Supporting the Development of Forest School in Primary Schools

Case Study 1

GROW delivered a programme of sessions for Foundation Stage children in the woodland area at one Wirral Primary School. Evaluating the sessions, the class Teacher said:

 

'This has been a fabulous experience for our F2 and we thank you. It has kick started us to consider how this area can be managed long term, how to develop the area for the future and how we can use the area purposefully as an outdoor learning space.'

'It has been great to cover so much of the EYFS curriculum outdoors and I can see the potential for other areas of learning to be incorporated too.'

'We have been able to make observations on how the children have responded which has been added to their individual learning journeys giving parents the opportunity to share in what they have been learning too.'

 

'Calum [name changed] has a diagnosis of autism and has quite rigid play behaviours around trains and he will take this play into different areas of learning but it was very good to see another interest developing [due to his engagement in Forest school] with his attention to the dandelions – flowers and then the seed heads.'

Case Study 2

Wavertree CofE Primary, Liverpool-

evaluation from the Head of EYFS

At the beginning of the six weeks, we had 15 children that had had very little experience learning in the outdoor.  A lot of the children do not even have a back garden, and so this was a completely new experience for some.

Duane and Laura were very knowledgeable about what was required in order to keep the children safe and were able to link activities to curriculum objectives. All of the Prime areas of learning and some of the Specific areas were addressed during the sessions.

Physical Development

Both gross and fine motor control were developed through the many different activities including den building, building a bug house, whittling, threading, weaving, sawing and moving along an obstacle course.  Children grew in confidence as they developed the skills required to complete all tasks. Children have become more proficient using tools, which in turn, has had an impact on their fine motor control for writing.

Communication and Language

Forest school provided a perfect opportunity for children to develop their communication skills through the introduction of new words.  Children opened up who previously would not normally speak in this non-threatening environment, to express their enthusiasm and love of the activities.  We have seen an enormous improvement in speech and language development since Forest School started, especially with children who are selective mute or those who have a poor vocabulary. Listening skills have also improved by children having to follow instructions and also tuning in to the natural sounds around them, which again, has had an impact on phonics, enabling children to tune in to letter sounds in words.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

It has been very obvious to all concerned how the children have grown in confidence through their Forest School experience.  Some, who would not talk or even participate in activities at the beginning of the six week, are now confident to talk and fully engage in the activities, as well as ask questions to aid their understanding.  We have even had one of our children deliver the safety talk at the beginning of the session!  Children now feel confident to handle many different tools, including saws and potato peelers.  They feel safe around the fire and demonstrate an understanding about how to look after the natural environment. Some children have formed close attachments with our Forest School leaders, especially Duane, and they will be really upset not to see them once our sessions have finished.

Specific Areas of Learning

Children have experienced a world that is far different from that of home.  To be allowed to build a den, to dig holes in the ground, the look at and learn how to care for the mini beasts in and around the Forest School area, to use tools that they would not normally use, to make wonderful things out of natural materials, and to do all this in a wonderful outdoor environment, whatever the weather, in the knowledge that it is OK to get our hands dirty! 

This has been the most amazing experience for the children, and we hope to build on the skills that the children have learned through Forest School in the months ahead.

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Would you like GROW to help with the development of your Forest school provision?