions.
The farm has had many previous uses, which included being a Lettuce farm and an 18 hole golf course! The children love listening to the history of the farm and seeing how it has changed over the years.
The woodland itself has changed considerably over the last 30 years. The development of natural areas and the woodland, has led to a far greater number of animals and wildlife inhabiting the woods. Woodland management and maintenance is an important feature of our Forest school sessions, ensuring the woodland continues to provide a rich environment for the species that have since returned to the farm, as well as animals who have been a regular feature on the farm for years. Our wildlife camera has captured some great video footage and photos, of just some of the wildlife that reside in the woodland.
The woodland has a variety of different areas to explore, different terrain to negotiate and a variety of trees to climb!
During sessions, the children take ownership for the site and work with Mr Ruby, the landowner, in taking steps to ensure the land is managed and maintained, whilst looking after the wildlife and the environment. This includes moving logs and fallen trees and discussing next steps for site development!
The children will travel to and from the farm using the school minibus.
What Do We Need for Forest Schools?
Forest Schools sessions take place in all weathers, apart from high winds. Waterproof trousers and a waterproof coat with a hood, or a separate hat, ensure that the children keep warm as well as dry, even in wet weather. This also allows the children to get changed quickly when they get back to school. Layers are the most important part of Forest School kit. Suitable footwear is also important to keep socks dry and feet warm! Waterproof, fleecy lined boots are great as they keep feet warm as well as dry.
On Forest School days the children come to school in their kit, so it is essential on these days the children have a spare pair of shoes to wear indoors, for when they return from their sessions.
Be prepared… the children will get dirty and wet; this is all part of the experience.
More mud = More fun!!
The History of Forest Schools
Although the Forest School approach seems quite a new concept in the UK, its roots can actually be seen in the development of outdoor learning dating back to the early 19th Century. This is evident in the scouting movement and development of Outdoor Education centres around the country.
In the early 1990s, alternative approaches to education started to be explored. Through visiting other countries, notably Scandinavia, professionals witnessed the impact of an 'Open Air Culture,' on children's emotional development and learning.
These philosophies and practices were adopted by settings across the UK, and it is from this that the concept of Forest Schools emerged.
Forest Schools Association-2019