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Article Written by Kay Kelly

It's well-documented that we are living in a more risk-averse society where many parents prefer to wrap up their children in cotton wool.

Interesting then that the Forest School specialised learning approach - which has demonstrated success with children of all ages - continues to grow in popularity.

The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage positive outdoor experiences, which includes age-appropriate supported risks and learning how to manage hazards, where children use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others.

I'm no expert in this particular concept, so I've looked at what the Forest School Association, the professional body and UK-wide voice for Forest School which promotes best practice, cohesion and 'quality Forest School for All', has to say on the subject.

The association describes Forest School as an inspirational process, one that offers learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.

It sits within, and compliments, the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.

Originally a concept developed in Wisconsin, USA, in 1927, it was later in the 1950s the idea crossed the Atlantic and was introduced in Sweden, Denmark and other European countries.

Forest School was introduced to the UK during the 1990s and, since then, the growth of the approach has been unprecedented.

The association states all participants are viewed as:

  •  equal, unique and valuable
  • competent to explore and discover
  • entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
  • entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
  • entitled to experience regular success
  • entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
  • entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

The principles of Forest School, aimed at ensuring all learners experience the cumulative and lasting benefits offered, use a range of learner-centred processes during a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits. The cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.

I am particularly drawn to the aim to promote the holistic development of learners - to foster resilient, confident, independent and creative learners and that they have the opportunity to take supported risks.

Isn't this the way we all want our children to experience their formative years to enable them to develop into well-rounded individuals?

If you want to learn more about Forest School, or perhaps start on the road to becoming a Forest School practitioner, then we offer two qualifications.

The Level 1 Award in Introduction to Forest School Principles provides learners with knowledge and understanding of the key principles.

While the Level 2 Award in Forest School Programme Support provides the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to provide support at Forest Schools in preparation to develop further to become a leader.