6th class – principle of regular sessions

Forest school is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits.

The essence of forest school is the building and developing of relationships; with ourselves, each other and nature. This can’t be done in a one off session. (One off sessions have great value for other reasons.)

The children develop relationships with their classmates in different ways. One of the sixth class children said that she likes forest school because the class are in groups of ten and it gives them an opportunity to get to know other people in the class and make new friends. I frequently see children seeing each other in a new light. We are different in different environments. Some children shine in a classroom. Others might be quiet and challenged by academic work but in the woods they become a leader and initiator. And this confidence carries back into their school friendships.

Some children in transition year have written some memories of their time in Forest school. Here is what Ali said: “Looking back this was a very useful way of making new friends because we are seeing each other in a different environment, instead of seeing each other in the classroom/school.”

They also develop their relationship with nature. Being longer-term means learners can see the changing seasons, which is another way of connecting to nature. Our walk up to the woods we notice what changes and what stays the same. Most children (and maybe adults) don’t put together the blossom on a tree (e.g cherry or apple) with its essential connection with the fruit. In Forest school we make that connection real.

Regular sessions allow the build up of skills over time. Over the 6 years that this class have done forest school they have learned whittling, rope work, making cordage, making ink, weaving, knots and foraging amongst many other skills. “Forest school was a fun and active way to learn about nature. I remember we learnt about different types of knots which were very helpful.”

The forest school programme is structured around observation. The leaders watch and listen for the interests of children in each group and planning is the result of that collaboration. It enables children’s learning to progress in a structured way while being child-led and fostering the development of a relationship with the outdoors. Though we share the ideas for the activities and the stories, each group will have a very different experience of the session as it is responsive to the group’s interests and needs.

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