Forest School at The Ark
Forest School – which started in Scandinavia – is all about enabling children to explore and experience the natural world through hands-on activities outdoors. The concept has proven to develop the self-esteem and confidence of pre-school children through activities that involve creativity, working together and child-led learning.
“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky.” Margaret McMillan, Education Through the Imagination
What was your happiest childhood memory? Was it watching television? Or was it climbing a tree, running along a windswept beach or paddling in a brook?
The best location for Forest School is in a wood – in all weathers – as being under a canopy of trees has a positive effect on a child’s well-being, although other ‘wild’ places including meadows, beaches and riverbanks will have a similar effect.
What are the benefits of Forest School?
As children explore the natural habitat, they become more in harmony with nature, bringing a sense of belonging and contentment. The core philosophy of Steiner and Froebel is the belief that nature, the rhythms of the earth and the cycles of life are essential for spiritual and physical growth.
Forest School is also a place to assess risk in a safe environment. This challenging play helps develop self-confidence, competence, emotional resilience and a sense of independence. Without risk and challenge, children are at risk of losing their sense of aspiration and ambition.
Children are given opportunities to experience challenge through tasks which are 80% achievable and 20% challenge, this encourages children to try and persevere at a task which is within their abilities to achieve. The low ratio of children to adults means that tasks are tailored to children’s abilities and interests.
NHS guidelines suggest that children under the age of 5 need 3 hours of exercise per day and that it should be a mixture of bone strengthening, muscle building and cardiovascular. The Forest School environment provide a range of opportunities for these needs.
Where will Forest School take place?
The sessions will usually be held in an idyllic setting in Ketton where there is a small wood, and a field that leads down to the river Chater – in all about five acres. There is an allotment for the children and a ‘fire pit’ where we gather round for story telling, learning and singing. Down by the river there is a jetty where the children can safely paddle and pond dip and a fallen willow, the ‘Wise Old Tree’ that the children can safely climb.
The children put on their forest school gear and travel by mini bus to Ketton where they gather around the fire circle to plan the day’s activities.
What will my child be doing at Forest School?
All learning is play-based and child-led. Time and space are limitless and there is no constraint on how long one child engages in an activity. This makes holistic development easier to achieve than in a classroom. It is particularly important for children to have the freedom to choose and express themselves creatively. If not, their innate talents may be stifled.
Activities will include:
- Exploring the woodland and making dens
- Getting messy and creative in the ‘mud kitchen’
- Planting and cultivating crops
- Climbing trees
- Exploring the river through pond-dipping
- Learning about fire safety through cooking on the fire
- Learning about insects, animals, plants and trees through investigation
- Working as a team and learning problem-solving skills through making dens and structures
- Learning about boundaries and risk assessment
- Learning about the natural environment and how their actions impact upon it
- Learning the safe use of tools, such as bow saws, whittlers and mini-drills
Will my child be safe at Forest School?
During the sessions, we encourage children to take part in the ‘risk assessment’ process. This develops their own awareness and allows them to risk assess when climbing trees etc.
The sessions are staffed on a 1 adult to 4 children ratio, significantly higher than the statutory 1:8 ratio, and are led by our qualified Forest School leaders Claire Crowley and Fiona Warren, alongside staff from the nursery.
There will always be a paediatric first aider present.