What is Forest School?
‘Forest School’ is a Scandinavian concept where the outdoors is used as an area for learning. ‘Forest school’ is an inspirational process that offers children and adults regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences and risk taking in a woodland environment. Many of the activities evolve from the children’s interest, ideas and the natural materials found.
‘Forest School’ is about using the outdoors to promote confidence, self-esteem and independence. We are passionate about developing the whole child. The benefits of ‘Forest School’ to the child are many; confidence, behaviour, concentration, independence, social, emotional, and physical skills are all developed with positive effects on all areas of the child’s learning. They find that each of them can succeed at something and they learn new ways of co-operating and communicating.
‘Forest School’ is also about exploring and experiencing the natural world. The children go out all weathers, all year round, exploring and learning from the seasons and environmental changes. The children’s interest along with the varied natural resources are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development.
Principles of ‘Forest School’
Through ‘Forest School’ our children have opportunities to:
Through weekly visits to Oak hill woodland we hope to instill a love of the great outdoors. Inspirational, stimulating, hands on experiences will develop self-esteem, confidence and responsibility. The use of the woodland setting, the various real tools and the natural resources will bring learning to life, creating an understanding of the balance of nature and the finite resources around us. Identifying individual learning schema’s to enable the children to learn most effectively and promote success. Planning for every child in the early session stages, and then letting the children lead the sessions through their own interests. Taking informed, self-calculated risks and choices to ensure their groups safety, developing sympathy and empathy to the group around them. Working as a team to solve problems, fostering communication and negotiation skills.
In ‘Forest School’ the children are taught about respect and responsibility for the earth. Both the children and adults are encouraged to respect their environment and to be aware of conservation issues in the woodland around them. Their empathy and care for wild life is developed.One of the principles of Forest School is to promote environmental awareness and encourage sustainability.
The children are shown an appreciation, respect and responsibility for the world around them. Both children and adults are encouraged to be aware of conservation issues of the woodland around them.
We will work with The London Wildlife Trust to make sure we have a positive impact on the site, e.g. litter picking.
Forest School leaders
Here at Hampden Way Nursery School we have 3 Forest School leaders, Julia Gath, Ruth Kevin and Jane Horner. All are trained with a Level 3 Forest School leader qualification from Archimedes. They also have the ITC Forest School first aid certificate. The leaders take it in turns to take groups out weekly and run various activities on site.
A Forest School Session
Children and their parents are briefed the week before their child is due for their visit to the woods, making sure they arrive on time and are dressed appropriately.
In the morning session we aim to leave by 9:10 returning for 11:30. The afternoon session we aim to leave 12:55 returning for 3:15.
Children will be kitted out in waterproofs and Wellingtons and are given a safety talk.
The walk to the woods takes around 30 minutes. We will follow the brook down to the woods, through the local park; there is a lot for the children to explore on the way. We will talk about what they see on route, links to their route to school and talk about what we might see and do in the woods.
On our arrival to the woods we will take a minute to stop look and listen, familiarising children with the environment. We will then take a short walk through the woods to find a picnic site. Children enjoy a snack, hot chocolate or milk, biscuits or fruit. This is a chance to chat and bond as a group.
We will then begin our session in the woods. We will follow the children’s interests and they will lead the play. These activities may be exploring their environment, bug hunts, building fairy houses or dens, putting up and swinging in a hammock, exploring mud and puddles or exploring with rope and string.
At the end of the session the children will be brought back together for a brief reflection on the session before the walk home.
Photographs are taken to remind the children and to show the parents of the activities they have been a part of and the achievements they have made. These are also used to feed into the children’s records.
Policies and Procedures
Hampden Way Nursery and Forest School will follow all its usual policies and procedures to fulfill our first priority to keep your child safe. All policies are written by the Forest School leaders and approved by the Head teacher and school governors.
Risk assessments will be taken to determine whether the possible risk of a child injuring themselves, eg climbing a tree offers the lifelong benefits of higher self-esteem, risk management, safety awareness, physical skills, communication and teamwork. There will always be risks but if we can teach the children these skills when they are young, they will be much better equipped for the future.
Children will be asked to use the toilet before leaving the setting. As the session is only 2 ½ hours this will be fine for most children. If the toilet is needed the children will be supervised by the adult. If parents are accompanying they will be responsible for their own child.
At ‘Forest School’ we will be out in all weathers. To ensure that children are sufficiently protected from the weather and the forest environment we require them to be wearing appropriate clothing and footwear. Clothing should be comfortable and preferably old as we will be getting muddy. A waterproof jacket is essential.
In cold weather- it is essential to keep warm, hats, scarves, gloves, boots, warm socks and spare socks. It is better to wear layers, which keep the heat in and can be removed if needed.
In hot weather- protection from the sun is essential, sun hats, sun cream and covered arms and shoulders.
Staff will make sure children are appropriately dressed before leaving for the woods.
We will provide full sets of waterproofs, fleeces, extra socks and Wellington boots. There are spare waterproofs and wellington boots for adult helpers.
Forest school sessions will go ahead in all weather conditions with only a few exceptions:
Forest school site
We are a nursery school who brings the Forest School approach to our setting.
We are combining weekly trips to Oak Hill Woodland, which is a public wood and activities within the school grounds.
Oak Hill Woodland is situated within Oak Hill Park, Parkside Gardens, East Barnet, EN4. Grid reference TQ2 789 51.
As the woodland is public we do not have any permanent structures. Dog walkers frequent the woodland so a safety talk is given to the children.
Forest School Leader will keep a check on the conditions and the site
If the Forest School Leader deems the site unsafe for any reason the following action will be taken
Role of ‘Forest School’ leader when on site
In the case of an injured child secure area and make safe. FS Leader to carry out first aid and remain and monitor casualty. FS Leader/ assistant to call emergency services and give location Nursery Head teacher to be called to call parents and send staff to collect other children to return to nursery FS Assistant to return to car park to wait for Emergency services FS Assistant to guide Services to casualty and either assist, or return to car park to take children back to nursery.
In the case of an injured Adult ( assistant/ Parent/ Visitor) Secure area and make safe. FS Leader to carry out first aid and remain and monitor casualty. FS Leader/ any other adult to call emergency services and give location Nursery Head teacher to be called to send adult to collect children and contact next of kin. Keep the Forest school group together, insulate casualty and if necessary provide shelter and snacks until the children are collected FS Leader waits and monitors casualty until Emergency services arrive.
In the case of injured FS Leader Assistant to secure area and make safe Assistant to carry out first aid. Assistant/ other adult to call Emergency services and give location Nursery Head teacher to be called to send adult to collect children and contact next of kin Forest School group stay together away from casualty if possible, insulate and if necessary provide shelter until children collected.
Our nearest 24 hour Accident and Emergency hospital is Barnet Hospital, Wellhouse Lane, EN5 3DJ. Telephone 0845 111 4000
Forest school within the nursery
We take the forest school approach to outdoor learning in our setting.
Within the nursery we have set up a designated area for fire lighting, the fire pit with log circle. We have also grown willow structures, the climbing log and the fairy garden.
We take part in activities such as weaving, planting trees, making bow and arrows, fishing rods, making wreaths, using a variety of tools, whittling, building fires, cooing on fires, den building, mini beast hunts, transient art using resources brought back from the woods, bug hotel, and the fairy garden.
Fire Safety Policy
Fire lighting is an activity, which takes part on the nursery site. For this activity a fire circle has been built, a hole has been dug in the centre, the children are always supervised by an adult, the ratio is 1:2, rules of the fire circle are enforced and the activity has been risk assessed. If there is a clear wind direction, seating in the line of smoke is to be avoided. See risk assessment.
Children are given the opportunity to cook on the fire, toasting marshmallows, cooking soup. These activities are risk assessed and the children are taught the respect position and are supported by a member of staff while near the fire, while another member of staff supports the group.
Safety and responsibility
Fire is extinguished at the end of the session by an adult. Water is poured around the edge of the fire working from the outside in. Fire will be doused until all smoke has ceased, embers will be raked. Any debris will be removed once cool.
Risk Assessments Policy
The Forest School leaders carry out risk assessments. They are carried out for the walk to the woods and the site itself. These are updated half termly.
The forest leader will visually check the site on arrival and make any notes to add to the risk assessment.
All activities in the woods or on site will be risk assessed to determine whether the possible risk of a child injuring themselves, offers the lifelong benefits of higher self-esteem, risk management, safety awareness, physical skills, communication and teamwork.