Forest schools offer a refreshing alternative to the traditional classroom setting where children are cooped up indoors all day trying to learn their seven times-tables.
The opportunity to explore the great outdoors – be it in a forest, open field, or just a grassy outdoor area – allows students to embrace reality in the flesh, beyond what they see in their iPads and TVs.
This experience has surprising educational benefits that students are not likely to get simply by learning in the classroom.
Here five things children learn at forest school that they wouldn’t learn in the classroom…
Time spent in the classroom often involves plenty of counting down the minutes until the bell sounds. In forest school, however, that focus shifts to the here and now. It uses any green space that is near the classroom to bring children into a sensory experience with nature.
Vix Powell, who runs forest school workshops, said she noticed that when children first started the workshop, they didn’t recognise all the interesting things around them. But, with a bit of practice, they eventually tuned in to the bugs crawling on the ground, the colours that surround them and the many uses for sticks, trees, leaves and rocks.
Instead of emphasizing task completion and learning objectives, forest school encourages students to embrace their potential without any specific learning goal. Children are allowed to be children again and enjoy using their imagination. They have the opportunity to use nature in creative ways rather than mechanically working through a syllabus.
Playing at being an electrons in a circuit – Year 1 at Chobar for their forest school morning pic.twitter.com/zmZ6r4xkyJ
— TbsKathmandu (@TbsKathmandu) January 18, 2018
Forest school encourages students to get stuck in the great outdoors regardless of weather and mood. At school, children may be used to staying indoors whether it’s raining or cold, but forest school is all about making the most of the environment regardless of the weather. This teaches children the valuable skill of making the most of a situation and seeing the opportunities it can bring.
A frosty morning might provide new sounds and sites to be discovered and a sudden downpour will bring out bugs and animals that are usually hiding in damp areas. Children can learn to make the most of any situation and see it as a new opportunity.
Children can focus on their own talents and individualities to find what works for them. In the classroom, children have to follow a regimented curriculum with standardized testing criteria. They are compared against each other with no recognition of individual talents. But at forest schools, children can find what works for them.
Unlike the traditional teacher-led structure, forest schools encourage kids to find their own solutions to problems and collaborate with each other. This differs from the independent working structure of the normal classroom which favours discipline and hard work over talking and creative thinking. Children can share their ideas without fear of getting told off or shut down. Open expression is encouraged through talking, exploring and sharing, and teaching children to not be afraid to be themselves.
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