Devonshire House Experts’ Talks Series
Forest School: how does it work?
By Lucy Peacock, Forest School Leader
Many people have asked me how Forest School works exactly…
I will attempt to explain the Forest School principles and show how it promotes holistic learning for all participants.
The Forest School Principles are:
- Forest school will be embedded in a regular curriculum.
- Forest school will occur in a natural environment.
- Forest school promotes holistic growth.
- Forest school will offer risk-taking opportunities.
- Forest school is run by a qualified Forest school leader.
- Forest school is lead by the interests of the learner and promotes fellowship.
Forest School aims to provide a fun, natural environment where children can develop in a holistic way: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, physically and communicatively.
But how does this work exactly?
Forest School connects humans to nature and the wider planet. Natural cycles present moments of wonder and even Urban Forest Schools can be peaceful, calming the mind away from screens or daily issues, giving balance. Outdoor experiences present children with opportunities to deepen their understanding of the circle of life.
Forest School learners are encouraged to regularly reflect on themselves and learning experiences. This, in turn, translates into a deeper awareness of feelings and cultivates a broader sense of self. Forest School participants deal with challenges, displaying perseverance, through both success and failure. They learn vocabulary to express their sentiments and share these with others which cultivates resilience, empathy and sympathy skills.
Forest School attendees grow their conversation by leading their own learning, direction and interests. They work collaboratively using verbal and non-verbal contact, and regular reflection encourages talking about emotion. These group projects inspire following and giving instructions.
- Intellectual development
Learning new skills promotes new neural pathways in the brain. Natural environments stimulate us in fortuitous ways as natural resources need imagination and creativity to bring them to life. Nature encourages problem-solving: children are faced with exploring structural challenges during den building activities, they are forced to consider the effect of the changing seasons on outdoor learning and they examine how the ever-changing environment creates its own challenges and need for unique skills.
- Social development
Forest School encourages independence as well as collaborative exploration, teamwork and opportunities to connect through talk, game play and child-led decision-making. It all rests on the use of communication skills to progress.
Forest School activity expands body strength and physique, coordination and balance: climbing trees, navigating natural terrain, using new tools and equipment enhances gross and fine motor muscles, and each child’s physicality is challenged during Forest School problem-solving.
The introduction of Forest School at Devonshire House School from September 2023 is an exciting, fresh and forward-thinking step to support young learners in a way that will have a positive impact on their mental health, connect them to nature and support their learning journey.
If you are interested in reading more on this subject, here are some inspiring and thought-provoking books and articles that go deeper into the significance of Forest School and how we can all do with a dose of it:
- Forest School and its place within a Covid-recovery curriculum: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/forest-school-and-its-place-within-a-covid-recovery-curriculum
Forest schools flourish as youngsters log off and learn from nature: https://amp.theguardian.com/education/2021/oct/31/forest-schools-flourish-as-youngsters-log-off-and-learn-from-nature
The restorative outcomes of forest school and conventional school in young people with good and poor behaviour: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1618866711000318
Interested in Forest School at Devonshire House? Come and meet us at one of our Open Mornings and we will be happy to answer your questions.
Growing a Forest School from the roots up! Edited by Nic Harding (Forest School Association)