What Is A Forest School?
Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.
The term Forest School describes an engaging and innovative approach to early childhood education that focuses on outdoor play and fosters environmental stewardship. Children learn by direct experience using their five senses in a natural outdoor environment. The benefits to outdoor learning are many! Developing motor skills, engaging in creative play, staying healthy, learning how to manage risks, developing independence, and grow their compassion for nature and wildlife are just a few.
Forest Schools are common in Europe where they date back to the 1950s and perhaps much earlier in Scandinavia, but they are just now beginning to grow in popularity here in the United States.
This type of learning has a deep commitment to total nature immersion, which results in a deep and personal connection to the natural world. This approach helps learners develop an inquisitive and positive relationship with the outdoors. Forest School has frequent and regular sessions in the same forested environment, which will encourage confidence and independence. Forest School promotes holistic development by considering all aspects of the learner: their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative, and spiritual potentials, while seeking to engage students in the learning process to encourage personal and collective responsibility.
For more information on what a Forest School is, check out the Forest School Association.
How To Start A Forest School INSPIRED PLAYGROUP:
If you don’t have a Forest School or Forest School inspired group already established in your area, it’s really easy to start your own! First, find a few other like-minded parents who want to participate in Forest School as well. Then all you need to do is:
- Choose a place to meet. For our forest school playgroup, we meet at a forested public picnic area in a nearby National Forest, which has fire-pits and access to a stream. It is important to meet at the same location (or the same one or two locations) to establish routine and predictability for the kids. Also, be sure to look into day-use rules in the particular area you choose.
- Create a schedule. We meet once a week for two hours. Again, it’s important to meet on the same day and time each week, to establish a predictable routine for everyone.
- Organize an activity. In our group, Izzy and Mary lead with a different nature-based activity each week. Are group is also cooperative in nature and we ask other parents to volunteer and organize an activity and lead when they are able.
Maybe you’re not interested in starting your own forest school inspired playgroup, but you still want your child to be involved. If so, check out this great list of US Forest Schools. Also, look into Tinkergarten to see if there are any free forest school classes happening in your area.
Forest School Activities
Check out all of our Forest School Activities here.
You can also check out our Forest School Activity Pinterest board for more ideas here.