Forest School Programmes
We offer Forest Schools Programmes for primary and secondary ages, either in our beautiful garden, or if you have the space, we can help you set up a Forest School area in your own school. Our education manager has 8 years experience running forest school session for children and young people from a variety of settings including EYFS, KS1, KS2, KS4, Pupil Referral Units and Schools for Children with Additional Needs.
During a forest schools programme, children spend regular time learning outdoors, in child led, child intiatied activities. They do woodland crafts and activities such as fire-lighting, using tools to create wooden objects, den making, creative activities and lots of games. Creating a fun, supportive environment and giving children exciting, achievable tasks, enables them to succeed and build confidence and self-esteem, and develop new skills which support their learning back in the classroom.
More information on the ethos, principles and background of Forest School is available at http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/
There is a growing body of research documenting the impact of forest schools on children's development and well-being. Here is some more evidence from some of the teachers we have worked with:
"St Bede’s Reception Class loved our regular visits to Scotswood Gardens. Whether they were hunting for minibeasts, climbing trees or simply playing hide-and-seek, the positive impact of outdoor learning on the children’s learning and achievements shone through every week. During our six sessions of Forest School, the children were taught how to use the Forest School area safely and independently and they learned to manage their own risks. In turn the children grew increasingly confident and motivated through their play and explorations. Scotswood Gardens provides an urban school like ours opportunities to interact in a natural environment and offers exciting, hands-on experiences outside of the classroom"
"Coming to the garden has had a significant impact on the children at Rainbird primary who have had the opportunity. The children have developed their speaking and listening, problem solving, knowledge and understanding of nature and resilience. The biggest impact has been the improvements in writing as a result of the practical, real life experiences the children have gained at the gardens."
"We began Forest School in the autumn term of 2015 and the impact it has had upon our children have been phenomenal. When our reception cohort entered school their baseline assessments were low, in particular physical skills, communication and language and personal, social and emotional. Using our on-going assessments during our Forest School sessions we noticed that the children were making accelerated progress- especially their physical skills. The Children who were often very quiet in school, EAL children and lower ability children were all making good progress in the areas of learning highlighted above. At Forest School the children were not afraid of just having a go, which was wonderful to observe. I had children who were reluctant to talk suddenly approaching me and talking about all of the exciting things they had found in the garden. Lower ability children were beginning to make mathematical connections during Forest School sessions, for example, length, counting 1:1. A wonderful example of this is when a little boy (who struggled with maths) collected snails in the garden. He lined them all up and counted them- counting past 13, which was a first for him! Forest School also encourages children to work together and to problem solve. These skills are so important as they are life long skills that children need. We also observed these skills being used within our classroom environment. How the children interacted with each other changed considerably too. During Forest School children were helping friends up trees, pulling them up muddy banks, making up wild and wonderful games together and once again these skills were brought back to the classroom. The children were able to work together and solve conflicts more without adult intervention.Forest School mirrors the ethos and principles behind the EYFS and gives children skills which they can apply to their school work, home life and beyond! Forest School encompasses all that we want to instil in our children- confidence, social skills, thinking skills, knowledge and most importantly, independent skills. It has been a wonderful experience and I can not wait to start Forest School with my new class."
For a more formal evaluation of the impact see for example O’Brien, L and Murray, R. (2006). A marvellous opportunity for children to learn: a participatory evaluation of Forest School in England and Wales. Forest Research. Downloadable from http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/fr/INFD-5Z3JVZ )
How it works
The group of up to 15 children or young people will come to the garden or an external site for a weekly or fortnightly session (usually 9.30 - 2.30) which will be run by SNCG staff. We can do anything from an introductory programme of 6 sessions, to ongoing programmes. The longer the programme the greater the impact. Price of the whole programme will be agreed depending on the schools needs but a programme of 10 sessions costs £2,300, and can be delivered over one or two terms. SNCG staff will plan and deliver all sessions; provide all the tools and resources needed for the sessions; carry out risk assessments for all sessions and share these with school staff prior to the visit; and ensure a trained first aider is present at every session with a fully stocked first aid kit.
We were recently visited by forest school lecturer from Cumbria University who observed one of our sessions and said "There was a really impressive range of activities on offer for the pupils, which they thoroughly enjoyed. There was freedom and lots of experiential learning, but with just the right amount of structure"
He went on to say "The staff were unfailingly enthusiastic and organised, and knew just how much time to give to the introductory briefings to maximise pupil activity time; these briefings were clear and precise. The staff were also friendly and approachable and valued all contributions and ideas from the youngsters"
Links to EYFS and National Curriculum
Forest Schools provides opportunities for development in all of the 5 key areas of the EYFS curriculum. Whilst Forest School activities will reinforce learning in many areas of the National Curriculum, here at SNCG we prefer not to theme our Forest School sessions around a certain topic as we have found this detracts from the child-led nature of Forest Schools which is one of the factors that leads to it having such a big impact.