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.