Forest School at the Duke of Norfolk
An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults, regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.’ Forest School England
Forest School in the UK has been adapted from a Scandinavian approach to learning. The original source of the concept was from Sweden in the 1950’s and spread to other Scandinavian and European countries. The Danish Forest Schools, established for pre-school children (under 7 years) in the 1980’s stemmed from their Early Years Education or måbørnspædagogik.
In the mid 1990’s a group of nursery nurse students and lecturers from Bridgewater College, Somerset visited Denmark and witnessed the benefits of the Danish Forest Schools first hand. They were so inspired that they brought the concept back to the UK and started what is now recognised as ‘Forest School’. Since the 90’s interest in the Forest School concept in the UK has been growing exponentially. Presently, most parts of the UK have some Forest School happening, although it is organised in different ways. Here at the Duke of Norfolk all children across the school from reception to year 6 take part in a block of Forest School sessions during the school year. These blocks are for a full term where the class has a half-day session each week either morning or afternoon, where they will be out in the school’s own woodland.
Forest School is a long term, repetitive learning process that uses a natural outdoor space. It is a specific ethos of learning that focuses on processes rather than products and allows learners time and space to develop at their own rate. Learners develop a strong sense of space through repeated contact with the natural world (ideally woodland, but not always) throughout the year and in all weathers.
Forest School empowers children and young people to take responsibility for their own learning and development. The ethos encourages child-led learning and learning through play. Choice increases enjoyment, participation and motivation. Children are set up to achieve and supported to take appropriate risks through developing trust in themselves and in others.
Forest School promotes holistic, individualised learning and development. It is for all ages and abilities and it’s ethos is fully inclusive. The natural environment provides stimulus for all senses, all areas of development and all learning styles; visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.
Forest School encourages emotional growth, self-esteem, confidence and independence. It gives learners the time and space to be themselves, find peace and communicate with others in a safe and caring environment. Emotional literacy is actively practiced by adults and children within a Forest School.
Forest School is facilitated by qualified Level 3 Forest school practitioners. Receiving a nationally recognised level 3 qualification in Forest School is essential for practitioners to link theory to practice and create the Forest School ethos. Training ensures practitioners provide safe, skilled and appropriate learning experiences. Practitioners build a trusting relationship and make careful observations of the group to then provide well planned, individualised support for each learner.