The Forest School Association define it as: ‘a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.
Here at Senacre Wood Primary School, Mrs Reeves leads weekly sessions with one class per term, with each session lasting 2.5 hours. In that time, there are activities available for the children to attempt, if they so wish, or they are free to explore their own particular interests that day. Such interests might involve working as a team, creating a game, building shelters, climbing trees, swinging on the rope swings, using tools, cooking on the fire, playing in the mud kitchen or imaginative role play – or several of those! There is great opportunity for discussion and new learning in every session.
At the beginning of each session, everyone gathers at the entrance to the forest area and we recap the rules of the woods. Mrs Reeves then shares the activities that she has brought along and invites the children to share what they would like to do. The rest of the time is free for the children to fill as they wish - and there is rarely a dull moment. At the end, everyone gathers once more to reflect on what they have enjoyed the most and what they might like to explore the following week. Finally, we all take a moment of mindfulness to listen to what is around us and make us calm to return to school.
Forest School takes place every Tuesday and each class (from Years 1-6) have a term each. A letter, outlining what your child needs and which session they are in, will be sent out the term prior to them starting.
What a fun-filled term to kickstart the year! Children in Year 6 have enjoyed some beautiful autumnal days in the woods and have used their time well.
The old, faithful rope swing has continued to be a firm favourite, with children becoming braver and more confident at how fast or high they launch themselves from the bench. There have been some great discussions about how to tweak the technique or about how to effectively take turns or support those who were more nervous.
Another popular activity has been Base Building, and some of the creations have been very inventive. We have seen a woodland gym, a Tyre Empire, enemy bases and a whole lot in between. Children have teamed up and worked together to build their bases, using a range of materials found in the woods. Each week, there has been the opportunity to talk about sharing resources effectively and respecting each other’s work.
By the end of September, the weather decided to interfere with our plans and we had a very windy day. This meant it wasn’t safe to enjoy the woodland as normal. Instead, we used the weather to our advantage and made kites to fly! The children were given some sticks, bin bags, fabric, string and newspaper and told some very detailed instructions: think about the size, shape and material. Their creations were interesting and we had limited success, but the determination to succeed was impressive and the children worked well in pairs, trialling and improving their designs.
Games are a great way to warm up when it gets chilly and encourage further teamwork and creativity. Year 6 worked in groups to create their own game to test out in the woods and we had some great ideas! The rules and equipment were all noted down and we tested them out to check that they worked.
Hubble bubble…. Potions! A mysterious purple liquid arrived in the woods later in the term – red cabbage water! This fact was kept secret until the end of the day so that the children could explore and question as many ideas as possible. Other ingredients included herbs, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice. The children discovered that if they mixed different combinations of bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice, the liquid changed colour. By the end of the day I had seen a huge array of perfumes, spells and potions.
By popular demand, we finished the term with a delicious feast of pizza wraps. The children prepared their own wrap and then helped to cook it on the fire.