Forest School

is outdoor education in which children (or adults) develop personal, social and technical skills. The Forest School day takes place in a woodland, forest, or other suitable outdoor space in which physical investigation and teamwork are used to achieve goals.

Forest School aims to build independence and self esteem within children, by nurturing them in a natural environment where they have both freedom and responsibility. Children take on challenges such as tree climbing, shelter building, and whittling. This will give them new skills and opportunities to solve problems, and extend their physical abilities.

This approach can particularly benefit children who may lack in confidence, or whose behaviour is challenging.

Forest School is often led by childrens' own ideas, as they develop their interests. This is a good natural way of learning for most children, and is especially helpful for those who may not enjoy classroom work or just may not be comfortable with a teacher standing in front of them.

Forest School allows each child to feel secure in an outdoor classroom with a supervised lead, but able to challenge themselves with a task they want to do, in a structured organised manner. Boundaries are often set by the children themselves, giving them a sense of ownership, and encouraging them to understand others' views. This naturally brings about group discussion, developing communication and language skills.

Forest Schools Concept

The concept of Forest Schools originated in the United States in 1927. Laona, Wisconsin claims the world's first Forest School, originated by H.L. Russel, the Dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin.

Later in the 1950s the idea was introduced in Sweden, Denmark and other countries of Europe. In Denmark it became an embedded part of the curriculum for pre-school children (under seven years) stemming from their småbørnspædagogik, or 'Early childhood education'. Children attending Forest kindergartens were arriving at school with strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively, and high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities.

In 1957, a Swedish man, Goesta Frohm, created the "Skogsmulle" concept to promote learning about nature, water, mountains and pollution. With an increasing focus on measurable outcomes, forest schools have gained acceptance as an educational method in their own right. In Denmark, nature schools are popular with both school teachers and children.

The concept was introduced to the UK during the 1990s. Forest schools are now found throughout the country, following an education program true to the original ethos and certified by the Forest Schools Asociation.