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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Lavigne

What is a Forest School?

Now adays there are so many different forms of education. How do we know what is best for our children. Here is a bit more info about Forest School, qualities which we use in our holistic program.

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 is a feeling you can’t put into words.’ Tonicha, aged 9

The ethos is shared by thousands of trained practitioners across the UK and beyond. Its roots reach back to early years pioneers in outdoor learning and across the sea to Scandinavia.

‘I don’t have ADHD when I`m out in the woods.’  David, aged 14

At Forest School all participants are viewed as:

equal, unique and valuablecompetent to explore & discoverentitled to experience appropriate risk and challengeentitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and developmententitled to experience regular successentitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other peopleentitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

This learner-centred approach interweaves with the ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference. Yet each programme does also share a common set of principles, aimed at ensuring that all learners experience the cumulative and lasting benefits that quality Forest School offers.

Principles of Forest School These principles were first articulated by the Forest School Community in 2002. They were reviewed in 2011 and sent out for a 5-month consultation to Forest School networks and practitioners in all UK nations. They were published on the Institute for Outdoor Learning Forest School SIG page in Feb 2012, and in the minutes of the GB trainers’ network.

FS is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.

FS takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.

FS uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.

FS aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.

FS offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.

FS is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice. See the full principles and criteria for good practice.

This ethos creates learning communities where deep-level learning and progression are the norm. Below, we’ve collected some recent examples of ‘Forest School moments’ from some of our directors to illustrate the kinds of things that often happen at Forest School.

You can also visit Forest School myth busting for information on what Forest School is not!

There are 2 main routes to establishing a Forest School programme for your group:

1. Employ (or contract in the services) of an existing Level 3 Forest School practitioner (see ‘How to choose a FS leader’) 2. Train one of your existing staff to become a Level 3 Forest School practitioner (see ‘How to choose a FS trainer’)

We aim to provide FSA endorsement programmes for leaders and trainers in the future, but for now the links above should help you. Do join us if you’d like to be part of our efforts to promote quality Forest School for all.

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