Forest school is a unique educational experience using the outdoor environment of the forest as a classroom. Young people involved in Forest School will use them on a regular basis over an extended period of time such as six months to a year.
An evaluation by the New Economics Foundation of two forest school projects in Wales highlights how they can increase young people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Forest School provides opportunities for learning particularly for those who do not do as well in the school classroom environment.
From the evaluation of two Forest Schools in Wales some of the success factors for running Forest School were identified and include:
- Prepare and establish site where all the sessions could be delivered
This allows children to become familiar with the same site and see the changes that take place over the seasons.
- Good access to the Forest School
Transport to and from Forest School needs to be reliable and travelling time should not be to long.
- Link activities to the school curriculum
If activities can assist teachers in delivering parts of the curriculum there is more likely to be support for Forest School.
- Use familiar routines and structures to sessions
Familiar routines are good for discipline, safety and the confidence of the children who may be in an unfamiliar environment.
- Enjoyment by the Forest School leaders and teachers
There is personal reward in seeing a child achieve something new. Being able to recognise positive results and celebrate achievements is key for a Leader’s motivation.
- Parent and carer involvement in Forest School activities
Strengthens the relationship between the school and community it serves by involving parents in Forest School.
About forest schools
Forest School is an approach to education that seeks to shape teaching to an individual’s learning style. It is not only focused on the acquisition of knowledge but shows that if learning is enjoyable and fulfilling a person grows and gains self-esteem through experiencing the process.
Forest School is a way of teaching that is attracting attention amongst education professionals. There is anecdotal evidence from teachers and others who have come into contact with Forest School that it can have a profound and positive effect on the way children and young people relate to each other and the world around them.
In the United Kingdom Forest Schools are still in an experimental stage and the impact of this different way of learning on a child’s academic performance, behaviour and general well-being is only just beginning to be explored.