In the UK the ‘Go Outside Revolution’ is happening all over, down in the woodlands and forests. Forest schools and Nature Kindergartens are emerging and thriving across the country. Both approaches have their roots in Scandinavian outdoor preschools but have taken on a uniquely British flavour. Forest Schools are delivered by trained practitioners and take children of all ages from the regular school or nursery they attend into local woodlands. These projects take place over a number of weeks with children going regularly to the same part of the woods. This helps children build up the awareness of the potential of being in the woods and allows time for the children to become completely at ease with their surroundings. Nature Kindergartens are based more closely on the Scandinavian model. Nurseries and preschools may have a building they use, but try and spend as much time as possible outside.
The Forest School approach took off in the UK when Early Years professionals visited outdoor preschools in Sweden and saw at first hand the impact on children’s levels of wellbeing and development. Since the mid nineties The Forest School approach has spread across Britain and across the age range, with somewhere in the region of 25000 people attending Forest School accredited training. Teachers and other members of the children’s workforce using their training to inspire the children and young people they work with and freelance Forest School practitioners are working alongside groups to get more children to Go Outside in almost any weather.
One of the strengths of Forest School is it happens over time. This is not a ‘one-off’ visit but instead children go to the woods at least once a week for half a term or longer. It is this element that allows for personal transformations, for relationships to develop, for ideas to emerge and grow, for children to understand what the woodland affords in the way of possibilities. It is this element that allows the children to take a lead, to make their own plans and take charge of their own learning.
Taking the step outside into the woods can be daunting for any school or setting and having the support of a trained Forest School practitioner or having undertaken the training themselves gives the confidence to make that step. The Forest school training also covers environmental impact so that each step is taken in as light a way as possible.
The teachers get to see their pupils in a different light. They can see children as motivated, enthusiastic problem solvers which has a real impact back in the classroom. Forest School practitioners also try and address the social and emotional needs of children. By helping children develop self awareness they are also able to develop the awareness of the natural environment and the other people around them. Some children find being in the woods unlocks their potential.
Three year old Dylan was electively mute in nursery but found it irresistible to shout “look at me!” as he swung on a rope tied to a tree. Ten year old Reece was at risk of exclusion from school. At Forest School found an environment in which he excelled at something, he carved his own wooden knife which he used to spread butter on the toast he cooked over the fire. Five year old Karam was scared when she went to the woods for the first time, but over the weeks developed confidence and resilience. She grew to love coming to the woods and on the weekend took her Mum and brothers and sisters back to the same spot to show them the tree she loved climbing the most.
So Forest Schools are changing the way children spend their time and giving them skills and connections with nature for life.
Thanks to Lily Horseman at Kindling Playwork for writing such an inspiring post. After reading, I am left full of hope and excited at the fact that there are so many forest schools popping up throughout Britain. Hopefully this will inspire a similar “revolution” across North America.…………………Marghanita Hughes
• Kindling: www.kindlingplayandtraining.co.uk
• Forest School forum: http://www.forestschools.com/fdirect/index.php
• Training: http://www.forestschools.com
Hashtags: #forestschool #forestschools
• Forest Education Initiative:
• Forest School Special Interest Group; Institute of Outdoor Learning:
- Forest school Wales