What is a Forest School? Jackie Jeffrey of Play Action Ltd explains:-
Many years ago I was lucky enough to have teachers who used many different methods to help me to learn. I remember my times camping in the forest and finding out the names of the different trees and birds that I had previously ignored. I remember the feeling of freedom and pure satisfaction and now as an adult I seek that feeling whenever I’m feeling stressed or want to slow down.
When I set up my company, Play Action Limited, taking children camping was one of the first projects I set up. In September 2007, having just returned home from two weeks of heavy teaching in London, I sat in front of the telly to hear of more young inner city children killing each other and workers and parents talking about the despair of what was happening. So I turned off the TV, called my colleague Mo, and asked her if she would work with me to find a space to take children away from the madness of their environment and see if they could feel and learn something new and different, by whatever means necessary. She said yes, so I excitedly searched the internet and sent out a few emails telling people that I wished to set up a forest school and asking people if they had any suitable land.
Sooner than I could have anticipated we found a wood in Wales through Woodlands.co.uk that we could lease which seemed perfect – wildlife, a lake and an existing adventure playground. Within two hours we were walking around the most beautiful piece of woodland in full recognition that our dream could become reality.
Within a week we had our first group signed up for a visit. We took one young lad whom teachers say lacks concentration skills and watched him strip a dead branch bare for over an hour, totally immersed in the experience – if only his teachers could see him now! We have youth and play workers interested in the possibilities, and we are in negotiation with a number of charities and voluntary organisations in terms of access for all children including those with disabilities and additional needs. We hope to be totally operational by April 2008, with a woodland conference in June 2008. We intend to limit numbers to make sure we continue to look after and not destroy the gift we have been given.
I’ll keep you all informed but until then, if you want to find out more please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Forest Schools encourage an appreciation of the natural world and build self-esteem and confidence. This is achieved through regular visits to special woodland sites. Individuals can master tasks of increasing complexity and learn the associated social skills. A typical forest school programme involves:
- the Forest School leader talking to the parents/carers about the programme,
- finding and ensuring the safety of an appropriate local woodland site,
- the Forest School leaders getting to know the participants and gain their confidence before taking them to the woodland,
- the group (typically up to 12) visiting the same local woodland site on a regular basis (once a week or fortnightly) ideally throughout the year, except in extreme conditions,
- tasks such as building a shelter are broken down into smaller sessions such as learning how to tie knots or collecting suitable material for example. Since the sessions are learner-led they go at the pace of the learners so that everyone is included and noone is left to fail.
- The Forest School model is suited to people of all ages
Taken from Welsh Forestry Commission website: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5czhlp