Research now backs up what forest school practitioners have known all along – that children and young people are stimulated by the outdoors and typically experience over time an increase in their self-belief, confidence, learning capacity, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving skills and emotional well-being.
At Forest School children are physically active a lot of the time and their stamina improves as they go through their forest school sessions. Their experience can also help to lead to the development of healthier lifestyles as children ask parents to take them on trips to woodlands and green spaces outside of school times. As the children gain confidence and improve their self-esteem this can impact on their emotional and mental well-being.
The wild and yet controlled, safe environment of Forest School ensures that children taking part naturally learn to assess risk and encouraged to make sensible and informed decisions about how to deal with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations ( such as exploring or climbing trees, using tools to build shelters and dens). Much of the learning for a child comes as a result of the opportunities they have for testing their own abilities in a real life context.
Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation
Forest School sets learning in a different context for children where they can undertake a range of practical activities and carry out small achievable tasks. At Forest School children can develop their team working skills and also learn to become more independent. Those who are unfamiliar with woodlands and green spaces can become confident in using them and this can form the basis of a life-long relationship with natural spaces.
Develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges
Forest School helps children to develop their confidence. As they become familiar with Forest school they can take their new-found confidence into school and into other areas of their lives. Forest School can be particularly effective for children who do not do well in the classroom environment. Children learn to solve problems and be creative and imaginative at Forest School thus showing enterprising behaviour.
Forest School at King Square Nursery
Since September 2015 all of the children have benefitted from local trips to forest/ green areas. It started from a trip to St Johns woods. This was more of an induction to the forest and just to give the children a chance to explore the natural environment. The children loved having the chance to climb the trees and watch the leaves run down the stream.
This then got us thinking and researching about the benefits that forest school has on children, especially those with additional needs. King square nursery is in the borough of Islington and is located under a high rise block of flats. Many of our parents and children live in flats and do not benefit from having garden areas. This is one of our main reasons behind forest school as many of our children and parents are not accessing natural environments. Through discussions with the parents it become clear that the majority of children’s trips out with parents were to swing parks, rather than natural spaces and forest areas. Some parents had never been to a forest area before so we knew this was an area that we wanted to develop for not only our children, but our parents.
We then signed up for seasonal sessions at Barnsbury woods. These sessions were planned and supported by a forest ranger.
The sessions supported children in
- Naming the seasons
- Talking about the changes in the different seasons
- Naming and using all five senses
- Building on their confidence to explore the natural environment
The great success of Barnsbury woods led us to plan a trip for the whole nursery including the children from the 2 year provision (St Luke’s). We filled up 2 coaches of both children and adults to visit Epping Forest, we had planned the day around previous activities and observations of children’s interests and skills. We organized four different group activities for the day which included den making, treasure hunt, the use of cameras and a planned tour by the forest ranger. The trip to Epping Forest was an adventure and learning curve for us all.
We have noticed many benefits already from the forest trips that the children have attended. There has been an increase in the amount of physical exercise that the children have been doing both in the nursery and whilst out with their parents. It is also good for the children to be out in the fresh air and exploring the natural environment. The children have also become more in touch with nature and their surroundings. Families are making use of wild spaces and have been visiting these over the weekends and holidays.
The forest school experience has shown to be hugely beneficial for children with a range of emotional and developmental needs. This has become clear through the children’s behaviours and observations. There has been a calming effect on the children when exploring the natural environment. Rather than using classroom resources and equipment, children can use natural materials found in the woodland and enjoy activities such as collecting sticks and leaves, tying knots, making dens, handling tools, using twigs to write in the mud, climbing trees, jumping across stones and building fires.