When it comes to providing new, innovative forms of learning and growth in education, it can be difficult to find the right inspiration, particularly if, as a teacher, you are limited to a set syllabus and must teach in accordance with a set of predetermined rules by that syllabus. Helping children to learn, while a tiring experience can be extremely worthwhile, but it can be hard thinking of new ways to encourage learning.
‘Forest Schools’ educational training courses endeavour to train teachers and professionals to help encourage and inspire individuals to better learn through outdoor play and by incorporating a woodland environment into their learning. ‘Forest Schools’ style of learning can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages and seeks to provide the ideal learning environment in which pupils can learn and grow as individuals. What are ‘Forest Schools’? Set up as unique, individual sites, a Forest School is less of a ‘school’ and more of a ‘site’ or location. It is set up in a clearing or cleared area of woodland, with access to warm clothing, food and drink and a safe, secure environment.
The purpose of the clearing is to provide a stable environment while at the same time giving children the opportunity to explore other areas of woodland such as dense flora, brambles and bushes that can prove to be hazardous. This is done in close supervision and will help with the balance, coordination and physical strength of the children.
The site is set up like a typical campsite clearing, with benches, a fire pit and wind breaks to provide comfort and protection from the weather. This can be premade or can be built with assistance from the pupils. Classes are held in sessions and are designed both around a theme and around the needs of your individual group. Many of the sessions will be in relation to the world you see around you, which is positively reinforced by the environment of the forest school. The Potential Benefits Children who engage in the forest school sessions will have their sense of wonder nurtured as well as their natural creative traits. By getting in touch with nature as well as completing physical activities, just as camping would pupils will improve physically and will also start to learn how to identify possibly dangerous and harmless plants and berries. Coordination and balance has seen improvements as well as concentration, as their surroundings are often related to the subject material.
Plus, as a break from regular teaching methods, many children will openly embrace a break in teaching and will be more willing to learn and absorb material in a different environment. The forest school session may actually work in the same way a holiday would; it breaks up the monotony, allowing the children with room to breathe. When they return to regular sessions they will be more open minded and willing to learn.
Booking a Course You can book a number of different courses for ‘Forest Schools’ training, and training courses are taken up to Level 4. If you want to be able to run a Forest School independently, you will need to complete a Level 3 training course. Assessment and a first aid course will be included to ensure that you are ready to start teaching ‘Forest Schools’ sessions.
With an emphasis on aspirations, inspiration and transformation, ‘Forest Schools’ are a fantastic way of creating an engaging and unique environment in which children of all ages can learn and develop. Plus Forest School sessions help to develop a sense of wonder and a respect for both nature and the environment which is crucial for children brought up in an environment that is so saturated with modern technology.
It is important for children of all ages to understand the effect nature has on our surroundings, and to establish this importance while at the same time providing a safe and engaging environment in which children can learn. Whether it is woodland skills, a sense of self awareness or physicality and balance, ‘Forest Schools’ endeavour to help children of all ages to grow and develop in a way that will truly benefit them in the long run.
With a background in the education sector, Mike James continues to be interested and passionate about developments and innovations within schools and early years education. He often writes about his finds and experiences for Bloo House, an independent school in Esher, Surrey that offers a unique learning environment.