Forest schools

25th March 2005 at 00:00
With their origins in Scandinavia 50 years ago, forest schools became an integral part of Danish early years education in the 1980s. Fact-finding groups from Britain saw the benefits and forest school networks with trained leaders from a variety of backgrounds - woodland owners, craftspeople, teachers, early years specialists, youth workers - have since been set up in England and Wales.

In Scotland the first group of forest school leaders is approaching the end of their training and a second group has begun.

Typically, a forest school programme begins with a leader finding a suitable woodland site and carrying out a risk assessment. Introductory sessions are run at schools and other places of learning to present the concept and gain the confidence of children, parents, teachers and carers.

Then, about a dozen participants visit the site regularly throughout the year, under the supervision of two forest school leaders and other interested adults. Sessions are learner centred, with participants playing games, learning woodland skills and developing intellectual skills linked to the curriculum.

Small but achievable tasks are set - shelters are built, tools used, fires constructed, meals cooked - so that the children's confidence and self-esteem are boosted.

The forest school model is suitable for all ages and particularly successful with children struggling to achieve in a formal class setting.

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