What is A Forest School?
"Forest School" is based on a Scandinavian idea that considers children's contact with nature to be extremely important from an early age. A study trip from Somerset to Denmark in 1995 decided that the approach was appropriate for use in Britain. Since then Forest School has spread to many areas as educationalists have witnessed the impact that it can have on children.
At Rowandale we are delighted to be an accredited NIFSA Forest School. Just this year we received our Birch Award. All classes in Rowandale complete one Forest School lesson in Moira Demesne each half term.
- The setting is rigorously checked before every session.
- Clear boundaries are established for the children to stay within.
Learning can be linked to the National Curriculum
- By incorporating innovative approaches to learning (such as undertaking small and easily achievable tasks) children are encouraged to develop their curiosity and motivation to learn. This is particularly important for those who find it difficult to assimilate knowledge in a strictly classroom situation.
- The freedom to explore using multiple senses is fundamental for encouraging creative, diverse and imaginative play.
- The focus is on the "whole child" (not just their academic ability).
- Regular contact for the children over a period of time (e.g. all year round, in all weathers).
- A high adult to pupil ratio that allows for children to undertake tasks and play activities that challenge them but do not put them at undue risk of harm.
- It also allows practitioners quickly to get to know the individual learning styles, abilities and characteristics of the children in their charge.
- Forest School sessions are led by qualified Forest School Leaders with a recognised Level 3 Forest School Award.
- Children are encouraged to undertake an element of risk.
The benefits of Forest Schools for children and society are well documented.
- Increased confidence and independence of the child.
- Development of their language skills by providing a real context for language.
- Ability to take risks and to become more open to new experiences.
- The forest school program evolves from the needs of the child and includes the child's interests.
- Provides the practitioner with an alternative view of the child and further insights into a child's development.
- Beneficial to a child's all-round development, particularly in the areas of personal, social and emotional, language and communication.
- Underpins the principles laid down in the foundation stage guidelines.
- The forest school experience has been very well received by all those involved in it.
- Provides opportunities for the children to take risks, problem solve and use thinking skills.
- Complements learning in the classroom and can be transferred.
Dr Gillian Humes, former Science Co-Ordinator Belfast Education & Library Board said this about the work of NIFSA...
"This is one of the few projects that truly integrates all elements of the revised curriculum. It incorporates aspects of history, geography and science, delivers an opportunity to develop thinking skills and personal capabilities, and has a strong emphasis on promoting numeracy and literacy. Even more importantly than this, the initiative connects children to their outdoor environment, stimulating curiosity and inspiring a love of the natural world that is likely to remain long after the end of primary school. Teachers participating in the project are well supported with expertise and resources and enjoy the project as much as the children."