It is essential for our children to have quality time amongst Nature, for their mental, physical and spiritual development. Children have a deep green affinity to nature, they are internally wired up to learn and play with their environment.– I love my World – Chris Holland
What is it ?
Forest School provides a unique opportunity for children to learn in an outdoor, natural environment. Developed from the Scandanvaian education system, children are able to engage in experiences that allow them to be creative, take measured risks and learn new skills, helping them to keep healthy and have a respect for nature. It offers a child centred approach, where participants make choices for themselves and initiate their own learning. Our Forest School programme links to all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage, in particular the prime areas of PSED, physical development & communication, and the specific area of understanding the world.
Forest School ethos:
The idea of Forest School is to allow children of all ages to explore the natural environment and the outdoors at their own pace, undertaking all sorts of challenges from climbing, building, making and managing fire, exploring, creating and understanding nature. The difference is that the approach is learner-led or child initiated. We don’t prescribe what they do, but establish a safe set of boundaries for our children to work within. The benefits are amazing – physical activity, engaging in challenging activities, social skills/teambuilding, problem solving, creativity, huge health and wellbeing benefits through engagement with the natural environment and many others – but mostly, it’s lots of fun!
How it works:
Our children play and learn in a woodland environment for a 2-3hr session on a week day morning or afternoon for a minimum period of six weeks. Every week will be a little different, but would typically involve a welcome song/story, introduction of an adult led idea or task – such as den building, building a camp fire, bug hunting, making things from wood or natural materials, stories, songs or wild art – followed by free play in a natural setting where children can explore, balance, build structures, play on a rope swing or a hammock, make mud pies in the mud kitchen or just be themselves. We usually cook outdoors – marshmallows or hot chocolate – in a fire pit where children will be involved in making and cooking their own snack. The benefits of FS are best realised over a longer-term period – an absolute minimum is 6 weeks, and every child will have the opportunity to attend Forest School during their time at our nursery.
Where is it ?
Bowerdean Forest School is held in Keep Hill Wood and Mapledean Forest School is held in Booker Hill Wood. Parents and carers drop and collect their children at the woods for the session.
How do we keep the children safe?
The site is carefully assessed before the session starts, and information is provided on any hazards and activities. Forest school encourages children to learn about risk and responsibility. By allowing children to take measured risks, we help to prepare them for making choices when they are older and teach them to be actively responsible for themselves and their actions. We have a higher ratio of adults to children at Forest School. We require consent and details from families attending including medical needs which are taken to site. Sessions will be run by a fully qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader holding outdoor paediatric first aid.
What if it’s bad weather?
‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’. We aim to go ahead in almost all weathers as the children will be wearing clothes that keep them warm and dry. If there are high winds, thunderstorms or very bad weather then the forest school session may be cancelled and we let parents know by 9am on the day.
What should we wear/bring?
Wear old clothes which can get muddy and are appropriate to the season. Waterproof trousers or dungarees are recommended. A spare set of clothes, just in case they get wet or dirty, especially a spare set of socks, is a good idea too. In cold weather, please layer up, you can always take a layer off. Base layers such as leggings, long-johns or tights under trousers help keep the cold out, and don’t forget – hats and gloves, warm boots/snow boots or lined wellies with warm and thick socks. In the summer it is essential that the children wear sensible, sturdy shoes/boots, and cover bare arms and legs with long sleeves – it’s always cooler under the tree canopy and we also protect our bare skin from prickles, sunburn, stings and bites. Children can also bring a drink and small snack to Forest School.
Keep Hill Woods – Bowerdean Nursery
Booker Common – Mapledean Nursery
We can provide all children with waterproof trousers and jackets for use in Forest School sessions. We ask parents to provide wellies, and appropriate hats, gloves and scarves according to the weather. Remember the sun hats for hotter days. If it is very warm, children should wear long sleeved tops and leggings/trousers to protect them from the sun, and possible insect bites or thorns.
The Forest School routine includes dressing in outdoor clothes as above, taking part in activities outside and enjoying a snack. Forest School operates in all weathers and activities include a circle time at ‘base camp’, tree climbing, mud pie making, bug spotting, sand and water play, hide and seek and role play.
Trained Forest School leaders ensure that the children have a high quality learning experience. Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Laffan and Mrs. Wetherell are all Level 3 qualified Forest School Leaders. There are clear rules and safety checks that ensure children have a good experience outside but remain safe.