Here at Queen’s College we have introduced weekly Forest School sessions into the curriculum so that little children, who enjoy exploring and discovering the outdoors, develop confidence and independence from a young age.
Four of our staff have trained as Forest School leaders and we are fortunate to have our own designated woods at Combe Florey, in addition to the extensive Queen’s College grounds. We also use woods at Fyne Court, Neroche Castle and Otterhead – all within easy distance of the school. These woodland sites have circle seating areas (logs) around a fire pit and wind breaks to provide protection from all weathers to create a safe and cosy enclosed area.
Initially, our Forest School sessions run from our own school grounds, gardens and playing fields so that the children become comfortable with an outdoor approach to education and play in familiar surroundings. However, very quickly Forest School becomes one of the most popular sessions at Queen’s and the children look forward to exploring further afield where they can collect leaves, build dens, see wildlife in its natural habitat, work with woodland tools and have the freedom to explore and play in a safe, outdoor environment, bringing their projects back into the classroom.
Safety is, of course, of paramount importance and we work with our parents to ensure that every child is appropriately dressed in lightweight waterproof trousers, a coat and wellington boots so that they are well-equipped and warm. Even on dry days the children wear long sleeved tops or their school tracksuits.
To download a typical day at Forest School please click here.
As the children become more familiar with safety issues, we introduce woodland tools to promote trust and self-confidence and to develop each child’s gross and fine motor skills. Children are also taught the dangers of fire, how to put them out and how to remain safe at all times. Often when leaving the woods the children will take something with them to share their experiences with parents and to communicate with their peers. Every child is observed and a thorough evaluation takes place to ensure that the aims and objectives of Forest School are met.
An immensely valuable and rewarding experience for the children, Forest School originally began in Denmark where it has been an integral part of Early Years education since the 1980s. The philosophy was to provide young children with an education which encouraged appreciation of the wide, natural world with the aim of engendering responsibility for nature conservation in later life.
Not only is Forest School an immensely valuable and rewarding experience for all children, the Forest School way of learning raises self-esteem and confidence, while encouraging independence. It improves communication and relationships and provides wonderful opportunities for active outdoor play and discovery. As one of the Reception children commented recently “Forest School is the best time ever at school."