Forest Schools are a fairly new concept for British parents and teachers, with the Scandinavian idea less than 30 years old. It values the importance of taking learning outdoors, so children have a chance to connect with nature and develop skills they might not necessarily pick up in the classroom environment. Learning could involve exploring the local woods, building dens and even putting classroom learning into practice.
There are countless benefits to taking learning outdoors and according to research, it can have a major impact on how we respond to situations as adults, including increased self-belief, confidence, problem-solving skills and emotional well-being.
An alternative learning approach
Forest Schools are very much child-led – the change of environment naturally encourages children to explore their surroundings. It teaches children the importance of assessing and taking risks, as well as understanding the value behind trial and error learning, for example learning how to build a fire or build a den.
Those children who don’t engage well in the classroom find they become highly observant and engrossed in the activities within Forest School learning. Research by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that children exposed to Forest School activities- particularly if they were new sensory experiences- had significantly improved their language skills. They also developed stronger social skills through team activities such as sharing tools and group problem solving. It also increased their concentration span and willingness to participate in activities. Similarly, for those children with additional needs, such as ADHD, outdoor activities in nature appear to improve symptoms in children by 30% compared with other activities.
Natural England published a report showing that less than 10% of children today play in natural places such as woodlands and the countryside when compared with 40% of children 30–40 years ago. Not only is this having a declining impact on the physical health of children, with obesity on the rise, but many children are losing their connection to nature, as they are increasingly relying on more material objects for entertainment.
A change of pace
When the pandemic forced us all into lockdown, we had no choice but to stay indoors, leaving only for essential travel and exercise. It is within that time, many of us discovered the great outdoors. For some, it was going for a leisurely stroll in the park and for others, it meant conquering that 20 mile challenge. According to the charity, Mind, spending time in nature can help with anxiety, stress and depression. However committed you were- stepping outside seemed to help.
For others, bathing in nature provided a boost of inspiration for their creative outlets, whether that was photography, painting or writing. A change in scenery can not only provide a muse for creativity, but also the calmness and clarity you might need to get over that ‘writers block’.
We can all agree that nature is for everyone – whether you are young or old – it is incredibly healing. If you too would like to share your love for nature with the next generation, then a course in early years could be the right move. At Walsall College, we offer a T-Level in childcare and education, which covers Forest School education in our on-site nursery.
Apply now to secure your place for September. See our Early Years courses.