Forest School: Outdoor Learning
Written By Dr James Huntington
What is Forest School?
Forest School, is an outdoor education delivery model in which individuals spend time in natural spaces to learn personal, social and technical skills. It has been defined in Liz O’Brien and Ricard Murray’s research as "an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment".
It was introduced in the UK, following success in the US, Sweden and Denmark, in the 90’s and has become extremely popular amongst practitioners. Many schools and other educational settings have established long term programmes with accredited training courses, whereas others have been solely setup as dedicated forest schools. The philosophy of Forest School embraces children’s natural curiosity, inspired imagination and promoted learning.
In 2012 the Forest School Association (FSA) was formed as “the professional body and UK wide voice for Forest School, promoting best practice, cohesion and 'quality Forest School for all’”. They have helped over 10,000 educationalists undertake training to provide Forest School within their establishments which include nurseries, preschools and primary schools. This is body and community is key as the demand for Forest School provision is rising day-to-day and the quality of Forest School is growing.
Forest School in the Early Years
Forest School promotes all aspects of children’s early years development and may have added benefits that learning within a room or setting doesn’t provide. It indorses children’s physical wellbeing by getting them more active and enjoying the fresh air, and gives them a greater wealth of experiences the outdoors can offer, thus instilling a healthier lifestyle.
Dr Janine Coates of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and Dr Helena Pimlott-Wilson of the Department of Geography at Loughborough conducted preliminary research in 2017 within primary schools, including one early years foundation class (4-5 years). Their findings show that there is a clear impact of Forest School on social relationships of children by encouraging them to work with others in more challenging outdoor activities. This different way of learning within early years appears to provide children with hands-on skills and an appreciation for being outdoors which is contrast the ever-growing digital age where children are thought to spend less time in their outdoor environment. A larger study by the researchers is planned for this year (2018).
Forest School is a great way of taking children and learning out of the classroom and day-to-day schedule. It gives them greater understanding and experience in outdoors whilst helping all areas of their development in a different, exciting and stimulating way.
How can LearningBook help within Forest School?
LearningBook allows customers to create and complete observations of children’s activities even if the safeguarding-aware tablets are offline and not connected to WiFi. That means nurseries and schools who have poor internet connection and attend forest school sessions off-site or in the local woodlands will still be able to record and track children’s development through the early years and during their outdoor education.