Forest Schools originated in Denmark. In the 1980s, it became an integral part of the Early Years programmes as the country was quick to see it’s far reaching benefits.
These benefits were seen at first-hand by a group of students and staff from Bridgewater College in the 1990s. They were one of the first organisations to set up a Forest School in the UK.
The Forest School programme at Prestfelde has been developed to encourage and to inspire children through the mastery of small achievable goals in an outdoor environment.
It promotes self-esteem and independence skills, teaching children to think for themselves whilst developing a love of the outdoors. The emphasis on experiential learning and freedom (from watching practitioners) encourages higher level thinking.
It supports children’s development and understanding of risk. It is important that children learn to assess and take manageable risks.
‘Children need challenge and excitement. If their play environment is made too safe and sanitised, the children will either slump into uninspired and repetitive play or they will find some way to spice up their play environment’. (Lindon, 2003: 46)
We feel the Forest School programme promotes the Prestfelde ethos by supporting children at their own pace and following their lead as they explore a safe and stimulating environment full of sensory diversity and variability. It links with our Eco-School themes of creating wildlife areas and using natural materials and resources.
In all weathers, children aged 3-7 years visit the woodland regularly throughout the year. Children and adults dress appropriately, because there ‘is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!’ Children are encouraged to explore and investigate and as a parent said, ‘You can wash away the mud, but you can never wash away the experience’.