Monday, 5 October 2015

Welcome to Freddie's Forest School Blog ...

This blog will focus on developing a forest school and all the elements needed to create one, the history behind forest school and the movement it has taken over the years. The developmental impact it has upon children when considering the benefits to them, the risks and challenges faced and the holistic impact for children as individuals will also be discussed, the legislative requirements focusing on government initiatives and whether forest schools are considered in any official documents, the skills required by practitioners to develop a forest school and confidently deliver sessions to children and the perspectives both internationally and within the UK. 

As much as the writers behind the blog work within Early Years settings, a forest school can be created for children of all ages and abilities, it is fully inclusive and can be available to all. We know that “Children playing outdoors is not a new concept” (Pace, 2014) but our personal views recognise the need for change and the desire for the outdoor environment to be shared with all and remembered by all. Our experiences of the outdoors has shaped us as practitioners and now it’s time to share our passion for the outdoors and the benefits of forest school with everyone, both professionally and personally.

Throughout the next two weeks there will be daily blog posts exploring individual aspects of a forest school and the forest school movement as well as considering the correlation between forest schools and outdoor learning environments for children. Each post has been individually research with much enthusiasm and the passion oozes within each post. Following on from the academically written posts are child centred story based on Freddie the teddy. Each day there will be an entry on Freddie’s Journey which will have elements of the blog post throughout to be inclusive for all who explore the amazement which lies ahead for the blog.  Freddie’s Journey is an exciting and fun way to explore forest schools and enables it to be explored within a creative writing style allowing it to be pieced together as a story which should be accessible for children. 

(Activity Village, 2015)
Though the concept of outdoor learning has been with us for millions of years, the movement of Forest School can be clearly traced through the works of Comenius (1658) where language was taught through depictions of nature, to that of Rousseau (1712-1778). Rousseau influenced parents of the time to take more notice of what was offered by nature and it’s key role in education. Following this came Pestalozzi (1746-1827), whose theory became infamous for its child centred approach, this was strongly supported by Montessori (1870-1952) and is evident in her work. Frobel (1782-1852) continued Pestalozzi’s theory and went on to open the first “kindergarten”, outside, in 1840. It was in 1952 that Ella Flatau opened what could be conceived as the first Forest School, she called it a ‘wandering kindergarten’ and it was from this that other such establishments began to form. Forest School came to the United Kingdom in 1993 when a team from Bridgwater College in Somerset went on tour of Denmark. After developing this concept and adapting it to the UK, they began to share their knowledge in 2000 and this has led to the current educational term of Forest School.

Exploration of the benefits of attending a forest school and having outdoor play, including the impact this can have on children’s learning, play and development is essential when delving into Forest Schools. Both forest schools and outdoor leaning environments have many valuable benefits for children, during the research it has been found that children can thrive more in an outdoor environment and, given the choice, this is where they would mostly choose to play and explore.  Children’s play and learning is holistic by nature as the two work in tandem with each other, but for the purpose of the blog it has been divided into three sections, the overall benefits to children, the impact on their learning and development and the impact of on their individual play.“Forest school provides a nurturing base that is appropriate at all ages.” (Knight, 2011:242).

All children can enjoy forest school learning at any age from babies in harnesses to children more able, with the guiding hand of a capable practitioner.

When considering the benefits forest schools and outdoor learning has on children’s development there must be due care and attention made when regarding the risks and challenges which children, practitioners and parents face. This links with closely exploring parents and practitioner risk aversion, and how to encourage risk taking, while ensuring all risk assessment is met accordingly to ensure the environment is safely managed.

“In short, risk perception, or the ability to discern risk, is tied to risk tolerance, or an individual’s capacity to accept a certain amount of risk. Research suggests that programs to discourage risk-taking behaviour need to address both of these concepts” (The Campbell Institute, 2014:2)

Knowing that children of all ages can access the benefits to them a forest school provides, there needs to be considerations of the skills desired for a teacher of the outdoors, it is vital to be able to look at an environment and recognise the potential it holds. Children identify many affordances in their surroundings and by recognising these as a practitioner, you can provide effective learning opportunities through the use of fun activities and children’s interests. Each child is individual and unique, therefore their ideas will vary and they must be embraced by the practitioner in order for them to feel competent and confident to express themselves in the outdoors.

Following on from this, forest schools have become more current and are being implemented more often in many different settings. Practitioners understanding of forest school will be discussed as well as looking at where forest school was first established and how it is practised today. Some of the issues with land space in the environment as well as technology will be discussed with regards to the future of forest school, as stated by Tim Gill (2004) “For the first time in 4 million years of human history, we are effectively trapping children indoors” and as advocates for exploring the outdoors and the benefits in which this has on children it is imperative that we change this current trend and support what we know has benefited, not just children, but everyone for years. 

After considering the benefits and the history the outdoor environment has to offer children and the potential of forest schools it is vital that the regulatory requirements are consider and whether there are any or if forest schools stands on its own. Knowing that children aged between zero and five years need to be physically active for at least three hours a day (National Health Service, 2015) and that there is an increase in weight gain and medical conditions due to poor and unhealthy diets children receive (Change4Life, 2015) it is vital that the outdoors is underpinned within government policies and regulated to ensure that the need for physical activities and weight gain coincide in order to change children of the future for the better.

Knowing the vital importance the outdoors has to offer and the benefits we know it has on children, consideration must be made for the perspectives held both in the UK and internationally. Forest Schools have developed and expanded over recent years. It will look into the importance of Forest Schools and why there may be need for them in the UK. Furthermore the blog will contemplate how each Forest School differ from one to another. Furthermore, the blog will look into how Forest Schools are or not provided in other  countries outside the UK. The writer will look into theoretical perspectives and how they link to Forest Schools and outdoor learning. Also how Forest Schools in other countries compare to the ones being provided in the UK will be analysed. (

 “Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education” (Polis, 2003)