Written by Laura Rodemeyer, EYTS, Qualified Forest School Practitioner
We want our children to feel a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their environment, have a sound knowledge of the flora and fauna that surrounds them and to be able to recognise the beauty and importance of the natural world. The Forest School approach is a useful tool to achieve these goals, giving children opportunities to learn about and explore the world they live in.
What is Forest School?
Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.Forest School Association
How do we implement Forest School at Alphablocks Nursery?
At Alphablocks Nursery School, we empower children to become confident, lifelong learners. We recognise the importance of play, exploration and critical thinking in order to achieve this. Our educational approach incorporates different methodologies.
During the Forest School sessions at Alphablocks, children are able to follow their interests, ask questions and come up with their own solutions to challenges they encounter during exploration and various activities. Whilst the sessions follow a certain structure, they are highly led by observations of the children and their own interests, following a learner-centred approach. Play and choice are an integral part of Forest School sessions, as well as opportunities for supported risk-taking.
We believe that the Forest School ethos perfectly aligns with our mission statement, giving children the opportunity to learn and explore on their own terms, develop cognitive skills and become confident in their abilities.
At Alphablocks Nursery, Forest School sessions take part two afternoons a week and are led by myself as a qualified Forest School practitioner and supported by my colleagues, who are qualified teachers with other areas of expertise. This ensures that children have regular exposure to the natural environment and can build on what they have previously learnt.
We are lucky enough to have several woodland areas in close proximity to the nursery, enabling us to use different areas to achieve different learning goals; as well as a big outdoor area with trees right in front of the setting.
Some key benefits of Forest School sessions
Children benefit from regular Forest School sessions in a range of ways. Forest School is a holistic approach: Using all their senses, children can explore, investigate and ask questions about the world they live in. Through achievable challenges, children grow more confident and independent. Spending time outdoors benefits children’s physical health, making them more resilient to illnesses, improving mental health and wellbeing and helping children to concentrate better when learning back in the classroom.
During the sessions, children will learn about the local flora and fauna (trees, plants, animals) and recognise their use and the risks they pose (for example stinging nettles can be used to make tea but will hurt our hand if we touch them). Children will develop their physical skills by climbing trees and fallen logs, learning to steady themselves when walking up and down a slope and learn to judge whether or not the ground is safe to run on.
Children are given the freedom to explore and are trusted to follow the rules. Tool work may play a big part in some Forest School sessions and children learn safe ways to use these. This boosts children’s confidence and has a positive impact on their self-esteem. Using only natural materials, children can let their imagination run wild, build role-play scenarios and use resources creatively.
Forest School aims to foster a relationship with nature through regular personal experiences, which develop long-term, environmentally sustainable attitudes and practices in staff, children and the wider community.
For more information and further reading: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/