When you become a parent for the first time it’s hard not to jump ahead and plan out exactly what type of parent you want to be, and exactly how you want to bring your child up. Our love of the outdoors is no secret and of course we want to share this with Finn. This is one reason why I ended up reading about Forest School. It seemed like the perfect way to teach him some important life skills, while allowing him lots of quality time outside.
So what is Forest School? In simple terms its learner-centered approach, with children making their own decisions, offers everyone an opportunity “to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees” (Source). It is also a holistic approach, designed to build on and complement experiences at home and school.
A couple of weeks a go I was lucky enough to go and meet Susan Collini, a level 3 qualified Forest School leader at a wood in Northamptonshire to find out more.
It was great to explore the woods and talk through the principles of Forest School. The first principle, and something that resonated with me, is that it is not just a one off event, but a longer process. It really isn’t just a case of spending the day outside, building dens and making fires, and then posting the pictures on instagram for everyone to marvel at. As Susan says, “Forest School should be… a minimum of 6 weekly sessions for participants to benefit from what is a process during which individuals can experience personal growth in a range of physical, emotional and social skills”.
Further principles include the fact that a woodland, or wooded area, provides the best environment to support the aims of Forest School. It is a perfect setting to support learners and enable them to take risks while being fully supported. This aspect is something that I find very interesting. There are numerous sources highlighting the fact that children today are not allowed to take risks, this is something that has far reaching consequences for their mental and physical well being. It is something that I find difficult to balance in everyday life. I want Finn to be confident and able to trust his own judgement and make good decisions, yet giving him this freedom can be difficult. I will even admit that a lot of the time I try and do what looks like the right thing to other people. This is one reason I love spending time with him outdoors, where he can have more freedom to explore and take more risks.
It is also important that, in order to get the full benefit from the experience, sessions are run by qualified practitioners. I was surprised to learn that anyone can set up an outdoor learning environment and call it ‘forest school’. It really is worth taking the time to look up FSA accredited leaders.
If you would like to find out more, or would like your children to benefit from Forest School, Susan’s site, Outdoor Tribe, contains a wealth of knowledge. I have tried to give an overview here, but there is so much information to get across. I really recommend reading the pages I have linked to in order to get a more comprehensive understanding.
I hope to explore this fascinating topic further in the future, so look out for updates.
All photos courtesy of Susan Collini.
Categories: Days Out