A Typical day

Planning


A typical session starts with the leader planning what is to take place.

They will consider beforehand the changes in behaviour they might expect to see in the children as a result of the activities they organise.

Getting ready

The children get into their outdoor clothing (waterproofs and wellingtons) and are taken to the woodland site.

Some schools are lucky enough to have a woodland that is within walking distance of the school.

Walk to the site

Stops maybe made along the way if a child notices something such as a rabbit hole, and this can lead to an impromptu lesson on wildlife and habitats.

Once children become familiar with the site they may run and lead the way to the Forest School site, so whilst they are learning to deal with the uneven terrain of the woodland floor they are also developing a sense of independence and confidence in being outdoors.

Making a fire

A later session for certain groups of children with several weeks’ experience of Forest School might include learning how to build a fire on which to roast marshmallows.

If this is the case the children, who will have been assessed as capable of acting responsibly around fire, will be briefed on what they are going to do, with the safety issues being discussed in detail.

They will be told that they need to gather firewood, and the leader will discuss which type of wood burns best by showing examples of green and dead wood.

The children will be asked to find three different lengths and thicknesses of wood to start the fire, which leads them to practice their mathematical skills as they add and subtract different twigs and try to assess their thickness and dryness.

Benefits

These activities also allow the children to develop linguistically because they are describing what they are doing as well as talking about the feel and appearance of the twigs they are collecting.

In this way the children will work together to collect enough of the right sort of wood. The children will also learn about safe behaviour around the fire area.

The success of the session will depend a great deal on the skill of the Forest School leader who is able to identify and capitalise on the many and varied opportunities for learning that emerge from undertaking a straightforward activity like building a fire.

Exploration

For groups of children for whom working with fire is not deemed appropriate, a session may be based around another theme such as “holes in the ground” or spiders’ webs.

Again exploration of the area in search of examples will be encouraged, along with discussions on how and why different creatures use holes, or how spiders catch food.

Getting creative

Opportunities for group and creative activity arise when children are invited to make their own spiders’ webs with the natural materials they find around the site.

As the children start to become more familiarwith the idea of learning in this classroom in the woods such a session might cover other curriculum subjects such as numeracy and literacy as children are encouraged to document their experiences on site or back in the classroom.

Inspiration

During the walk back to the minibus at the end of the session many of the children will be quite tired after their physical exertions; but over a series of regular sessions their stamina, balance and co-ordination will improve.

The whole experience excites and inspires the children and there is often plenty of laughing and fun to be had.