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Whitchurch CE Infant & Nursery School

Forest School

Forest School is delivered on a regular basis throughout the year. Reception classes enjoy activities in the school woods every week and each key stage 1 classes have one six-week block, with additional weekly outdoor learning activities in the forest school area throughout the year.

 

When your child is scheduled to take part in Forest School we ask that they bring in wellies and extra socks. In winter, an extra layer of warm clothing, hats and gloves will be needed. We have waterproof dungarees and jackets for children to use.

 

Highlights of this term have included:

 

Reception classes found dragon eggs in forest school! They were golden and scaly and over three weeks all hatched. The children hunted for clues; told stories about dragons; made dragons nests; pretended to fly like dragons and found real dragons flying around using the I-pads.

 

Class 6 learned how to climb trees safely, observed how they changed over the seasons and did some bark rubbing to compare the different trees. They represented birds using natural art and took part in the RSPB’s Big School Bird Watch.

 

Class 9 built dens using den building poles and branches. They learned how to drag them safely and how to make a strong shelter.  You can see their fantastic “tree cookies” hanging outside forest school They sawed, drilled, threaded and decorated the wood cookies themselves.

 

We are looking forward to seeing what the next half term will bring.

 

Pictures of the children's activities can be found in the Classes section of this website.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How is the Forest School project funded?
 

We have received £8,855 via the PE and Sports Grant to fund improvements to the provision of PE and sport, for the benefit of pupils in reception and key stage 1, so that all pupils develop healthy lifestyles. We have chosen to allocate some of this funding to support our Forest School programme.

 

So How is Forest School Supporting PE?

 

The new Curriculum for PE asks schools to provide “an opportunity for pupils to develop and master fundamental movement skills, become increasingly competent and confident and access a broad range of opportunities to extend their agility, balance and co-ordination, individually and with others.

 

They should be able to engage in competitive (both against self and against others) and co-operative physical activities, in a range of increasingly challenging situations.

 

Pupils should be taught to master basic movements including running, jumping, throwing and catching, as well as developing balance, agility and coordination, and begin to apply these in a range of activities, participate in team games, developing simple tactics for attacking and defending. Apply and develop a broader range of skills, learning how to use them in different ways and to link them to make actions and sequences of movement.

 

They should enjoy communicating, collaborating and competing with each other. They should develop an understanding of how to improve in different physical activities and learn how to evaluate and recognise their own success”.

 

At Forest School we play a range of collaborative and individual games which support and develop these physical skills as well as tactics which support team games. We offer tool work which develops both fine and gross motor skills and have a range of physical obstacles such as the climbing tree, seesaw, slackline and rope swing which challenge their agility and balance alongside developing risk assessment skills.

 

We work on core skills such as running and jumping on challenging terrain offering different child specific challenges. We build stamina by regular and sustained access to the Forest School site.

 

Why does Whitchurch CE Infant and Nursery School use the Forest School Approach?

 

We identified that although as a school we provided a good range of sports provision we were not providing opportunities for other outdoor activities. We therefore have decided to use the funding to support Physical Exercise through Forest School.

 

Forest School is run by qualified professionals who support the children’s physical development and engagement with healthy lifestyles by providing opportunities for the children to test their own boundaries and physical capabilities while developing new skills. Preparing and cooking healthy foods on the fire in forest school promotes healthy eating and food hygiene.

 

The ethos of Forest School allows each session to support individual children’s needs which in turn gives them a sense of wellbeing and belonging which has led to children being more confident in having a go in class. The element of risk taking afforded by Forest School has meant that children are making healthier behaviour choices in the playground.

 

Since Forest School sessions have been delivered the following outcomes have been noted:

 

  • New skills being developed
  • Increase in self-confidence of pupils
  • Increased interest and willingness to be outdoors engaging in physical activity
  • Greater capacity for team work within the class room

 

How and what do the children learn through forest school?

 

Forest school is a child led kinaesthetic learning experience. The Forest School Team at each session set up a range of activities which are linked to either the topic or a skill area that the class teacher has identified as needing work (such as negotiation, listening skills fine motor skills or management of energy levels). At the beginning of the session the activities are outlined and each child explores these activities throughout the session. The child determines the rate, direction, depth and breadth of their learning. Some activities will lead to unset tasks. For example, a child taking part in a hide and seek game spotted bees going in and out of one of the bird boxes. This led to an extended observation of the bees and their communication ‘dances’. The children are encouraged to revisit both skills and projects they have completed in previous weeks to see how time and the environment have had an effect on them and also to ensure that their learning is secure.

 

How does Forest School Link with the curriculum?

 

The activities at Forest School are designed to complement the topic which the class is studying. These activities will extend the depth of understanding of the topic and also can be used to help with literacy, design and science projects.

 

How is science and nature taught at Forest School?

 

We encourage exploration of the site at Forest School and have many insect viewing areas. When using natural material, we always talk about its origins and characteristics. The children are gradually learning the name of the plants in Forest School and their uses. They see the site at different times of the year and are getting an understanding of the effect of the seasons and their use on the environment.

 

We also undertake more formal activities which are nature or science specific. This has included animal and plant identification and management of the habitat by planting, addressing invasive species, creating dead hedged regeneration areas and making things like bird feeders and hedgehog homes to support the residents of the wood.

 

How else does Forest school help my child?

 

The activities at Forest School are designed to improve the children’s resilience and self-confidence. The children are expected to have a go at everything and the adults will support them but not complete the task for them. We have seen a marked improvement in children’s ability to attempt an activity and articulate the kind of help they need rather than just saying “I can’t do this”.

 

We have a limited number of tools and this means that the children need to use good communication and negotiation skills, we have also noticed an improvement in this area since we have been running Forest School. Team work skills are also developed as a number of the activities and tools require children to work together.

 

The children have learnt to listen carefully to instructions and now follow a wide range of complicated yet necessary protocols. They have developed an awareness of others needs and risk assessment skills.

 

The tool work helps with fine and gross motor skills which in turn supports handwriting. Forest school has helped children work, learn and play with a wider range of their peers and shows the class teacher how they work in a different environment which can then be used to inspire and develop learning in the classroom.

 

Getting changed for Forest School has improved children’s self-help skills. They now select, then put on and take off waterproofs independently, turn them the right way around and return them to the trolley.

Who staffs Forest School and how do they ensure our children are safe whilst taking part in challenging activities such as Fire Lighting and Tree Climbing?

 

We have three Level 3 qualified Forest School Leaders in school to lead and plan the sessions. All other staff have had training in outdoor learning, so every class teacher delivers outdoor learning sessions within the Forest School area.

 

Before we undertake any new activity which requires new skills we have a tool talk or activity protocol which includes a demonstration of how and why we use the tool/activity and what we need to do to be safe. Every time we then use that tool or revisit that activity we recap the protocol.

 

When we use tools such as bow saws or when we light fires this is done under close supervision to ensure the children’s safety. All three Forest School Leaders are fully qualified in Forest School First Aid.

 

How often do the children get to do Forest School?

 

Each year a rota is planned so each Key Stage 1 class participate in activities for six weeks. Reception classes enjoy activities every week. The sessions are only postponed when it is considered to be unsafe to go to Forest School. In the event of extreme weather conditions, Forest School activities take place in our outdoor classroom.

 

What can I do to support Forest School?

 

  • Wood: If you are having any tree work done we always need wood for activities
  • Equipment: We are looking to extend our activities. So, if you have any camping or outdoors equipment you wish to donate please let us know.
  • Clothing: Remember to send wellies and clothing suitable for the weather.

 

How does Forest School Support my child’s learning and development in the classroom?

 

The Forest School ethos is to be individually child focused, which means each session is planned after the last to ensure the interests and discoveries and every child can be supported and developed.

 

Alongside this, the sessions are planned to increase the children’s understanding of the Forest Rules and their core skills and to compliment the focus of the topic each class is undertaking for that term.

 

Core skills gained by children have included:

 

  • Understanding fire safety
  • Fire lighting
  • Tool protocols and use including use of secateurs and bow saws (only some classes)
  • Stick use and protocol
  • Tree climbing skills
  • Safety in the wood and looking after each other
  • Taking risks and managing own risks
  • Persevering to master a new skill
  • Balance and proprioception through obstacle course, slackline and traversing.
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