What is Forest School?
Forest school is a concept of outdoors education, developed in Denmark in the 1980’s and pioneered in Britain during the 1990s at Bridgewater Early Excellence Centre, which set up its own Forest school in nearby woodlands.
Ideally children spend one day a week for 6 weeks at a woodland site, learning about the natural world, how to use tools safely and make useful objects, developing their physical skills, working together as a team and learning to explore their world and their own limits in a safe way. Typical activities in the woods include shelter building, cooking over a campfire, making wooden mallets, nature detective walks, craft activities using natural materials, story-telling and games like hide and seek.
What are the benefits of running Forest School ?
The children gain a huge amount from their forest school experience. They are confident to try this new activity as we are lucky enough to offer it in our own familiar garden with familiar staff. It’s wonderful to hear them all talking about their fun morning, to smell woodsmoke and to see the lovely craft they make and to try the pancakes they make on the campfire. We carried out a research project last year and saw a significant increase in well-being, particularly in quiet, shy children and then how much more involved those children became in all aspects of pre-school. We believe that the outdoor environment increases their self-esteem, confidence, concentration, their enthusiasm for learning and we can see the benefits in all areas of their learning – Forest School fosters active learners and explorers, just what we all want for our children.
Who will lead Forest School ?
Exeter Outdoors will be running our Forest School sessions here at Cullompton Pre-school and will be supported by our pre-school staff who hold level 1 and 2 in Forest School.
How can we have a Forest school at Cullompton Pre-school?
We hold 5 weekly morning sessions per group in the wildlife garden behind the Pre-school building. A forest school morning includes a circle time about aspects of personal care and safety; learning how to behave safely around a campfire (introduced using a small contained kettle fire, leading to a cooking fire in weeks 4, 5 and 6); a range of craft and practical activities using natural materials; simple camp cookery; stories, songs and hot chocolate; exploring our immediate surroundings and wildlife; time to run and play in the garden.
We also spend one day at Exeter Outdoors forest school site (prepared specially for educational groups) where we can safely explore a larger area and have a sense of adventure. This is only possible if we have enough parents/cars to transport the children and provide a safe adult-child ratio. Mums, Dads and/or Grandparents are encouraged to attend this session.
We also welcome parent volunteers to help at the pre-school sessions. You do not have to commit to every week. Please let the office know if you are interested.
What tools do children use?
Mostly we use the same tools that we use in the classroom, like cooking utensils, writing materials, scissors and gardening tools. For one activity we use a bow-saw and a workbench, with an adult working 1-1 with each child in turn. We also use a drill, hammers and wooden mallets with 1-1 supervision.
When does this happen?
Forest school sessions take place in the Autumn and Summer terms.
The Pre-school offers each child an all-day session on a Thursday or Friday in his/her final year, prior to starting school (Kookaburras).
Forest school sessions take place on Thursdays and Fridays.
Children are allocated to an Autumn or a Summer term programme.
Each Forest school programme consists of 6 weekly sessions – 5 mornings on-site and one full-day at Killerton.
The Autumn and Summer term programmes are essentially the same, but activities vary with the season and the needs and interests of individuals and groups. In September/October/November, we investigate features of Autumn – leaves, apples, hibernating animals. In April/May/June, we investigate Summer plants, life-cycles (frogs, butterflies) and insects.