At Benton Dene our intention is that our pupils have the opportunity to engage in Forest School. We aim to offer regular, active learning experiences that are inspired by the children themselves within a natural, preferably woodland setting. The long-term and child-led nature of Forest School is what sets it apart as distinctive from other outdoor learning experiences.
Quality Forest School is unique and holds to all of these six key principles:
- Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
- Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
- Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
The Forest School process helps learners develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. It creates a safe, non-judgemental nurturing environment for learners to try things out and take risks.
Pupils take part in regular sessions in woodlands, experience different seasons and build relationships with their peers, the practitioners and the natural world. Woodlands provide endless loose parts for imaginative, child-led play.
Forest School staff use observations to plan invitations for play based on individual needs and interests. Forest School compliments the curriculum but does not directly teach it. We find that curriculum links occur naturally through play, and practitioners can make these links in observations after the sessions to compliment topic learning.
It helps children to become healthy, resilient, creative and independent learners. Our approach to risk means that learners constantly expand on their abilities. We support pupils to take managed risks. So our sessions may include tool use, fires, tree climbing and roaming distances as appropriate. We work with the group to understand their needs and slowly introduce risky activities over time.
Our Forest School leaders have Level 3 Forest School Leader training and Outdoor Paediatric First Aid training. They lead sessions ably supported by the class teams. We maintain high adult: participant ratios, to ensure activities are safe, responsive,
and meet the needs of the individuals. Adults join the children in being reflective. We plan and deliver future invitations to play based on those reflections.
At Benton Dene, Forest School has been delivered as a pilot 6 week programme with a class of Y6 children. It was a great success. Currently our Reception class are participating in Forest School and have a half-day session weekly. We are looking to expand our offer.
Our current provision is in the variety of natural settings within our own large, secure school grounds. We have access to a pond area with some young trees, a willow garden with an outdoor yurt, the open space and meadow area of the school field, the allotment and a small secure area in the boundary of the school where there are a few mature trees and a log circle.
We believe the impact of Forest School at Benton Dene will place each individual at the heart of our learning community and support our children’s wellbeing.
‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is a term coined to describe society’s diminishing connection to the natural world. Lack of exposure to nature leaves pupils vulnerable to negative moods, a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, obesity and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Nonetheless, we believe that society’s nature-deficit disorder can be reversed with exposure to quality Forest School. The positive outcomes of exposure to Forest School will be improved relationship skills, reduced stress, anger and aggression, increased physical activity and reduced risk of obesity. It will increase focus and attention and enhance critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. We will see improved enthusiasm and engagement with learning and it may even boost pupil performance in the classroom too.