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Forest Schools – Education and Woodlands ~ by Jackie

Forest Schools - Education and Woodlands

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 [email protected]

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

Posted in: Woodland Activities ~ On: 8 February, 2008

5 comments so far

Faye Williams
26 June, 2012

Hi Jackie! Congratulations. It’s a great feeling doing what you love the most, how are you getting on a few years down the line?

CELEBRATE WOODLANDS! an invitation | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
6 November, 2010

[…] and beautiful crafted wooden objects, joining in community woodland work, using woodlands in education and for active play, rising to challenges in wild camping or bushcraft skills, or simply finding a […]

Patrick Ayling
26 February, 2009

I have an allotment plot and would like to know to build one or how much would cost to come on your training course

19 March, 2008

Hi Jackie ~ This sounds like my kind of thing. I am very interested in reading more of what you are doing in the future. My daughter and I are planning to open a center for people to come to, to relax, be in nature and have fun, like you say, away from everything. Our inspiration is my grandaughter who is 2 1/2 years old and we want to give her a ‘better life’ life with the freedom to be herself. My daughter will also homeschool and she has her own home school website. You find her the link to her on my site. If you like to contact me me some ideas, that would be lovely… I hope that soon we will meet up on one of the events.


Gillian Hall
17 February, 2008

Congratulations… and Best Wishes in the success of this much needed venture! A dream very close to my own heart… it works!

I have worked with young people in ‘care’; ‘Adventure Playgrounds’; Playwork; Community Arts; Lone Parenting; and most recently – Advocacy; Homelessness; Mental Health; Drugs & Alcohol issues… also, ALL ages and abilities in the latter ‘groups’ mentioned…

Social exclusion and isolation are more prevalent and damaging than is fully recognised.

I have witnessed (and at certain times, personally experienced)the disabling affect of loneliness resulting from varying factors, including the lack of opportunity for building healthy/authentic contact and relationships with others, alongside the extremely limited opportunity for access to the natural environment – the value/rewards of this experience to health, quality of life, enjoyment, understanding, skills development and education cannot be overstated – regardless of social / cultural /age /ability differences.

My own long term hope/dream of establishing a project for the benefit of young people began in my early years working with ‘disadvantaged’ individuals, has been delayed and modified en-route by my own life experiences… however, I still HOPE I will be able to realise a place to live where my enjoyment of the REAL world can be constructively shared with others who would benefit from ‘breaks’ and the experience of all the natural environment has to offer. No guarantees that I shall manage to fulfill my plan, but you will… thank you!

Hence, “CONGRATULATIONS” and “GOOD LUCK” to you and all others who are actively helping others have improved quality of life experience and offering positive choices and opportunities … despite bureaucratic and financial challenges. May good practise prevail… and nature teach us all.

Gillian Hall

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