Forest School has been defined by the Forest School England network as:
An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment. Forest Education Initiative, 2005a
There are several key aspects to Forest School that differentiate it from many other outdoor education activities. Although some of the individual features outlined below are not unique to Forest School, when brought together they provide an experience for children that they would not get elsewhere. These defining features are important as they emphasise how and why Forest School is different in terms of its benefits for children. These features can be describe as follows:
- The use of a woodland (wild) setting
- A high ration of adults to pupils
- Learning can be linked to national Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage objectives
- The freedom to explore using multiple senses
- Regular contact for the children over a significant period of time
Below outlines a time line which shows how our Forest School approach has developed over time:
The beginning of our Forest School Journey:
2012 – 2013 saw an exciting time for Beechdale Nursery School it was the beginning of our Forest School Journey. Below you can read about the first year developments and successes of Forest School for the group of children involved and for staff.
You can also download an information leaflet all about Forest School here at Beechdale and find further information linked to Forest School; what it is, how it began and what benefits it has on children’s learning and development.
In the first year we aimed to begin Forest School sessions for all children after Christmas in the Spring term. By this time all the staff will be ready to deliever the sessions and a full timetable put into place to run the sessions for all children.
Before the Spring term we will have already began to deliver some sample sessions with a select group of children to be involved with an exciting project in partnerships with the Early Years Team – Education Department, Durham County Council. The focus of the project is to further develop reflective Forest School practice. The images below show the children in action after just the first session in our special woodland.
During the next school year 2013 – 2014 we were able to deliver Forest School to all the children in Nursery across the year in small groups of 12/13 children for a 6 week block. All staff members worked alongside Gemma Cornes (Forest School level 3 trained) to help and assist the sessions, at the same time building their skills and confidence with the Forest School ethos. This year was extremely beneficial for all the children involved and they showed big developments in their progress in all areas. One member of staff showed a real interest and passion for Forest School, as a school we thoroughly value the impact that Forest School brings to our children therefore we decided to invest in further level 3 training for Mrs Bowyer.
In 2014 – 2015 we saw further developments for our ever growing Forest School. Mrs Bowyer was enrolled and successfully passed her Level 3 Leadership in Forest School and we had plans to extend her role to be the Lead Practitioner in Forest School not only in Beechdale Nursery but also in our newly formed federation with Consett Infant School up the road. Mrs Cornes also had the amazing opportunity to go on a study visit to Denmark with ‘Inside Out Nature’. Mrs Cornes gained recognition for her skills during the visit linked to learning environments in the Scandinavian Early Years Settings. She came back with more enthusiasm for outdoor learning and put a few changes in place as a result of her visit.
All images from Nature Kindergartens in Denmark
All children in Nursery continued to have their 6 week block sessions across the year and as previous years we saw huge benefits for all children.
2015 – 2016 – This year sees further exciting developments for our Forest School journey. We now have Mrs Bowyer who is Lead Practitioner for Forest School who is responsible for leading and planning the sessions we have of Forest School. Here at Beechdale Nursery all the children are now lucky enough to get the opportunity to have 2 – 6 week blocks of Forest School across the year. This provides the children with the opportunity to experience the magic of Forest School in both the Autumn/Winter term and the Spring/Summer term – given the seasons we have this provides the children with a huge range of opportunities and learning experiences in the woodland environment.
Mrs Bowyer is also working closely with Consett Infant School and now delivers sessions to groups of children from their reception unit. These sessions don’t just take place down in the Nursery woodland environment but at a local public site in Consett – Blackhill Park. Please see the images below which show the site where the magic happens!
Mrs Bowyer supported Consett Infant School to ensure they had a site developed and supported members of staff to begin to plan for and deliver sessions. Here at Beechdale our Forest School programme was fully established and all children accessed Forest School throughout the whole school year, one day a week. We looked closely at the growing needs of our Forest School and we decided to use some grant money to expend our space to ensure our growing resources for Forest School had a specific place to be stored and an area that could be used specifically for Forest School. In 2019 we had the additional of a fantastic Forest School hut.
The magic of Forest School continues. All of our children benefit year on year from the rich learning experience that is provided from Forest School. Our site and offer is now so established we often take part in external training for the Local Authority and share our expertise and practice for Forest School. Lets wait and see where our Journey takes us next…
We are excited to announce we now have an outdoor kitchen as part of our Forest School and allotment offer. We were lucky enough to gain bid for funding through the Tesco Community grant to add to and extend our outdoor offer. In partnership with the local Derwentside Collage we worked together to design and build our outdoor kitchen structure. Our children and families now enjoyed growing, cooking and eating our produce from our school allotment and cooking on our fire in forest school. Further developments this year include building an outdoor structure that can be used as a shelter for toilet needs.
Keep track of our Forest School journey by checking our website for regular updates.