Forest Schools and Outdoor Learning
Forest Schools is an approach to outdoor learning (not necessarily requiring a forest!) and has been successfully embraced by other counties within the UK. The programme ethos not only reflects Early Years best practice but is also highly relevant to the Norfolk situation.
The idea of Forest Schools originated in Scandinavia, where outdoor living and learning is totally embedded in society. In Scandinavia there is a strong belief that nature and movement is essential to a child's overall development and well being. Most children, through their school years, spend one day per week engaged in learning activities outdoors, appreciating how to care for and respect the environment while also looking after themselves and others.
Forest School activities have been shown to:
- Give the opportunity for children to have a voice and make informed choices.
- Provide outdoor learning that motivates the children to develop the values, attitudes and skills required to appreciate, respect and care for their natural environment.
This helps to build skills such as recognising detail, questioning and investigation.
Children experience the handling of responsibility, rising to expectations and understanding the consequences of their actions. Positive teacher attitudes have a significant effect on children's self esteem and thus potential learning.
The outdoor environment offers an appropriate context in which to achieve this. The Forest Schools ethos offers itself as a powerful tool for developing emotional intelligence that could potentially set up children with life-long learning skills. Supporting children to fulfil their potential as naturally active explorers fulfils a deep and fundamental need. The opportunity to learn and develop in this way had a profound effect on well-being. Allowing individual children the opportunity to learn in a way that suited their schema/learning style had an especially significant impact on the behaviour of those whose inclinations were not easily catered for in class.
Forest School Activities Tree Spirits modelled by the children. These are said to protect the trees from high winds they also develop fine motor skills in the children!
Firelighting and then cooking is an activity that is undertaken after 6 training sessions. These involve collecting different sizes of wood and safe techniques for moving around the fire circle.