We want our pupils to:
- Respect themselves, respect others, respect all property, and respect their community and the World around them.
- Gain a respect for the natural environment and wildlife.
- Foster the enjoyment of the great outdoors.
- Have a positive attitude that encourages self-belief and develops their self-esteem and confidence.
- Become resilient, determined and independent learners.
- Advance their personal, social and emotional development.
- Respond to challenges and seize new experiences whole–heartedly.
- Develop and understand the ideas of risk management and risk benefit.
- Develop their imagination and creativity.
- Learn how to collaborate with others.
- Develop both fine and gross motor skills.
- Embrace the physical challenges that working outside can bring.
- Take an active lead in their own learning and development throughout their life.
- Develop the spirit of enquiry leading to life-long learning.
- Transfer negative behaviours into positive ones.
- Embrace the child-led approach to Forest School and have fun.
The aim of Cheswick Green Primary School Forest School is to encourage the development of children’s emotional, social and physical development through play, activities and exploration in an outdoor environment.
OUR VISION FOR THIS SUBJECT
Our vision for Forest School is to encourage and inspire every pupil to develop a real passion for the great outdoors and celebrate their local, natural environment. Through positive outdoor experiences and participation in engaging and achievable tasks, we wish for every child to learn how to look after and nurture the world around them. During Forest School sessions, we aim to provide opportunities that promote a child’s self-esteem and to encourage confident, motivated, independent, resilient and happy children.
“Forest School is an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment.” The Forest School Association.
Originally a concept developed in Denmark, children attending Forest Schools were found to have developed strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively and generally had high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities. These attributes proved to be an effective foundation that raised academic achievements and is therefore an excellent way to support the National Curriculum and consolidate learning in the classroom. Children who struggle learning indoors are often able to develop new ways of learning and coping with the world.
At our Forest School, children are encouraged to direct their own learning – this is often inspired by the Forest School Leader either through stimulating play in the outdoors or through ‘scaffolding’ a child’s learning, but mostly through simply observing how children are in the outdoors. The most important thing we believe is to encourage the natural curiosity present in children and to enable them to open their eyes and experience the wonders of the world around them.
The Forest School environment is central in supporting this approach to learning: the changing of seasons, the contemplation of an ancient tree, the dynamic nature of an outdoor environment – an infinite source of smells, textures, sounds and tastes and a range of visual stimuli all contribute to the Forest School learning experience.
At Cheswick Green Primary School, we have decided to expand and enhance the breadth of our curriculum by incorporating regular Forest School and outdoor learning sessions. This will become part of our weekly routine with each year group getting half a term of Forest School each year. It is our aim that this outdoor learning will uphold the high standards and expectations that our school sets for its pupils and serve as a cornerstone to increasing their life skills and experiences throughout their primary school education.
We aim to give all children a collective insight into the ethos of Forest School. Forest School builds on a child’s innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves. The Forest school learning environment provides opportunities for children to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, to form positive relationships with others, to develop a growing awareness of their emotional needs and the needs of others, to learn to cooperate and work with their peers and adults and to develop strategies in order to take risks within the boundaries of safety. This will hopefully allow them to transfer the skills and knowledge from the outdoor lessons into the classroom and life outside of school.
Forest School sessions happen whatever the weather – as the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” – the only exemptions being strong winds and heavy snow due to safety. Forest School sessions are planned to involve a mixture of both adult led and child initiated activities. Adult led tasks may involve the teaching and application of pure Forest School skills such as fire lighting, plant identification or whittling. Child led activities often support personal, social and emotional development or demonstrate the independent application of prior teaching and learning such as mini beast hunting, making a cake in the mud kitchen or foraging for resources to make a habitat for wildlife.
We measure the impact of our Forest School sessions through the following methods:
- Images and videos of the children’s practical learning.
- Child reflections at the end of each session – identifying what they have enjoyed and what new skills they have learnt.
- Parent questionnaires at the end of each half term.
- Pupil feedback.
Forest School should make learning more relevant to the children’s lives in the community and wider world. We encourage children to be responsible for and respect the local community and environment – giving them a sense of belonging and ownership of the place in which they live.
Forest School helps children to grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate.
- Social skills
Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social ties.
The sensory experiences provided by Forest School help prompt language development. Improving communication skills has a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem and is a crucial part of their development.
- Motivation and concentration
High levels of interest lead to high levels of attention. Spending time in Forest School is exciting for a child. It tends to fascinate them which develops a strong will to participate and concentrate over long periods of time.
- Physical skills
The increase in outdoor activity develops a child’s physical stamina and gross/fine motor skills. Activities that include running around and climbing trees also develop muscle strength, aerobic fitness, balance and coordination.
- Knowledge and understanding
Children develop an interest in the great outdoors and respect for the environment. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world will help in protecting the environment for generations to come.
- Improved mental health
Today’s children are experiencing increased stress caused by a range of pressures. Mental-health professionals acknowledge that maintaining a relationship with nature can be very helpful in supporting children’s emotional and mental wellbeing. When children really engage with Forest School they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently.
- Exposure to manageable risk
At Forest School, children can run and make a noise, get their hands dirty and experience manageable risk, which is essential for healthy child development, through activities such as supervised fire building and cooking.
- Enjoyable for the children
Forest School is fun! It is educational whilst also allowing children to play, explore and discover. Taking children outside of the classroom removes the pressures of academia and allows them to play to their strengths. This is beneficial to children who struggle in the classroom because there is more of an opportunity for them to learn at their own pace.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES IN FOREST SCHOOL
At Forest School we actively promote the inclusion of all children and adults into Forest School sessions, and we endeavour to ensure that the opportunities for learning, development and participation are available to everyone. Forest School promotes children's right to be strong, resilient and listened to by encouraging children to develop a sense of autonomy and independence. All children will be respected and their individuality and potential recognised, valued and nurtured. Forest School activities and the use of forest school equipment will offer children the opportunity to develop in an environment free from prejudice and discrimination.
Inclusion is about every child having educational needs, that every child is special and the school is meeting these diverse needs in order to ensure the active participation and progress of all children in their learning.
We aim to and are committed to:
- Providing a secure environment in which children can flourish and in which all contributions are valued.
- Including and value the contribution of all children and adults to our understanding of equality and diversity.
- Make inclusion a thread which runs through all of the activities of Forest School.
- Helping individuals to reach their full potential.