forest school
What's the fascination with forest schools? Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Last month, a framework for a new ‘forest school’ was analysed and approved by the South Norfolk Council in the UK.

The brainchild of businessman Maurice Briggs, this new school is set to have outdoor classrooms, compost toilets, hand-crafted yurts and its very own herd of alpacas.

Situated on 20 acres of South Norfolk woodland, this academic alternative aims to start with 30 pupils, offering courses for children, adults with learning difficulties and others at risk of social isolation.

In his application, Briggs pledged that the school would open on weekdays between 8am and 4/5pm and that it would create jobs for 13 people. Plus, the site will continue to offer activities outside of school term times, closing for just two weeks of the year over Christmas.

Centred on cross-generational activities and an appreciation for diversity and inclusivity, the new school also proposes a study summer house and poly tunnels for planting.

Would you follow the forest school trend? Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

What are forest schools?

For the Forest School Association (FSA) in Warwick Bridge, England, it’s an “Inspirational process, that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees”.

And according to the FSA principles, all forest school participants should be viewed as:

  • Equal, unique and valuable.
  • Competent to explore and discover.
  • Entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge.
  • Entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development.
  • Entitled to experience regular success.
  • Entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people.
  • Entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world.

An educational institution that values discovery and different styles of learning, a forest school should be heavily rooted in fresh air and green learning landscapes.

Forest school immerses students in woodlands and natural environments. Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

The learning benefits tied to forest schools

Forest schools lead students down a trail of self-exploration and environmental exploration.

Outlined by a free training provider for forest school strategies and implementation, forest schools offer endless benefits for staff and students, “The woodland space is a blank canvas, full of textures and materials to enrich the senses and stimulate the learning journeys that we will all undertake.”

Forest schools eradicate classroom walls, they take learners into real-world settings and supply them with enthusiasm and respect for nature.

This is of the utmost importance when educating students in a time of climate change threats, plastic pollution and a need for sustainable practices.

Placing young learners in the outdoor world means they’ll naturally gain a fondness for forests, developing a lasting willingness to protect and preserve them at all costs.

Are forest schools for the future? Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

With the flux of forest schools surging and the emphasis on experiential learning methods increasing, it’s easy to see how this type of education appeals to parents and professors.

Steering away from digital distractions and overtaking touch screens, forest schools ease learners out of stuffy classrooms and into the fresh air.

And by increasing their sensorimotor skills and creative thinking skills, forest schools may grow freely alongside the future of education.

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