Forest school is about getting children into the world outside, come rain or shine, to get hands-on with the natural environment. It is essentially outdoor, nature-based learning that focuses on the holistic development of the child.

During Forest School, activities are provided, but rather than being adult-led, each child chooses and tailors the activity to suit them, while we observe their preferences and development. Practitioners flow with the energy of the day and follow what children choose to do. Lots of schools arrange occasional outdoor activities for pupils, but Forest School is a regular, long-term experience for children at Feckenham CE Primary School with everyone attending a weekly session.

Forest School helps children develop many skills that are hard to teach in the classroom. It’s very physical so it encourages children to be active, with lots of activities to develop both fine and gross motor skills. Children learn to assess, appreciate and take risks, making sensible, informed decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter. They are learning to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Children also benefit from the simple act of being outdoors. Research has shown that it improves mental and spiritual health, communication skills and social relationships.

Forest School ties in with many areas of the National Curriculum. For example, being outdoors year-round helps children learn about weather and the seasons, which are part of the programme of study in geography, studying mini beasts and plant life relates to the science curriculum, and working on tasks like den building and woodwork links with design and technology.

The idea of letting tiny children experiment with knives and fire might sound scary, but safety is paramount during forest school sessions. All leaders must have a Level 3 Forest School qualification, which covers essential safety training such as risk assessment and food hygiene. Although children are encouraged to assess risk for themselves, this is always with close adult guidance.