“Learning outside the classroom is about raising achievement through an organised, powerful approach to learning in which direct experience is of prime importance. This is not only about what we learn but importantly how and where we learn”
Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto DfE 2006
Forest School is a holistic approach, where, as children pursue their interests, they lead their own learning and a personalized curriculum evolves. Many of the following outcomes can be easily mapped across to an existing curriculum therefore Forest School complements the EYFS and National Curriculum. Taking this child-led approach allows teachers and assistants to ‘step back’ and recognize a wider range of achievements than just those prescribed by an imposed curriculum.
As well as independent activities, Forest School is easily linked to classroom topics with opportunities only limited by imagination. Small, achievable tasks encourage children to focus on the processes involved rather than only the end product, allowing time for personal, social and emotional development. Supported with targeted questioning, sustained thinking permeates subjects across the curriculum making Forest Schools a truly cross-curricular approach to active learning.
All sessions begin with re-visiting prior learning and end with reviewing what has been learnt, reflecting on children’s own achievements and those of others. Over a sustained programme, research has shown that Forest School helps to develop independent, confident and happy learners.
The following list provides a glimpse into the breadth of curriculum-based learning that can be achieved in Forest School.
· Opportunity to extend vocabulary
· Reflection upon experiences and emotions before speaking increasing level of articulation
· Communicate effectively within a team working on a specific task
· Give and follow clear instructions
· Share poems, stories, plays, opinions, and the narratives of people from the past, landscapes and wildlife
· Encourage questions and develop these questions as a group
· Communicate effectively in a variety of weather conditions and contexts eg, outlining how to play a game, giving a tool talk, describing the colour of the sky to someone back at school.
· Spelling and Writing
· Words and numbers introduced and replicated in a range of contexts and mediums to aid memory eg mark making, chalk or white boards used to in situ
· Forest School used as inspiration for writing about real or imagined events
· Produce a guide book for your woodland base visitors
· Signs, labels and written instructions followed
· Quiet/calm space for reading
· Books brought to life via the landscape
· Use keys and ID books and charts to identify wildlife
· Use technology to discover more information about wildlife, materials, methods, history etc
· Counting and ordering of variety of natural objects and those required for cooking or making items
· Patterns and irregularity observed in nature from lady bird spots to Fibonacci sequence
· Observe and create 2D and 3D shapes.
· Discover symmetry in nature or use mirrors to create symmetry.
· Find angles and use for measuring and construction
· Explore division, multiplication and fractions when sharing resources and dividing snacks equally
· Observe, measure, record and share areas; distance (between areas or school); wildlife eg population density and or distribution via daisy count; bird survey etc. ;or, a tree’s height, age.
· Cooking experiments eg the perfect pancake
· Weather, temperature, light, rainfall
· Explore coordinates and bearings, position and direction via map making, treasure hunts, orienteering
· Create pictorial representations in situ and take photographs back to school or analyse data back at school.
· Collect data for national surveys. eg nature calendar, bee life or the great bird watch and analyse the national data next to the collected data
· Unlimited opportunity for; observing, identifying, classifying, measuring and recording
· Performing simple tests and control variables
· Testing theories and improving tests
· Learners become familiar with and can identify a range of local flora and fauna in a range of habitats
· Life cycles, life processes, life and death, transportation, food webs and other interconnections illustrated with understanding consolidated via observation, questions, stories, tasks and games
· The human body: basic needs (food, shelter, warmth) and healthy lifestyles (food and exercise); circulatory and digestive systems; muscle and skeleton construction; how humans compare with plants and other animals
· Classification and grouping of plants and animals; discuss diet, skeleton, reproduction etc
· Adaption and evolution (past and future)
· Seasonal change, day length, elements, weather patterns, movement of the sun and moon across the sky all experienced during Forest School programmes
· Explore the properties of a range of materials (natural and man-made); discuss or test suitability for particular tasks eg cast iron cooking pot/timber for craft, construction or fuel/carbon steel or stainless steel tools/fires steel alloys
· Observe and experiment with changing states of matter dissolving and solutions (cooking and craft items using glue for example); evaporation and condensation (plastic bags left on leaves); reversible and non-reversible states (burning)
· Investigate local rock type, characteristics and uses and fossil remains. Compare with other types of rock
· Importance and the dangers of sunlight for living things explored; refection and absorption (clothing, water bodies); shadow tracking, play and sundial; ground flora study to reveal light traveling in straight lines
· Space to experiment with sound; focus on how animals create vibrations compared to humans and adaptations eg bats, birds, whales, worms
· Explore gravity (throwing, hills, wind dispersed seeds); water resistance (stream and puddle play); air resistance (kites, bird flight); friction (fire lighting, knot tying, arrow making); mechanisms (gravity, friction combined to create structures, pot stands etc)
· Study animal sounds eg bird song, pitch frequency, rhythm, melody, mimics, emotions invoked by the sound
· Songs, rhymes and chants fit easily into Forest School sessions
· Make and play woodland or traditional instruments.
· Take along current instruments to recreate natural sounds or capture the sound of the forest to take back to school
· Listen to music inspired by nature (similar and different) landscapes and music that incorporates sounds from nature
· Use a range of technology to gather, capture, record, analyse, research and share data. This could be in the form of a blog, a diary for parents to view when collecting children, a science experiment, an art or design project, wildlife or phenology studies.
· Make use of applications specifically designed to be used outside eg identification guides, measuring tools, games, audio guides.
· Build confidence, resilience, muscle strength, balance, coordination and agility
· Take part in team games eg predator/prey or wide games and individual games such as 1,2,3, obstacle courses and woodland gym activities
· Take part in non-competitive physical activity such as walking to and from the site, large scale construction, conservation and woodland management tasks
· Discover a connection to nature and tools to promote good physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing
· Choreograph and perform nature inspired dance eg the snowflakes journey, the storm arrives, animals of the wood
· Familiarity with local geographical features, land use past and present, weather patterns, day length, habitats, flora and fauna a foundation for contrast with other localities or parts of the globe.
· Basic human features and geographical vocabulary can be included in
· Hone fieldwork techniques via mapping on paper and digitally use compasses and aerial photographs for bringing the focus in and out
· Opportunity to explore the practicalities and challenges face by humans living in the past locally and in different parts of the world. Individual sessions or whole Forest School programmes could be dedicated to studying a particular aspect eg recreate Neolithic tools, create a hill fort, explore how natural resources were used for food, tools, art and other resources in ancient Egypt.
· Use design techniques (digital and manual) to design, construct, evaluate and refine projects.
· Opportunity to build larger projects to scale eg roundhouse, tepee, geodesic dome, outdoor seating or kitchen growing area, vertical herb garden or small project such as mini beast hotels, hedgehog homes
· Select appropriate materials and use tools to accurately cut, shape, join and finish items eg a coaster, elder jewellery, kazoo, spoon, whistle, star gazing chair, a puppet, a stool
· Use mechanisms for projects such as water transportation or a self-closing door on a shelter or compost toilet
· Consider how trees for example transport water and how water and other natural resources are used in traditional and modern production industries
(Source: Derbyshire County Council)