What are Forest Schools?

What are forest schools and where are they used? forest schools are becoming more popular but a lot of parents and carers aren’t aware of the wonders of forest schools and just how much they can do for their children. Let us answer that for you!

“If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.”

-Nicolette Sowder

Teddy Bear in Forest
If you go down to the woods today…Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Forest schools are becoming much more popular as of late, but many parents still aren’t aware of the wonders of a forest school and what they can do for their children. At present, there is an overwhelming physical and mental health surge echoing through schools across the UK. Primary schools are being urged to get children outside and encourage them to play and exercise; as well as educate younger children on the environment, sustainability, and the impact they can have on it.

It all sounds like a bit much at first. They’re kids, after all – but that’s just it! They are kids, and kids learn faster and retain knowledge better while they’re younger. A child who grows up around nature and adventure is more likely to grow up feeling like the world is at their feet.

What are forest schools?

Forest schools are essentially long-term outdoor activity hosts. Children will usually attend forest schools several times during the year, rather than just going once or twice. This is to help them build up more skills and get used to the idea of spending time in more natural outdoor areas. Forest schools aren’t dissimilar to Guides or Scouts; though instead of being led or directed, children are encouraged to find their own feet in their natural surroundings.

The activities don’t always take place in forests, any wide open and safe spaces are used. As long as the environment the children are learning and playing in is as natural as possible. Some forest school activities have been known to take place on a formal primary school’s own premises, or even in a nearby park area.

Interested parties should understand that forest school is just the name; it’s quirky, it’s fun, and it sums up the idea of the type of education your child or children would be receiving from these outdoor activities. Though some formal primary schools have their own forest school sections, there are also forest schools that run by themselves, with adult leaders who have trained to run the activities they do.

Learn more about the benefits of forest schools

Recommended reading

Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children
  • Dan Westall (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 05/07/2018 (Publication Date) - GMC (Publisher)
Den Making
Den Making! Photo by @shayleholliephotography

Where are forest schools used?

Forest schools are used all over the world. In any location where there is an open and natural area, a forest school activity can be run. Ideally, forest school activities are run in forests, Scout camps, or similar areas. But, as mentioned above, they are brought into any formal primary school, as long as the school has some kind of green area for the children to explore.

Most forest schools are short one-day or afternoon workshops, but some have taken to hosting weekends or longer. It really depends on the kind of forest school activity a parent is looking for, and what the hosting company can offer.

Interestingly enough, forest schools actually originated in Sweden under a different name. From there, the ideology of outdoor schooling took to the rest of Northern Europe; eventually making its way to the UK in the 1990s by Bridgewater College. It was Bridgewater College who coined the term “Forest School”.

Since forest schools were introduced here in the UK, activities are mostly run for children from early years to primary school age. Giving young children the chance to get involved in physical activity while learning about nature. There are very few opportunities available in forest schools for children at Key Stage 3 and above; but there are other options, of course! Forest schools aren’t the only way to educate people about nature and get them back to the outdoors, it’s just a safe and regulated way for young children to learn and get involved.

Recommended reading

The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick (Going Wild)
  • Danks, Fiona (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 03/15/2012 (Publication Date) - Frances Lincoln (Publisher)
Child Opening Conker
Have fun outdoors! Photo by @shayleholliephotography

What applications do forest schools have in standard schools?

Every forest school activity session is completed with the children attending in mind. Forest school leaders will work with primary schools and parents to ensure that the children going to the session will enjoy it and feel safe at all times.

If a primary school is going to become its own forest school, then the company hosting the activity will ensure that they stick to the primary school’s own rules and regulations, as well as their own specialised ones for the activities they’re running.

Taking children out of the classroom doesn’t mean they stop learning; it just means they’re learning in a different way. The balance between education and nature is much simpler than people may realise. Think of it this way: forest school activities are like an art class, P.E. class, and a science class all rolled into one. Children are free to be creative, free to run wild in a safe and regulated environment, and free to learn at their own pace.

The space the children attend forest school activities is a blank canvas. A setting that they can make their own using the games and activities that forest school leaders run with them. Forest schools are about giving children the option to be children and learn at the same time.

And, of course, if a parent is worried or anxious about their child being in a forest or on campgrounds, then that’s why forest schools have the option to bring their activities and workshops to a formal school’s location. Forest schools can help primary schools nurture children in an exciting and beneficial way. The time that children spend in these workshops is time that they get to explore the world and all of the new ideas that will come to them.

Child Playing Outside
Allow them to explore what’s under their feet. Photo by @shayleholliephotography

Does your child already attend a forest school? How does it benefit them? Let us know in the comments below. We love to hear your own experiences!

Recommended products to get started with forest schools

The Den Kit Company The Original Den Kit
  • Encourage immersive, exciting, imaginative outdoor play with our authentic Original Den Kit as outdoor play returns to its roots.
  • A handy haversack bag contains a robust and durable tool kit for den-building, enabling children to create their very own outdoor hideaway - Made for adventure.
  • Offering every child an outdoor experience whatever the weather, our Den Kits have been lovingly designed to capture creative imaginations, encourage resourcefulness and innovation, provide escape and sanctuary, and most of all supply hours and hours of simple fun.
  • Includes our wonderful handmade Shropshire wooden mallet with an imagination-capturing rustic look.
  • For boys and girls, for everywhere and for years to come - the gift of adventure.
Kids Army Den Making Kit - Camo Net - Includes Bag, Paracord, Pegs & Paint
  • 3mx2m Camo Net
  • 33ft of 4mm Paracord
  • 10 x 7" Wire Tent Pegs
  • 2 Colour Face Paint Stick
  • Camo Shoulder Bag To House Everything

Header photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

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