Adopting the forest school philosophy without the forest |®
Forest Schools
Two months ago we explored the growing popularity of forest schools in Europe and the UK, you can read the article here. These unorthodox early childhood settings offer education and care services in a wholly outside environment.

Some of the providers have fixed dwellings, but many don't and have adopted a nomadic approach where the children have lunch and rest times in temporary bivouacs. Indeed many move the location of the setting so the children have the opportunity to experience different types of bush land experiences.

The common theme and motivation behind forest schools is that children need more opportunities to learn and play in the outdoors to counteract the increasingly urban lives of many families.

While many early childhood providers may be inspired by and aspire to achieve the forest school approach in their service, for the majority it is impossible to simply give up a physical location in favour of a bush land setting! That is not to say you can’t adopt some of the practices and principles behind the forest school approach to early learning.

In an interview with The Guardian John Cree, chair of the UK Forest School Association explained that the notion of a forest school isn't a badge or a place – instead the name refers to a philosophy in which students work outside regularly in an outdoor natural space over a long period of time (often a year) to build confidence and creativity.

In his interview with The Guardian Mr Cree offers these suggestions to early childhood providers interested in exploring and potentially implementing some of the forest school philosophies in their service:

Take things gradually

A school not currently involved in outdoor education should not try to move straight to a forest school ethos. Mr Cree recommends that educators encourage children to be outside more regularly, even if it is just in the school grounds, and start small to gain confidence.

Train in-house forest school leaders

Mr Cree encourages early childhood providers to seek training in the forest school philosophy to ensure the outdoor learning integrates with practices already happening in the setting.

Make sure senior managers are on board

The director and management team must be supportive of forest school principles and they should be integrated into the service strategy.

A corner of the garden isn't enough

You need access to green space with quite a few trees, Mr Cree says, though it's not the case that forest schools must necessarily be in woodland. "It could be a park, but a little bit of wild space helps – it gives the chance to get hidden and lost."

Don't be daunted by risk

"There's a perception that forest school is all about fires and tools, so some services get really scared and say 'I'm not touching that with a bargepole'," says Mr Cree. In fact, whittling and fire-lighting are not intrinsic, but are often used in forest school to help children (including pre-schoolers) develop skills and learn to take and manage risks, he adds. "We're trying to get away from the cotton wool culture and when we take risks we are learning. But the training is all about helping kids take risks that are reasonable."

You won't persuade everybody

Mr Cree says that it may be hard to convince all the carers and parents in a service about the advantages of the forest school approach however he says that as long as there is buy-in from the director and service managers this doesn’t matter. Parental lack of enthusiasm can even be reversed if children are won over.


How can teachers introduce forest school principles to their curriculum?

© 2016 - All rights reserved®
Care For Kids Internet Services Pty Ltd
ABN 55 104 145 735
PO Box 543 Balmain NSW 2041

Contact Us | Feedback
Products & Services
Advanced listings
Advertise with Us
Daily News