At Haydon Abbey School and Pre-School we have taken on the Forest School ethos. We have 6 qualified Forest School Leaders throughout our school, each Forest School Leader runs sessions each week.
Forest School is an inspirational concept, which is designed to provide children with opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence, self-esteem and risk awareness and management through hands on experiences in the outdoor environment. This is done through participating in a range of practical activities and experiences outdoors. Even though the name of the concept is Forest School the outdoor environment does not necessarily need to be a forest itself. It can be any suitable outdoor environment that is set up under the Forest School ethos. This ethos is to provide the children with the freedom to explore, touch, smell, listen to and feel what it is like to be in the great outdoors. As Haydon Abbey is not near any local woodland, we set up a designated space on our large school field. This area contains trees for the children to climb, a large basecamp, digging area, a den making area and a large space for the children to explore. The area has been fenced off and allowed to overgrow, to encourage wildlife to visit.
Forest Schools originated in Scandinavia in the 1950’s where practitioners noticed that children who had regular contact with nature and access to outdoor play and experienced more practical and physical outdoor play. By doing this, the children showed greater self-awareness and self-regulation of behaviour and developed better social and communication skills as well as showing an improvement in their physical skills and independence.
Sessions are planned to incorporate different learning styles. Children are given practical opportunities to think, question and justify what they are thinking and share this with peers and adults, building on their confidence, communication and language development.
Through practical and creative activities, which can be linked to any curriculum or programme, all are given the opportunity to explore the unique natural world. Forest School is a long term process and sessions should be at least an hour and a half. They are carefully planned to allow all learners to take supported risks, emotional as well as physical, work within their own limits, as well as offering the opportunity to embrace new experiences and succeed.
At Haydon Abbey Forest School is delivered throughout the year, therefore offering the children the opportunity to experience and hopefully value all seasons, all weathers and the natural world around them. They are able to get outside and learn without realising they are learning. Forest School runs in all weathers, except high winds and thunderstorms. Within the ethos of Forest School there is a saying ‘there is no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing’. As a school we provide Early Years and KS1 waterproof suits to ensure they are dressed appropriately. All year groups take part in Forest School throughout the year and we have designed a progression of skills for the children from Early Years to Year 6. All children get to experience toasting marshmallows and pancakes on the camp fire at the end of each Forest School unit.
We have Qualified Forest School Leaders.
Why is Forest School such a great opportunity for your children?
Research has proven that learning that takes place in the outdoors is much more powerful and memorable as all the senses are involved.
Forest School develops childrens learning through a child led approach.
Forest School helps children grow in confidence as a result of the freedom and time to explore their natural environment.
The high levels of interest the children show in their environment lead to high levels of attention and involvement.
Children are taught how to risk assess for themselves – this supports them in managing their own level of challenge and developing perseverance.
Children are able to develop their speech, language, social skills and empathy.
They learn to respect and appreciate the countryside.
What will happen during a Forest School session?
The sessions will be run at our Forest School site within the school grounds, and will last two hours.
The sessions will be run by one of our qualified Forest School Leaders.
The Forest School sessions throughout the school follow a similar routine that the children soon become familiar with. The children recap and share the Forest School rules and safety check the Forest School site.
The children complete an activity which develops their Forest School and creative skills each week. For example den building, transient art, planting, weaving, building, drilling etc. The children all get to use Forest School tools as their skills develop throughout their time at Forest School.
The children have time in every session to explore their natural environment, hunt for bugs and minibeasts (and our resident toad family!), dig in the digging pit and climb the trees.
Every half term the children have a fire and toast marshmallows, pancakes and popcorn.
Each Forest School session ends with the children gathering together at Base Camp and enjoying a hot chocolate and biscuit together before returning to school.
What to wear?
Boots - walking boots or Wellington boots. Plastic wellies and several pairs of socks are a good idea if the weather is cold.
Long trousers - both in summer and winter, to keep warm and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn.
Long sleeved top - both in summer and winter, to keep warm and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn.
Layers of clothing appropriate to the temperature and the season - in winter the children will need at least two layers to keep warm. Example: long johns, trousers and the waterproof dungarees work well for their bottom half, and for the top half, a base layer, fleece, long sleeved top and waterproof jacket is a good mix. It is best to avoid cotton next to the skin as it absorbs water rather than taking it away from the skin.
Hat - (for sun or warmth depending on the season) and waterproof gloves.
These should be old clothes or clothes that parents/guardians do not mind getting dirty. They will get dirty.