In Denmark and other Nordic countries, Forest Schooling has become an integral part of the curriculum for pre-school children (defined as children up to the age of seven in Denmark). It has been well documented that most children attending Forest Schools in Denmark start school with stronger social skills, the ability to work more effectively in groups, have higher self-esteem and greater confidence in their own capabilities, than children arriving from other types of Nursery.
We passionately believe that children experience a huge range of benefits when they are playing and learning outside in natural environments. The natural world provides an infinite amount more learning resources and opportunities than can ever be provided in a single room or playground. This is why we have purchased a completely secure and private nine acre field in Denholme, which we are in the process of developing into our own dedicated, private forest school facility, where children can be taken to enjoy playing and learning all day in a totally natural environment. We are not alone in believing this as a large number of studies show that children benefit from learning outdoors in many ways.
Our philosophy draws heavily upon Scandinavian models of childcare and therefore children undertake a large amount of activities away from the Nursery in natural environments and also regularly visit local community facilities as well as visiting places further afield. We regularly send our staff to Denmark to train in a Forest School.
We use the Characteristics of Effective Learning as our foundation, linking to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and our forest school philosophy, allowing children to develop a natural drive to learn in a way which suits them.
Our forest school philosophy aims:
- To encourage and develop self-confidence, resilience and independent learning
- Provide situations where children can take supported risks and challenges
- Broaden understanding and develop a respect for themselves, their peers, the natural environment and the local community
- Provide scaffolded opportunities to develop life skills
We have incorporated our philosophy into the internal design of the Nursery. For example, we have tried to maximise the amount of natural light entering the building and used natural materials where ever possible for furniture and equipment. We have removed as much plastic from our environment as we can. We have removed all fluorescent lighting from the building and replaced these with S.A.D. lighting which mimics normal daylight.
Similarly, the Nursery outdoor learning area has been redesigned to reflect its Scandinavian philosophy. Wherever possible natural and natural living materials have been used to provide a number of discrete but interconnected areas where children can play and learn in calm environment.
Risk assessments have been carried out regarding all aspects of the Nursery’s operations including all excursions away from the Nursery. Parents are welcome to examine these should they so wish to do so.
Awareness of environment
Children attending Forest Schools become much more aware of, learn much more about, and have a deeper connection with the natural world about them. It becomes natural to enjoy exploring the environment. They develop feelings of ownership of the local environment and belonging in their local community.
Positive attitude to learning
Children enjoy learning in nature. Children attending Forest Schools experience an increase in motivation, self-discovery and develop a more positive attitude towards learning. They develop a strong “practical can do attitude”. in addition to increased knowledge and understanding of many areas of learning.
A healthy body
Forest Schools encourage children to become more physically active and spend time outside in the fresh air. Children’s immune systems become stronger and they accrue a wide range of other health benefits. Their co-ordination and balance improve and their fine and gross motor skills develop whilst they become physically fitter and stronger.
Increased confidence and self reliance
Children gain greater understanding of, and increased confidence in, their own abilities as they complete tasks alone or as part of a team. Forest schools provide situations where children can take supported risks and challenges. Children become better at calculating and managing risks. They become more independent, resilient and self-reliant.
Knowledge and understanding
Children’s knowledge and understanding increases through observing their environment and undertaking tasks using a range of tools and natural materials. They learn at first-hand about the natural world including the fauna, flora, weather, insects and animals about them. They also learn to understand and appreciate others as they work together in groups.
Moreover, children develop both better self-awareness and learn to take responsibility for their actions.
Children learn to become more responsible for their actions, and learn how identify, calculate and manage risks better. They also learn how to co-operate, share tasks, tools and equipment, and work together as part of a team with a common objective. Thereby strengthening bonds and social ties. They also learn at first hand by feeling, doing and seeing, rather than through videos or pictures in a book or iPad. Regardless of whether they are catching insects, searching for plants or building a shelter. The desire for learning is encouraged and transferred back to the other parts of the child’s life.
A Typical Day
The Ladybirds have three dedicated areas on the ground floor of the Nursery, children have access to a wide range of open-ended resources which support learning and creativity as well as a dedicated area for sleep and rest.
The Squirrels have two dedicated areas on the ground floor of the Nursery, the environment supports child-led play and promotes children’s independence. Various comfortable areas provide space for sleep and rest.
Hedgehogs & Owls
The Hedgehogs and Owls have two dedicated areas on the first floor of the Nursery. Children can freely explore a wide range of resources to support learning and development in an environment that promotes independence.
Before and after school provision for children who attend Lightcliffe C of E Primary School. The Kestrels dedicated area of the Nursery is the Outdoor Classroom which is based within the Nursery’s Outdoor Learning Area.