So... What Is Forest School?

Where did it come from?

The development of Forest School began in Britain in the mid-1990s; it is based on a Scandinavian idea that considers children’s contact with nature to be extremely important from a very early age. Forest Schools were developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s and focused on teaching children about the natural world. Nursery Nursing students from Bridgwater College in Somerset visited Denmark in 1995 to see for themselves what was taking place. They decided that the approach was appropriate for use in Britain and considered how to apply what they had witnessed to childcare provision in the college’s Early Years Centre. Since then Forest School has spread to many areas as educationalists have witnessed the impact that it can have on children: improving their confidence and self-esteem. Many are convinced that Forest School is important but it was realised that evidence would be needed to identify impacts and show changes that occur in the children who attend.$file/ForestSchoolEnglandReport.pdf 

‘Such enthusiasm – a joy to see’ An evaluation of Forest School in England

October 2005 Richard Murray and Liz O’Brien

Learn More

My Top Pick to find out more about why Forest School is so beneficial for children is Peter Gray's Free to Learn.

What's Good About It?

‘Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment.’ 

Forest School Network, England. 2002 definition

The focus is on the ‘whole child’ (not just their academic ability) and how they can develop their own learning styles at their own pace whilst maximising the benefits from each experience they discover for themselves.

Regular contact for the children over a significant period of time (e.g. all year round, in all weathers). Regular can mean anything from fortnightly during a school term to one morning, afternoon or day every week for twelve months or more. This is coupled with a clear set of safety routines and boundaries that allow children to develop a responsible attitude to risk whilst becoming familiar and confident enough to explore and interact with an ever- changing natural environment.

  • Over time children develop self-confidence and self-belief that come from them having the freedom, time and space to learn, grow and demonstrate independence.
  • Children develop empathy and an awareness of the consequences of their actions and the ability to co-operate with others.
    Children learn to communicate and interact with each other negotiating and refining plans.
  • Children are motivated by their own interests and their enthusiasm is fuelled by a keenness to participate and have a go.
  • Physical stamina is developed and their gross motor skills from the opportunities to move freely around the site. Fine motor skills are improved by using tools to make woodland objects and knot tying.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the natural environment and how to care for and sustain it.
  • There may also be a ‘ripple effect’ for the children , in terms, of wanting to do Forest School activities at home and be outdoors more.
  • Children learn to appreciate the simple things in life.