What is Forest School?
Forest School is an approach to learning where everyone can succeed. It originated in Scandinavia and was introduced into the UK in the 1990s. Children spend time exploring and learning outside, in the woodland and school grounds. Many aspects of learning can be taken outside including sessions based around curriculum objectives, team building and communication skills, and activities aimed at strengthening stamina, resilience and perseverance. Wheatcroft has been taking part in Forest School activities since 2004.
At Wheatcroft Forest School we aim to help each child to learn in their own way, raising self-esteem, building resilience and encouraging independence through practical experience in an inspirational, natural outdoor setting.
How does Forest School work at Wheatcroft?
At Wheatcroft, all children have access to Forest School. We teach elements of the curriculum outside throughout the year, across the whole school. In addition to this, Nursery go out every week and Reception go into the woods throughout the summer term. UKS2 take part in the John Muir Discovery Award in the spring term; this is a child-led conservation project. We have a fully trained OCN Level 3 Forest School Practitioner, many members of staff trained as OCN Level 1 and Level 2 Forest School Assistants and many willing volunteers to help. Teachers are given regular training updates and we have a range of resources.
Throughout the year we offer many Family Forest School sessions on Sunday afternoons or weekday evenings. Examples have been campfires, a range of visitors including a moth expert and story teller, natural art, orienteering, reading in the woods, shelter building, fire lighting and bug hunting.
Our Forest School Practitioner runs regular Forest School training courses for other teachers and teaching assistants, accredited by OCN, and will run or support learning outside the classroom staff meetings and INSET.
What are the benefits of Forest School?
Children love to be outside. They are active, experiencing life outside the classroom, which boosts their independence and self-confidence. We usually start with a game which will have an environmental, communication or social learning point. Then the main activity supports objectives from across the National Curriculum in innovative and practical ways. Science, Art, English, PE, Geography, Design & Technology and Mathematics are among the areas covered across the school. There is a freedom to explore using multiple senses to encourage creative and imaginative play. Learning to discuss any feeling of frustration when tackling new tasks helps to build coping strategies and resilience that can be used throughout life. Children learn about the diversity and identification of species, and respecting the environment. Also balance, co-ordination, gross and fine motor skills and general fitness can be greatly enhanced through physical activity.
How can parents help?
Please ensure that the school has up-to-date medical information and any relevant medication such as inhalers. Children need to be appropriately dressed for the weather, this may include woolly or sun hats, warm or water-proof clothing, wellies or trainers. Parents are always welcomed to join in the fun by volunteering to help (after DBS checking); some activities are not possible without a high adult to child ratio. We aim for groups of no more than 5 children to 1 adult. Also come along and support our family sessions and have fun in the woods with your children. Please speak to Katie Duffy, our Forest School Coordinator, for further details.
Forest School Events
Family Forest School – Christmas Decorations
On Saturday 14th December, we held our family forest school decorations morning. The children and their parents had fun making stars, snow flakes, trees, moblies and clay reindeers using twigs and leaves we collected in the woods.
Family Forest School – Fire Lighting
On Saturday 9th November, Key Stage 2 children and families were invited to a fire lighting morning. We looked at the fire triangle – oxygen, fuel and heat – things that all fires need to exist. Next, we thought about how to put out a fire by removing one part of the triangle. We also collected wood, set out, lit and extinguished our own five-minute fires. We finished off the morning by toasting marshmallows and making s’mores with a much-needed warm drink.
John Muir Award 2019
John Muir was a very famous conservationist who has inspired thousands of people to take a more active interest in their local environments and natural areas. Having undertaken some initial research, we instinctively wanted to find out more about how we could contribute to the conservation of our own school grounds and forest areas.
We have loved every moment of the John Muir work, it has made us appreciate our local areas more carefully and has inspired some of us to do more volunteering work in the environment and surrounding areas closer to our homes. We look forward to using this knowledge later in our lives.
Next time you are up in the forest, spend some time looking for our habitats!
KS1 Great Fire of Wheatcroft
KS1 have been learning about “The Great Fire of London”. Thet learnt about Samuel Pepys who kept a diary of the events and they also learnt about the plague which was also documented by Mr Pepys. As part of their topic, they made their own Tudor houses out of cardboard boxes and then set them alight in the “Great Fire of Wheatcroft”. The children couldn’t believe how fast the fire spread and enjoyed learning about how fire breaks managed to stop the fire.
Stickman Family Forest School Activity
In October we also had our first Family Forest School session of the year. The children read “The Stickman” by Julia Donaldson and then created their own stickmen and scenes from the story using objects from the natural environment. The parents loved exploring the school in a new way with their children and were keen to explore further in their own gardens and woodland areas.
KS1 Forest School Session
As part of our Science lessons, the KS1 children have been exploring the forest again. This time we focused on seasonal change (our current topic in Science). We enjoyed looking out for signs that spring was coming and looking for minibeasts. The children also drew an observational picture of the gathering circle and then drew a picture of what they thought it would look like in the summer. We spoke about seasonal change and it really helped to strengthen their understanding of our topic.
Alongside these activities we also incorporated some of our Geography learning. We enjoyed an orienteering activity, using maps and keys to create faces out of equipment. Once in the top of the forest, we enjoyed looking down on to playground and learning about aerial views to support our understanding of maps.