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Forest School

What is Forest School?


Forest School originated in Scandinavia in the 1980’s, where children don’t start formal schooling until the age of 7. However, they were used to spending a lot of time, usually 7 hours a day, in a snowy wilderness during their time at pre-school. 


I have been delivering Forest School sessions since 2010 and have seen the benefits that this form of education has to bring from the Early Years to Year 6 children. Forest School and Outdoor Learning is a way of connecting children to nature. A wealth of studies has shown that spending time in natural spaces has many health and psychological benefits for children such as reduced obesity, improved mental wellbeing, increased resilience and faster cognitive development. We hug trees, we look at seed heads, we stay away from stinging nettles! One of the greatest gains is children risk assessing themselves. Can I climb that tree and get down safely? What happens if I slide down that mud bank and hit that tree? Staff are always ready to suggest ways to help them, but not to provide the answer.


Children are also exposed to a higher diversity of species and microbes in the soil. Contact with friendly bacteria has shown to be beneficial to their immune systems. Children who spend more time in a wooded environment have fewer illnesses and are more receptive to learning. Being outside in the natural environment develops children’s sense of responsibility towards their local environment. They take more care about the world around them, for example, to notice when littering happens and want to protect their space. 


As a Forest School Leader at North Petherton, I have seen children flourish in the outdoors who may struggle in the indoor environment. I have also seen children that may seem confident in the classroom, not know what to do in the woodland environment. This is where true learning begins. Resilience is a key part of children being able to learn, whether it be indoor or outdoor. I know that children being allowed to be children in a wooded environment cannot be beaten. I plan activities related to the curriculum, alongside periods of free play. I encourage the children to laugh, dance, be silly, be themselves. 


This is the key to learning.


Judy Dawson-Cable, Forest School Leader