Forest School is a growing phenomenon across Britain today, expanding from a small grassroots movement in the mid-1990s to a regular fixture in primary education with over 12,000 registered practitioners, as parents and teachers alike encourage children to reconnect with the natural world.
Bournemouth Collegiate School’s (BCS) Prep School is an accredited Forest School located on the South Coast. Nestled in the leafy grounds is a secluded outdoor learning space where pupils between the ages of two and 11 years old can engage with nature, and discover new skill sets outside of the confines of the classroom walls.
At BCS Forest School, you will find children from Kindergarten to year 6 getting stuck into everything from pond-dipping and tepee-building, to raft-making and cooking bumblebee bread over the open fire.
Being in nature and spending time in nature ultimately teaches children to respect our planet. It gives children the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and skills which will stay with them for life.
The first UK Forest School was set up in Somerset in 1993, inspired by the Scandinavian concept of an outdoor, play-based approach to learning.
The approach is designed to promote physical activity, develop social interaction, boost self-esteem and encourage risk-taking through hands-on learning activities.
It gives children the freedom to explore using multiple senses and intelligences, learning about the natural environment. Children can take risks, make choices and work with their peers in purposeful practical activities under the supervision and guidance of trained staff.
Not every pupil is going to be a whiz at maths or enjoy running around in PE, others may be more practical with their hands or enjoy being in nature and observing it.
Forest School offers something for everyone.
At BCS, each pupil takes part in the Learning Outside the Classroom Programme at the Prep’s Forest School with extra nurture groups provided for those pupils who the school feel would benefit most from outdoor learning.
Being in nature and spending time in nature ultimately teaches children to respect our planet
The programme presents pupils with logic and teamwork challenges, such as the popular water gutter challenge where pupils have to work in a team to transfer water from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill. Lessons like these teach children perseverance, communication skills and compromise, which are essential transferable skills.
While children may be stepping out of their comfort zones and into the great outdoors, all the tasks in Forest School are designed to be achievable, helping to build a sense of satisfaction and boost children’s self-esteem.
The scope of the curriculum includes low-risk tasks such as wildlife studies and clay modelling, to higher risk activities like fire-making, shelter-building and tool-work.
Children are sometimes nervous doing activities they know to be dangerous such as using a knife, hammers and saws for tool-work, but with the right support and guidance they soon master these skills and have a great sense of achievement.
For BCS pupils, Forest School is a seamless part of their education experience and pupils enjoy being outside throughout the year in all types of weather conditions.
The children never grumble about the weather. It is an absolute joy teaching pupils who want to take part in the lesson and look forward to it.
I have the best job in the world.
Outdoor learning activities to try with school pupils
● Build a bug hotel
● Create stone cairns
● Explore a shore
● Make a flower crown
● Create a nature survey
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