What is Forest School?
Forest School is an innovative, self-led learning approach adaptable for all age groups in a woodland setting, supported by a trained Forest School Leader.
Forest School is based on a concept imported from Scandinavia. Within Denmark, it started as good teaching practice to use the outdoor environment with children, giving them freedom to play and discover nature. Forest School first came to the UK in 1993 when a group of British teachers returned from Denmark with an enthusiasm for a new approach to education – one that put individuals and the different ways they learn at its centre.
How does it work?
Within a school setting, children might participate in regular two-hour, weekly sessions over the course of a minimum of six weeks. The sessions, which include activities such as building dens, cooking over fires, knot-tying and making art with natural materials, help to combat children's increasing isolation from the natural world, arising from greatly reduced freedom to roam and society's increased fear of risk.
Classes are taught outdoors in a wooded area, either within the school grounds or at a local woodland, and help children build their confidence, improve their teamwork and practical skills, and learn about natural environments.
Forest School isn't just about delivering the national curriculum at a primary school level, however. It has a range of applications and can be used to teach all ages.
How does The Mersey Forest fit in?
The Mersey Forest helps schools and other organisations to access, create and adapt woodland spaces for their Forest School sessions, and provide advice and support to fledging Forest School programmes – some of which are based in woodlands which The Mersey Forest helped to plant over the past 20 years!
We've already worked with over half of Merseyside and North Cheshire's schools to introduce the benefits of natural play to children's education through school grounds improvements and Forest School. We're now helping teachers and practitioners to gain the Open College Network teaching qualification in Forest School, so that they can teach Forest School sessions on a regular basis.
What do we offer?
How do I set up a Forest School site?
The Mersey Forest Team can advise you on all of the processes required to set up a Forest School woodland, including landowner agreements and other formal documents.
For help and advice, call Jo Sayers on 01925 816217.
This project is included as a case study in The Mersey Forest Plan.
Ernest Cook Trust
In Autumn 2015, The Mersey Forest was successful in securing £10,000 funding from Ernest Cook Trust to develop its Forest Education project, which is focused on allowing children who live in the most socially and environmentally deprived areas within the Mersey Forest area to access Forest School education. The Forest Schools have been shown to help tackle a range of health and wellbeing concerns by increasing physical activity and connection to nature, promoting risk taking and improving mental wellbeing, including confidence and self-esteem.
The Ernest Cook Trust is one of the UK's leading outdoor learning charities, actively encouraging children and young people to learn from the land through hands-on outdoor learning opportunities. The Trust's support for our project has already made a real difference to children's lives.
For more information about the Trust please see http://ernestcooktrust.org.uk/.