What is a forest school?
When asked the question, what is a Forest School, you first have to look at the history of this method of woodland education. Once you understand the key ethos of a Forest School, only then can you build an accurate picture and definition for yourself.
Any academy or institute can look to Denmark and Sweden for principles that underpin lifestyle, attaching these to the five identified 'rules' of a Forest School. In these countries you find that the outdoors is far more of a focus in life, both in educational settings and also as a part of the family time.
The Forest School Association, is the governing body for the ideology and lists the 5 fundamental elements of a setting as:
- Long term process of regular visits
- Takes place in nature - woodland, woods, area with planting
- Promotes holistic development
- Encourages risk taking
- Run by a qualified (Level 3) practitioner
Only if all of these rules are followed, can a location truly call itself a Forest School. It has been identified recently, through studies as observations, that a large group of places are providing one off experiences, rather than that pivotal regular exposure to the natural world.
Understandably this can be attributed to financial and time constraints, often curriculum based in schools. It often the management in a setting who seem unable to fully connect with the benefits of the ethos: mental health, physical activity, personality development.
However it must be noted that without regular, timetabled access, this does not provide the optimum development opportunities for the attendees.
In short, it needs to be high quality, regular and in all weather!