Forest School

Forest School model

Investing in a comprehensive
development for children

Forest School is the name of the pedagogical philosophy that inspires us, and it usually describes an educational establishment that operates entirely outdoors, and in nature. As with other educational methods, a Forest School should be managed by qualified staff, and, in this case, there is a specific qualification, named “Forest School Leader”.

The Forest School concept appeared in Scandinavia, in the 1950s. The first record, at least, goes back to this decade, when Ella Flatau created a "Walking Kindergarten" in Denmark, where children went for daily walks in the forest. After a few years, it became common to find schools that took children to the countryside and in the 1970s and 1980s, it was commonplace to find forest kindergartens all over Denmark, mostly to deal with the lack of facilities for preschool education.

Forest School methodology

At a Forest School, children are encouraged to explore nature and acquire practical skills. The aim is for them to have a holistic development; in other words, all the areas of development are approached, in a comprehensive manner. For this to happen, learning will occur through exploration and play.

When we talk about Forest School, we talk about a specific location – forest, woods, a natural context. But this is not the only element that describes this approach. It is also described by its long-term commitment that encompasses all four seasons, where children explore and manage risks. Besides this, it is an approach focused on children's individuality.

We encourage children to reflect on their actions, how everything works, and how everything is related. With this, we aim for children to become resilient, self-confident, independent, and active, with strong physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, and emotional development. Also, the opportunity to run risks allows for the development of children’s innate curiosity and positive attitudes, using adequate tools.

What do children learn?

Several skills are in order; natural materials are made available and guidance is provided, while children are encouraged to choose their own direction. These skills include, for example, construction and using tools. A typical activity would be building a den, which requires dexterity, critical thought and a lot of teamwork.

As children learn how to manage these skills, they learn how to run risks safely, which is believed to be key for positive development throughout their teenage years. Besides this, they develop a social conscience, as they are taught to care for and protect the natural world.

Smaller children are encouraged to play with dirt and mud and undertake sensorial activities that promote a connection with nature. From here, it is common to work as a group on positive actions like litter picking and planting trees, and joint action is promoted to fight climate change.

Some typical activities at a Forest School:

  • Motor skills activities, like climbing trees and the swingings built with ropes
  • Sensory activities like the mud kitchen
  • Creative transformation of natural materials, using tools
  • Building shelters with a lot of teamwork
  • Nature recognition activities
  • Group games
  • A lot of free play using non-structured materials, like sheets and cardboard.

What about the benefits? Several studies have shown that children spend ever more time playing outdoors, which ends up resulting in a lack of physical activity and a negative impact on physical and mental health, which may even alter their physical development in adult age. It is undeniable that outdoor activities are healthy for the body and the mind. And that's not all! Spending time in nature helps create a connection with our surroundings. Children gain more knowledge about nature and get more envolved with the environment. We can only care for what we know!

We made a summary of some of the benefits of the Forest School approach:

  1. Improves problem-solving
  2. Enhances creativity and critical thinking
  3. Teaches how to respect nature
  4. Boosts confidence, resilience, independence and self-esteem
  5. Teaches self-care
  6. Supports a healthy growth
  7. Promotes calm and eliminates stress
  8. Promotes inclusivity

Forest School projects

Forest School projects are assured by professionals who maintain their continued professional development, using a high ratio of adults:children, always in compliance with the applicable legislation.

For more information, we think these videos illustrate very well what is being done in other countries in the domain of Forest School.

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