What do we get up to?
Each and every Forest School session will vary in form and content and will be adapted to suit the learners, season, weather and emotional variations of each group. All Forest School programmes are based on six core principles which is a framework of pedagogy, and not a static, step by step process of working.
The first fundamental element of Forest School sessions is that they take place in a woodland or outdoors setting whatever the weather or season. Here the participants explore the natural environment, and the learning programme focuses on their holistic development. The environment is the host to emotional stability and exploration.
Another significant element of Forest School learning is that it is a long-term programme that builds and develops the same group of individuals' skills, knowledge and understanding in the same woodland area on a regular basis. This feature of any Forest School programme is essential as the leader’s understanding of the group and the environment is essential for all learning that takes place.
The next element of a Forest School programme is that it takes a child-centered approach to learning and promotes experiential learning and play. The role of the Forest School leader is to be a facilitator rather than a teacher. It is our job to provide opportunities, encouragement, and support so that collaborative learning and experimentation can take place. We introduce and encourage new ideas and skill development by observing and responding to the opportunities offered by participants and nature.
The freedom of participants to direct their own learning and entertain a certain amount of risky play is also an important aspect of the programme. Taking controlled and managed risks, such as tool use, fire lighting, den building and tree climbing increase motivation, engagement as well as intellectual, cognitive, physical, and emotional development. It also helps to build self-esteem and confidence. The Forest School Leader needs to pitch these activities carefully so that the challenge is neither too hard nor too easy.
All forest school sessions are carefully planned to meet the needs of the individuals within the group while at the same time allowing for flexibility and deviation. The Forest School environment should always be a safe and welcoming place where everyone is treated as an equal. The learning is created and tailored around each particular group's needs and trust is an essential element in building each team or Forest School group community. The sense of community is created as every member, including the leader, reflects upon what has been learnt, what challenges need to be overcome and by which shared means.
Forest School programmes use a reflective process at the end of each session, but it also takes place during the activities and throughout the flow of each session through careful questioning. The practitioner’s observations and reflective practice are crucial as they are used to understand and relate to the group and used to improve and adjust the pedagogy.
All of the six principles are based on a number of educational and psychological theories and models.
What does Holistic
Holistic approaches to education focus on the complete physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing of students and how they learn and grow.
One of the main focuses of Forest School education is to foster child-centered and child-led learning in a natural environment. By its very nature Forest Schools are holistic in their mindset, approach, and delivery.
In any Forest School setting the first job of the leader is to understand and recognize the qualities of the learners in the group and this is done during the 6-week baseline assessment period.
The planning process is based on reflection, observations and assessments that are carried out by the leader. This will be on the participants’ social, physical, intellectual, communication, emotional and spiritual (SPICES model or the PILES model can be applied). There are several tools of assessment that can be used to help the leader identify and measure these aspects of character and form a holistic profile.
The tapestry of observation and reflection methods are used skillfully to create an individualised curriculum for each individual and group.
Holistic development is therefore used within the Forest Schools programme to guide and ensure that every aspect of an individual’s character is addressed, and a balanced curriculum is delivered. The educational opportunities and experiences that will be offered at Canopy Forest School will be based and founded upon the holistic method of reflection, observation, and assessment. This will allow us to achieve our ethos, mission, and value statements.
All these methods and tools will help Canopy Forest School to develop a holistic curriculum that allows everyone to shine with brilliance; socially, physically, intellectually, expressively, emotionally, and spiritually.
Below you will find a collection of graphics which try to capture the holistic approach of Forest School learning.