Outdoor Learning & Forest School

What is Forest School?

Forest school is essentially outdoor, nature-based learning that focuses on the holistic development of the child. In forest school, activities are provided, but rather than being adult-led, each child chooses and tailors the activity to suit them, while the leader observes their preferences and development. Lots of schools arrange occasional outdoor activities for pupils, but forest school is a regular, long-term process, rather than a one-off. Typically children will attend forest school sessions six to 12 times a year, ideally throughout the four seasons.

Despite the name, forest school can take place in any natural outdoor environment, which may be on school premises or in the local area. Forest school is child-centred with a high adult to child ratio. Observation, rather than direction, is key, and children learn to care for the natural environment through their activities.

The benefits of Forest School:

Forest school helps children develop many skills that are hard to teach in the classroom.  It’s very physical so it encourages children to be active, with lots of activities to develop both fine and gross motor skills.

Children learn to assess, appreciate and take risks, making sensible, informed decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter. They’re learning to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem.  Through trial and error they learn to deal with failure and develop the resilience to keep trying: a vital skill in the classroom as well as outside.

Forest school ties in with many areas of the National Curriculum. For example, being outdoors year-round helps children learn about weather and the seasons, which are part of the programme of study in Geography, studying mini beasts and plant life relates to the Science curriculum, and working on tasks like den building and woodwork links with Design and Technology.

Children also benefit from the simple act of being outdoors. Research has shown that it improves mental and spiritual health, communication skills and social relationships, among other things. Connecting with nature helps children feel part of the world.  

Forest School Activities:

Because forest school learning is child-directed, the scope of the activities that can take place is enormous. Typical activities include:

  • Sensory walks
  • Foraging
  • Shelter building
  • Mini beast hunt
  • Campfire cooking
  • Woodwork
  • Nature art
  • Games like Hide and Seek
  • Fire building and lighting
  • Puddle and mud jumping