What is Forest School?
Forest school is an innovate approach to education that takes place within a diverse range of outdoor spaces. Taking root in Europe in the 1950's, forest school was really an interactive, play-based, experiential learning program geared towards pre-school age children. Kids would spend their days playing within and interacting with the natural world. Think of the turn of phrase the world is your playground as being an accurate description of what forest looks like in practice.
Since the 1950's the forest school approach has spread globally. Scandinavia, the UK, Australia and the US all boast thriving forest school communities, operating in richly diverse settings. Forest school has slowly started to take root in Canada over the last decade. Programs are popping up from coast to coast as we remember the profound importance of nature-play!
Principles of Forest School
1.Takes place in a variety of outdoor spaces
Woodlands, ravines, creeks, meadows, beaches etc. The natural world is your oyster! Forest school emphasizes regular and repeated visits to the same outdoor location and provides opportunity for the learner to build a deep relationship to the land.
2. Promotes the holistic development of the child
Forest school practitioners view children as competent and capable individuals, with unique learning styles and strengths. Forest School aims to foster resilient, confident and creative learners, while at the same time taking into consideration emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
3. Utilizes emergent, inquiry-based, place-based, play-based, experiential learning approaches
Children's curiosity, desire to play, internal motivation, and questioning guide the flow of the day. Practitioners take on the role of co-learner, often learning along side of the kids. Hands-on play experiences are highly valued.
4. Stives to build a community of engaged, active and diverse learners
Forest School values children's individual skill sets and perspectives. Healthy social interactions are modelled and encouraged between all members of the community. Forest School seeks to honour the individuality of all participants.
5. Offers participants the opportunity to navigate risk
Forest School practitioners are advocates of risky play. Risk taking is identified, supported and co-managed by skillful adults. Risky play is viewed as an important and valuable opportunity to build competency and confidence, both physically and emotionally.
6. Promotes loose part play and engagement with natural materials
Interacting with natural materials (twigs, branches, stones, mud, leaves etc.) gives children the opportunity to get creative and use their imagination. Natural play materials provide limitless play possibilities. Open-endedness is what it's all about.
7. Facilitated by qualified forest school practitioners
Highly skilled practitioners have a solid understanding of child development and a passion for the natural world. They're able to scaffold learning experiences in a way that supports children in achieving individual goals. Adults balance observations, planning and interactions in a harmonious way and are always reflecting upon their practice.