Forest School Curriculum In Schools
Many parents and schools often wonder if Forest Schools need to follow a type of curriculum. The short answer is no, there is no set curriculum for Forest Schools. Practitioners integrate the sessions to follow the set early year’s curriculum when used in a school setting.
Often, when someone new to the Forest School concept starts looking into Forest Schools, they believe that Forest Schools are just another type of formal school; and though there are schools that have Forest Schools in them, and companies that run purely as a Forest School, it’s just a quirky name.
The term “Forest School” was coined back in the 1990s, but the concept actually evolved out of Sweden, after it spread to Scandinavia and Northern Europe. When the idea of outdoor education and physically freer learning came to the UK in the 1990s when Bridgewater College got a hold of the ethos and started using the term “Forest School”.
A Forest School isn’t really a school, more a way of learning. An ethos to follow and understand so that Forest School leaders may direct children in a natural place.
The six principles of the Forest School Ethos
These six principles were all agreed upon back in 2011 by the UK Forest School Community. They are guiding principles to help leaders apply good practice when using the Forest School programmes that they develop. All of these principles and their full points are listed on the Forest Schools Association website.
Principle 1: Forest Schools are a long-term process of regular sessions that take place in a natural environment, such as a woodland. They are not supposed to be run as one-off visits. It is integral that a Forest School leader plans, adapts, and reviews the elements of their Forest School activities.
Principle 2: Forest Schools take place in a natural wooded environment, where possible, to support the development of the relationship between the attending children and nature.
Principle 3: Forest Schools aim to promote the holistic development of all those who are involved; encouraging and promoting resilience, confidence, creativity, and independence (among many other skills).
Principle 4: Forest Schools offer children the opportunity to take supported risks that are related to their environment and to themselves. Risk management is a necessary part of learning outdoors.
Principle 5: Forest Schools should only be run by qualified Forest School practitioners/leaders who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice. There are qualifications available from level one to level four for those interested in running a Forest School programme.
Principle 6: Forest Schools use a range of processes that are catered to the children attending the programme. This enables Forest School leaders to create a community for the development of their children.
Being qualified to run a Forest School
Courses in Forest School learning will help potential leaders understand how to create their own programme of activities. There are a number of OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) recognised awarding bodies that leaders and trainers work through, and the Forest School Association lists several on their website for those interested in training.
Typically, most courses run from level one to level three, and those are the only levels needed to officially be qualified as a Forest School leader/practitioner. However, some other schools also offer level four, though this qualification is not necessary. Learn more about Forest School training.