‘The forest is the best classroom ever!’ was a very excited quote from one of our children during a Forest School session, and although I may be biased, I do tend to agree! I am lucky enough to have completed Level 3 Forest School practitioner training and get outdoors with the children for a whole day every week. Every year group from year 1-5 has a term of Forest School each year with a planned gradual progression in skills and knowledge, with a whole year of DOSE (Dixie Open Skies Education) every Wednesday in year 6.
We often link our activities to topics within school e.g. creating natural theatre productions for Shakespeare week, building Mythical Greek dens, investigating soil layers, inviting in a beekeeper and creating a 3D map of the woodland. Alongside this, we teach knowledge and skills such as identifying species, lighting fires, knots and using tools such as whittling knives, loppers, secateurs and bowsaws. And, of course, there is always time for a bit of fun such as capture the flag, hide and creep and making up our own games.
Everything is carefully and continually risk assessed, well-staffed and planned although there is always room for spontaneous activities, and we aim to include as many child-led activities as we can whilst teaching directly when needed. We are very lucky to have access to mature woodland on the local farmland but also have our own ‘Secret Garden’ woodland area on the school field which is constantly being improved and developed with input from the children and parents.
Being out in the forest is a fully immersive experience and contributes to the holistic approach to education where the whole child is given priority. There are clear and proven social, physical, intellectual, communication, emotional and spiritual benefits to Forest School, and we push towards independence, autonomy, perseverance, creativity, risk-taking and aim to develop resilience and well-being.