The Forest School Ethos/Intent
At St Joseph’s we value a holistic approach to education.We are blessed at St Joseph's with fantastic school grounds that we use to continue the learning experiences for the children outside of the classroom in subjects across the curriculum. The Forest School approach encompasses the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social aspects to learning and development. Over time, children enhance their sense of self, community, belonging and sense of achievement. Forest School takes place in the outdoor environment involving open ended purposeful experiences for all, focusing heavily on the process of learning and encompassing all learning styles. Learners are encouraged and supported to follow their own lines of enquiry, exploring freely in our safe environment whilst also having the opportunity to take risks. This type of enquiry-based learning has been proven to develop self- esteem and confidence. This concept originates from the Danish approach to environmental learning and places a huge importance on the outdoors and the positive impacts this has on a child’s development. St Joseph’s aims to give every child the opportunity to reach their full holistic potential.
Principles and Criteria for Good Practice
The Forest School ethos has 6 principles:
Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Principle 5: Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Principle 6: Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning
St Joseph’s takes the safeguarding of all of its staff and learners seriously and adheres to all relevant legislation with regards to this. This safeguarding policy can be found in the handbook appendices.
Implementation-What happens at Forest School
At St Joseph’s our sessions are designed and led by our Forest School leader. These generally take place on a weekly basis in small or class groups of children. The session last between 1 – 2 hours. The sessions are designed to involve hands on activities and aim to increase learners' confidence in their own skills and abilities. Learners are given the freedom to explore and engage with the site at their own individual pace. Sessions are child centred and children are encouraged to explore their own interests.
Sessions involve the use of natural materials for activities such as:
- Building a range of sheltera
- Art and creative activities
- Learning about using knots
- Fire lighting
- Tracking animals
- Bug hunts
- Bird spotting
- Story telling
- Investigating the wildlife and plant life in the area
- Climbing and balancing
- Woodworking to make a range of items
- Creating bug homes and bird feeders and bird boxes
- Collecting, identifying and sorting natural materials such as leaves
The activities that take place have strong links both to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the national curriculum, covering areas such as maths and english, art, science, geography and history.
The Benefits of Forest School
Forest School is open to all ages and abilities and it aspires to develop the learners holistically. It adds value to children’s learning and for those children in particular that may struggle to learn in the classroom environment. Forest School sessions are proven to enhance children’s skills that are then transferred into the classroom environment where learners are found to be more motivated and showing higher levels of concentration.
- Confidence: children have the freedom, time and space to learn and demonstrate independence
- Social skills: children gain increased awareness of the consequences of their actions on peers through team activities such as sharing tools and participating in play
- Communication: language development is prompted by the children’s sensory experiences
- Motivation: the woodland tends to fascinate the children and they develop a keenness to participate and the ability to concentrate over longer periods of time
- Physical skills: these improvements are characterised by the development of physical stamina and gross and fine motor skills
- Knowledge and understanding: the children develop an interest in the natural surroundings and respect for the environment
Throughout each session, children become involved with the setting and understanding of the Forest school rules to ensure their safety. At the beginning of every session a quick revisiting of the rules is reinforced by the children following our Code of Conduct.