What is a Forest School and what does it mean at Little Leigh Primary?
Forest School is a long term process of usually 6 weekly sessions. Each session is linked to the other and can support other subjects being taught in the classroom. The activities usually take place in a natural environment, woodlands are ideal.
The aim is to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
At Forest School, all Little Leigh Primary School pupils are viewed as:
- equal, unique and valuable
- competent to explore & discover
- entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
- entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
- entitled to experience regular success
- entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
- entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world
Forest School offers a huge range of activities for our children. Mr Agnew, our Forest School Leader, will give the children some direction and is always ready to help, but the sessions are essentially child led. For instance, we could be involved in one activity but the children could take us down a completely different path to the one planned. For example, the children may be involved in building dens using all the available natural materials. Through the process they may discover that they can make seesaws or balance beams. This discovery fosters the risk management side of the programme.
What do you do in Forest School?
Outlined below are some of the activities that we do at Forest School at Little Leigh:-
Making stickmen: This gives the children the opportunity to improve craft skills. They can be as creative as they want to be, by decorating their stickman’s head with leaves, grass, berries, sticks etc. This then leads on to making homes within the woods for the stickmen, allowing their design and imaginative ideas to run wild. These activities are ideal for sharpening fine motor skills and stimulating the brain.
Den building: Everyone, young and old, enjoys building dens! Some of the ones created by our children are fantastic looking structures! Den building is usually a group activity which allows for team building and social skills improvement.
One of the main outcomes of den building is that the children learn to manage risk. Some of the dens are built using quite long sticks, so the children have to learn how to move them, and then erect the den, safely and securely. All this encourages co-operative behaviour and taking responsibility.
Fire lighting: The last Forest School session usually ends with everybody sitting around a fire, either toasting marshmallows or baking a cake inside an orange. The children learn to treat fire with respect and how to be safe near fire. As well is learning about the scientific side of fire lighting, and understanding what elements are required to start a fire, they learn to keep a fire going and how to put it out. It’s a great social occasion and brings lots of smiles.
Games: An example of a game we play at Little Leigh is ‘Bat and Moth’. Children form a circle around three other children, one of three is a bat and is blind folded, the other two represent moths and have their legs tied together because they move slower than the bat. The object of the game is for the bat to tag the moths. The children in the circle act as the bats radar, shouting hotter or colder to help the bat in his task. As well as being a physical activity that all the children love, they learn all about bats and how they hunt.
Art: We also undertake art projects using natural things we find in the woods. Autumn is a fabulous time for this because of the variety of different colours that are available. In addition, we will use leaf charts to identify trees from the various leaves thus improving the children’s knowledge of nature.
Review: We also use the log circle to review and reflect on what activities we’ve been involved with. This is a great way of improving confidence and building on listening and communication skills. Everybody has the opportunity to have their say; even the shyest child will happily tell the group what they have made or constructed in that session.
How does it link to the curriculum?
Mr Agnew will always try to plan Forest School sessions so they support classroom themes. For example, during the Year Six topic of Christopher Columbus, the children constructed his ships from sticks, both on small and large scale, made maps using natural resources and made Native American jewellery using elder, cane and wooden discs which had been cut and drilled by themselves.
Children get a feel good factor being outside and there is lots of research that suggests just walking into a woodland increases serotonin levels.