At Dunton Green, we believe everybody should have regular access to a woodland or natural environment which provides them with inspirational and challenging outdoor learning opportunities. We aim to include these as much as possible across the curriculum. There are also after-school clubs designed to give children hands-on experiences in a natural environment beyond the curriculum. We are incredibly fortunate with our fantastic school grounds that wrap around our site and believe the children should be out in it as much as possible.
We have fully qualified Forest School Leaders who are able to provide programmes which promote holistic development in the children increasing their resilience and independence while helping them become more creative learners. Forest School is a learning process that offers children regular opportunities to explore and investigate in a woodland environment. It offers a learner centred approach, where children are given the opportunity to develop their curiosity, confidence, self-esteem, creativity, empathy, communication skills, knowledge of the natural environment and ability to assess and manage risk. Therefore, at Dunton Green, we aim to ensure all children participate in Forest School programmes at different points during their time with us.
Forest School is a really exciting experience which uses the outdoor environment to encourage independence, improve language and decision-making, and raise self-esteem through small achievable tasks. It is a child led kinaesthetic learning experience. The Forest School Leader sets up each lesson to follow on from learning in the previous session, with a range of activities which are linked to either the topic or a skill area that may have been identified as needing work (such as negotiation, listening skills, fine motor skills or management of energy levels). At the beginning of the session the activities are outlined and each child has the opportunity to explore these activities throughout the session. The child determines the rate, direction, depth and breadth of their learning. Some activities will lead to unset tasks. For example a child who was looking for leaves to create Andy Goldsworthy art may find an earth worm in our minibeast log area and spend the rest of the session observing the worm and its habitat.
The children are encouraged to revisit both skills and projects they have completed in previous weeks to see how time and the environment have had an affect on them and also to ensure that their learning is secure.
The activities at forest school are designed to improve the children’s resilience and self-confidence. The children are expected to have a go at everything and the adults will support them but not complete the task for them. We have seen a marked improvement in children’s ability to attempt an activity and articulate the kind of help they need rather than just saying “I can’t do this”. We have a limited number of tools and this means that the children need to use good communication and negotiation skills, we have also noticed an improvement in this area since we have been running Forest School. Team work skills are also developed as a number of the activities and tools require team work.
The children have learnt to listen carefully to instructions and now follow a wide range of complicated yet necessary protocols. They have developed an awareness of others needs and risk assessment skills.
The tool work we do helps with fine and gross motor skills which in turn supports handwriting. Even walking down to Forest School develops their awareness of other’s needs and their place in the community. Forest school has helped children work, learn and play with a wider range of children and shows the class teacher how they work in a different environment which can then be used to inspire and develop learning in the classroom.