Interest in forest schools has skyrocketed over the years. Even so, a lot of parents and carers are still on the fence about it, mainly because it’s a relatively new concept. So, in this blog, we are giving you a rundown of everything you need to know about a forest school education: the history, its guiding principles, the curriculum and schedule, activities, and of course, the benefits children can gain.
With no further ado, let’s dive in!
History of Forest School
Forest school education, like its name suggests, is a type of outdoor learning program that takes place in natural spaces and allow learners to develop personal, social and technical skills. In cases where there are no immediate forests, forest schools are situated in a spacious outdoor location that enables children to move and explore.
The whole Forest School idea is rooted on the Norwegian concept of “friluftsliv” or the ‘free air life’ education that emphasises and celebrates the time spent outdoors. The concept began in Sweden and Denmark before it was adopted by other European countries, the United States and finally, Asia.
While forest schools are run with young learners in mind, its ethos is highly adaptable and beneficial even for advanced, teenage learners (aged 13 to 18 years old). At Primus Forest School, our outdoor learning curriculum is tailored specifically for children aged 18 months to 6 years old.
Principles & Philosophy
Across the world, all Forest Schools are governed by six (6) major principles crafted in 2011 by the Forest School Association (FSA). These principles are flexible yet structured enough to promote holistic learning. (The list is lifted verbatim from the Forest School Association website)
- Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit.
- Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice
- Forest school uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning.
In summary, forest schools are governed by principles that provide learners with a chance to develop holistically through supported risk taking in a natural learning environment, guided by qualified Forest School practitioners.
Primus Forest School imbibes the spirit of FSA in that we consider the natural environment as our learners’ greatest teacher. Our mission inspires us to keep working so young learners can benefit from hands on learning experiences that lead to the development of positive skills and attitudes.
Forest School Curriculum
Bear in mind that the forest school curriculum is anchored primarily in children’s natural curiosity, especially when it relates to the world they live in. As such, the curriculum design takes on a rather flexible and fluid approach, where children naturally follow “organic” lesson plans that are not too rigid or focusedbut enable the children to reach the milestones. .
This non-rigid structure is also a result of the student-led and play-based learning approaches at forest schools. As outlined in outdoor education pedagogies, teachers and facilitators merely act as guides that oversee children’s interests. There are no prefabricated or pre-packaged learning materials in forest schools; instead, children are left to explore their curiosities themselves.
While risks are always present in outdoor learning, forest schools do not shy away from this; in fact, they even encourages supported risk taking in a safe environment.
Additionally, most forest schools also have strict no-screen time policies to limit children’s use and exposure to gadgets so they could be better connected with the natural world.
Forest School Schedule & Activities
Daily classes can be full day or half day, depending on the school. At Phoenix park Forest School, in-classroom lessons are merged with daily outdoor forest school activities to give children a holistic learning experience. Classes begin at 8.30am and end at 12.15pm for half-day programmes, and 2.15pm or 6pm for full day programmes.
Apart from indoor classes, academic learning is also held in the outdoor environment daily, where children engage in a series of messy play and sensory activities to grow their physical and critical thinking skills, on top of academic knowledge.
In addition, every child will get to participate in various forest activities, rain or shine. These activities can include:
- climbing trees
- obstacle courses
- playing with mud
- building shelters
- playing in the mud
- social games
- art & crafts with natural elements
- animal spotting
Benefits of Forest Schools to Young Learners
One of the buzzwords often associated with forest schools is “holistic”, especially when we talk about the benefits of a forest school education. Some of the notable benefits are subdivided into categories, including:
Physical: Forest schools encourage the adventure-seeking behaviours of learners and help develop better body control and coordination at an early age.
Social & Emotional: Forest school activities support the early socialisation of learners because they are encouraged to mingle with peers. This trailblazes their involvement in teamwork and collaboration, raising their resilience and helping them overcome risks.
Mental: Studies show that children exposed to the natural world are mentally stronger.
Creative: Forest school classes involve a lot of building and creating, so children are highly stimulated with imaginative play. In forest schools, they can utilise their creative faculties better as they create using natural resources around them.
Intellectual: Being outside forces young learners to dig deeper as they uncover the inner workings of their environment. This creates a more engaging approach to academics, as children can use their cognitions better to solve and understand puzzling natural elements and occurrences.
Language & Communication: Children can learn how to articulate their thoughts and share their ideas better in forest schools. Frequent collaboration between facilitators and children and among learners themselves help shape their language.
This is just a snapshot of the numerous benefits a forest school education can offer young learners. To get an in-depth idea, we highly suggest that you check out our blog here: The Benefits of A Forest School Education for Your Child.
Forest schools are structured around the belief that learning and education are effective when learners are thoroughly engaged and supported. This happens when children’s natural curiosities are encouraged and when their interests are followed.
At forest schools, children are given the opportunity to make sense of their natural world and experiences better, so they could develop confidence, hone their motivation to learn and be equipped with practical skills and knowledge that nurture them into well rounded individuals.
Address: 310 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park Singapore 247975
Contact: 6235 5310
Operation Hours: 8.00 AM to 6.00 PM