The Forest Schools Approach
The benefits of children being immersed in nature in natural woodland environments have now been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on wellbeing. Young children are stimulated by the multi-sensory experiences of the outdoors and typically, over time, an increase in their self-belief and confidence is evident, along with improvements in their enthusiasm and capacity to learn, communication and problem-solving skills and overall emotional well-being.
The Forest Schools curriculum meets the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (2014), Every Child Matters (2003) and in addition, gives children enhanced personal, social and emotional skills which better equip them for starting school.
At Forest Schools Kindergarten, children are physically active a lot of the time which builds strength, stamina and dexterity. Being outdoors reduces the frequency of childhood illnesses and at the same time helps to build their immune system. As children gain confidence and self-esteem this improves their emotional and mental well-being too.
The ‘wild’, but controlled and safe environment of Forest Schools, enables children to naturally assess risk and make sensible and informed decisions about how to deal with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations (such as exploring, climbing trees, or building dens). Much of the learning comes from the opportunities they have to test their own abilities in real life situations – skills that are invaluable at school and in later life. There will be bumps, bruises and scrapes along the way and it is this feedback that provides children with the necessary skills to manage risk throughout their adult life.
Forest Schools allows children space, time and freedom to learn in their own way, at their own pace. It, therefore inspires them to be motivated and curious to learn. When coupled with the resilience to learn from mistakes and confidence to work independently or as part of a group, children leave the kindergarten with all the skills they need for enjoying learning and for starting school.
A holistic Forest Schools approach to learning means that children are able to meet all areas of the Early Years Foundation Curriculum in a successful and meaningful way, through practical experiences, in an enabling environment, that fosters independence. Early maths and literacy skills, for example, are a part of everyday activities, so don’t need to be taught separately in isolation. Studies have shown that children from Forest Schools nurseries progress better and achieve higher than national standards, throughout their school life. Those who are unfamiliar with woodlands and green spaces can become confident in using them and this can form the basis of a life-long relationship with natural spaces.
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people and services that provide education and skills for learners of all ages. They provide impartial information about the quality of education and care.