Forest Schools are the ‘in thing’ at the moment, but what are they and how are we using the concept to enrich the education of Nursery to Year 2 boys? Natasha Doran, our Head of Thorpe House Pre-Prep and a Forest School Practitioner explains….
Isn’t Forest School just about playing and having fun in the woods?
It’s so much more than that! The Forest School initiative began in Scandinavia in the 1950s and the philosophy behind it is ‘to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences’.* So yes, the children should be having fun, but Forest School is also an opportunity to learn new skills outside the confines of the traditional classroom.
Why did Thorpe decide to embrace the Forest School initiative?
As a boys’ school, we know that boys work in very different ways to their female counterparts. Learning comes more easily through movement and visual experience, the more interactive and participative the better. So, this September we decided to introduce Thorpe Explorer Forest School sessions for every boy in our Pre-Prep Department. Come rain or shine and led by myself and a group of parent helpers, each year group spends two hours per week on Austenwood Common, the woods situated behind Thorpe House.
So, what are the benefits?
The pure joy demonstrated by each and every Thorpe Explorer (the name given to our boys when they are in Forest School) is immense, as are the benefits of spending significant time outside the confines of the classroom:
- Self-confidence is increased; this is particularly beneficial for children who do not perform as well in the classroom and for quieter boys, who are more naturally talkative in the forest environment.
- Children are given the opportunity to assess risks and make sensible choices when dealing with new situations.
- They learn to work in teams and as individuals. I’ve been known to shed a tear of happiness when a boy who never had been – became the leader.
- New practical skills such as whittling, den building and fire building are experienced.
- Physical development sees huge benefits, as boys climb trees, negotiate steep clay pits and walk along fallen branches and generally build up their fitness levels in the fresh air.
- Being outside in the forest environment benefits their mental well-bring; it seems impossible to feel any pressure or stress amidst such beauty!
- The little altercations which are so normal in the playground aren’t present here; instead language and communication thrive and the children learn to negotiate and to respect each other’s points of view.