‘A Forest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning.’
(Forest School Education – www.forestschools.com)
The Forest School approach has been successful with children of all ages who visit the same local woodlands on a regular basis and through play, have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. Through Forest School learning, children will develop: self awareness; self regulation; empathy; good social communication skills; independence; a positive mental attitude, self-esteem and confidence. Many of the strengths and qualities we teach as a Building Learning Power school.
During 2016/17 Mr Edwards and Mrs Sharp will be taking groups of children to the Forest School site at Setmurthy every Monday and Tuesday. All children in Years 1 - 6 will have about 7 sessions (morning or afternoon).
It is great to take the children out to the woods and I hope that this experience embeds a joy and love of the outdoors. Unfortunately we have had some visitors who enjoy being outside but don't know how to look after it.
I spent an hour yesterday morning before school clearing up the mess. Some of the huge logs we use as seats had been burned. The fire pit completely burned out and countless cans and bottles left strewn around. At one point, the fire had been hot enough to melt the glass bottles.
All of the wood other classes had collected had also been burned - nothing was left.
Whilst Setmurthy is open to public access it is difficult to understand why people should leave our site in such a mess. I would be grateful for any information as to how we can resolve this problem.
here are some pictures of the latest classes working at school and Setmurthy.
Surprisingly warm weather - especially the last two days (16th and 17th January). It has been very still and we have been in the clouds for some of the time when the mist descended and added an eerie atmosphere. However, we can not escape rain in Cumbria. Even if we have avoided it during our sessions; it has rained a lot. The forest is very muddy in places!
We 'explored' a new part of the forest last week with 4H. Areas Mr Edwards had never found before.
There has been some fantastic focussed work using knives, bow-saws, mallets and bill-hooks.
Some great teamwork, negotiation and trial and error trying to make zip wires and swings.
Unfortunately; the start to one of our sessions was delayed. The children were disappointed and disgusted by all the litter at the entrance to Setmurthy. So we cleaned it up.
The weather forecast was bad for yesterday so we decided to go for an explore.
We have had wet days. We have had dry days. The children have been fantastic!
Mr Edwards set more of a challenge and the children were very focussed.
Why Forest School and why Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) is important to Fairfield?
Learning outside the classroom is about raising achievement and allowing the most fulsome personal development possible for all the pupils and students involved. It is an approach which uses the pupils' and students’ experience in new environments as a stimulus so that they learn about themselves and the world around them more effectively and faster than ever before.
It is thus about helping young people learn everything - from facts about the world in which they live, to facts about themselves, their responses, their interests and what drives them on.
Above all it is about helping all pupils and students make the most of their attributes, their lives, and their experiences so that ultimately they can lead lives which are varied, fruitful, and fulfilling for themselves, and which make a contribution to the society in which they live.
In this regard Learning Outside the Classroom is about raising achievement and raising the individual’s awareness of the self through an approach to learning based around direct experience.
Thus it is about what we learn, how and where we learn, and who we are.
Moving beyond the norm - teaching creativity, play, experimentation
Creativity is not a subject. Art, music, English, drama, dance - these are subjects, but in part they are teaching their own techniques and history as well as the creative application of the skills of the subject.
But learning outside the classroom gives an opportunity to explore creativity itself, because it takes the pupils and students into a new world, where novel responses are needed.
Every one of the art forms listed above has a strong tradition of working beyond enclosed spaces, from the artist painting outdoors, to the musician considering the sounds of the environment and how the sound of his/her instrument changes outdoors. Drama and dance likewise take on new forms when removed from the normal environment.
So thus we have an opportunity to decouple the artistic form from the normal environment of learning and start to explore the notion of creative responses to what we see outside.
But this can go further. If the pupils or students are learning about a particular historical event or location (the battlefield, the castle...) and they can visit such a location, then rather than just observe and maybe touch, they can move on to begin to consider a creative response.
The more the pupils and students are engaged with the environment, the more their inventiveness is liberated. Take them to an ancient stone circle, and they can not only contemplate the world of the ancients who built it, but also consider it from their own perspective.
It is commonly observed that in schools where learning outside the classroom takes place, attendance records improve, and behavioural problems decline.
Of course, there are some children who initially find it hard to respond to a new environment, and if you are concerned that you have some such children you will need to consider ways of slowly and gently introducing these youngsters into the notion of teaching and learning outside the classroom walls.
But for most children, learning beyond the classroom is a pleasure and one to which they respond quickly. And in helping those who don’t find learning beyond the classroom easy, one is giving them an extra level of sophistication which will open up many more areas for them in years to come.
There is also a health issue. It is a debatable point as to whether the current practice of keeping children or teenagers within a room or set of rooms in a group of perhaps 30 or so for five hours or so a day, five days a week, is a good idea.
We do it because that is how schooling has evolved, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe it should only be four days a week. Or three…
Certainly being outside the classroom is liable to encourage the pupils and students to become healthier, and the resources beyond the classroom are far greater than those within the classroom.
In February 2016 psychologists from the University of Derby published their findings from a series of questions they asked 775 pupils from 15 primary schools. Their aim was to establish how much of a connection the children felt with nature.
The pupils were asked to say how much they agreed with statements such as, “I like to hear different sounds in nature”; “When I feel sad, I like to go outside into nature”; “Being in the natural environment makes me feel peaceful”; and “I like to garden”.
Dr Miles Richardson, in charge of the project found that children who exhibited a high level of connection to nature performed significantly better than other children in their English key stage 2 tests. They also performed slightly better in maths tests. The findings suggested one of the most remarkable “short cuts” to better KS2 English results ever found.
The children with a connection to nature also tended to exhibit higher levels of wellbeing than their classmates. “That connection to nature is part of a healthy and satisfied life,” Dr Richardson said. ““It’s that feeling of having a relationship to the wider ecology – enjoying it, and finding wonder and awe. An emotional experience in the natural world.”
Thus the point here is that what is being measured is not how much time children spend in nature, but the quality of their connection with the natural environment.
Dr Richardson added, “You don’t need a wilderness or a fantastic rural environment to experience a connection to nature. You can find it in very modest places: in the park, or in the flowers on the trees in the car park.”