Forest Schools

Just over 100 years ago, nursery education pioneer, Margaret Macmillan, wrote that the “best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed over by the sky.” (Macmillan, 1919: 109) Today, outdoor learning experiences are firmly embedded as part of good Early Years practice, with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) emphasising their value because of the benefits to children’s health, well-being and intellectual development. (DfE, 2014: Section 3.58, p28) My focus here will be on ways in which pupils in the later stages of schooling can also take advantage of such benefits.

The National Curriculum in England already supports the value of outdoor learning across a range of subject areas (DfE, 2013) and research has shown  that teachers of school-aged children believe that pupils’ social skills, health and well-being and behaviour are all improved by outdoor learning experiences, as well as having a positive effect on their own teaching, professional development and job satisfaction. (Waite, et al, 2016) Despite this, it seems that many pupils are deprived of the opportunity to learn in a natural, outdoors environment. (Cutler, 2016) These pupils are missing out on the cognitive, health and well-being, motivational, affective and holistic benefits to be derived from the learning opportunities provided by outdoor environments: practical problem-solving and discovery requiring the exercise of a wide range of thinking skills as well as the development of fine and gross motor skills. Such environments provide assimilation, accommodative and transformative learning opportunities (Jarvis, 2009) in a number of curriculum areas.  Furthermore, experiential learning of this kind is highly motivational (Pickering, 2018: 219) and results in deeper levels of learning. (Bruner, 1986) At the same time, there are many opportunities for essential social interaction to take place, as emphasised in constructivist ideas about learning (Vygotsky, 1986), while, alongside this are many benefits in the affective domain: resilience, co-operation, teamwork, adaptability, respect for others and their ideas, an appreciation of nature and the need to care for the environment, self-esteem and confidence. Jordan (2015) has demonstrated the positive effects of the natural world on a child’s all-round development and Reese and Myers (2012) have emphasised that time spent outdoors benefits both health and well-being.

Outdoor learning takes place every Friday, the year groups take turns each half term.

Autumn 1Autumn 2Spring 1Spring 2Summer 1Summer 2
Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6