You may have heard of children attending forest school as part of their school day but do you really know what it involves?
Forest school is both a physical location and the activity of playing/learning out in nature. Schools may have their own wooded area with fire pit or go off to a dedicated forest school location.
Being out in nature brings us many benefits. Trees and plants are our natural air filters, taking out pollution from the air. They also give off natural chemicals called phytoncides which have been proved to help out immunity. Japan has a pastime of being outside in nature, it is called ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ or forest bathing. There have been many studies that prove that being outside in a natural environment can calm us and distract us from our everyday stresses and worries. Just spending a while looking out of a window at natural scenery can have some positive effects.
Children benefit greatly from being outside as they can just be themselves. As they are not restricted by walls and doors they can feel free to explore and satisfy their natural curiosity. Forest school leaders utilise this natural curiosity to enhance the children’s play and education with activities like bug hunting and tree identification. They encourage the children to search for items from nature so the children as a team can create a huge mandala. Many activities promote social skills like team building, co-operation and sharing. Children can learn to take risk safely by climbing trees and, depending on their age, learn to light and be safe around fires. Children who may be rather solitary can become more out-going by showing other children how to do certain activities. This highlights the fact that everyone has skills that they can bring to the community even physically disabled and children with special educational needs which boosts confidence and self-esteem.
From an educational view point forest school satisfies many areas of the whole school curriculum. PHSCE (Personal, Health, Social and Citizenship Education) activities take place that enhance the children’s personal and interpersonal skills. Children will be running, climbing and doing other physical activities that satisfy the P.E. curriculum. Parts of the Humanities curriculum will be met by the children learning about our natural environments and how we made use of natural products. Children have practical experience of the seasons and the plant life cycle which is also taught in Science.
Forest school is a great activity that helps children with all areas of their development and above all it’s fun!