The core values of Becket Primary School are reflected in the opportunities provided by learning at Forest School. All children at our school have the right to participate in Forest School sessions with the aim of creating a culture of respect for our environment and the natural world, encouraging children to demonstrate kindness through their actions and words, modelling how working hard can manifest intrinsic rewards and establishing a team where being honest when experiences are challenging is addressed with respect. Our values highlight the importance of creating a community for development and learning, building relationships between all members of the team and addressing the holistic impact of Forest School for all involved. Our Forest School sessions use the SPICES model (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Communication, Emotional, Spiritual) to encourage children to:
- Develop effective social skills.
- Understand how to contribute as part of a team.
- Demonstrate respect to themselves and others.
- Understand how to navigate through risk safely.
- Know the importance of activity and rest.
- Develop practical skills.
- Develop curiosity for the natural world.
- Solve problems independently and with others.
- Express ideas and thoughts respectfully.
- Develop language and communication skills.
- Broaden emotional literacy.
- Improve their sense of self.
- Value the importance of friendship.
We aim to provide fortnightly afternoon sessions for all FS2, KS1 and KS2 children to engage with, allowing children to experience being outside in all seasons. Sessions provide child-led learning opportunities which encourage children to explore the natural world around them. We aim to include opportunities for as many of the 16 types of play as possible, providing guidance where necessary and being led by the children’s interests. Activities at Forest School focus on 6 key skills demonstrated through many of the following activities:
- Exploration and play: mud kitchen, story circle, obstacle challenges, scavenger hunts, sculpture making, woodland games, geocaching.
- Navigation: site safety and boundaries, positional language, map reading, orienteering.
- Shelter building: mini-dens, tripod, lean-to, tarpaulin, tipi, equipment care.
- Tool use and knot work: tools for woodland crafts, hapazome, talismans, worry catcher, mallet, range of knots including clove hitch and square lashing.
- Flora and fauna: knowledge of native flora, naming of fauna on site, minibeast knowledge, vegetable garden maintenance, sensory garden.
- Campfire safety and cooking: toasting marshmallows, making popcorn, roasting bread, frying pancakes and pizza, boiling water in a Kelly Kettle.
Forest School sessions have been designed to build progressively on skills over time, providing opportunities to revisit knowledge through practical challenges. Children are encouraged to explore their own interests into Upper KS2, using knowledge and understanding to demonstrate skills acquired through the sessions to create unique woodland crafts. All children involved in the sessions follow the same expectations of behaviour and high standards as is expected in the classroom and regular discussions during introduction and reflection time provide opportunities for these expectations to become established.
Forest School holds its origins in the Scandinavian idea that recognises the value of children’s connection with nature and the outdoors. Embarking on this holistic approach to learning is very different from the established traditions of the four-walled classroom. Forest School is most effective when sessions are regular and long-term, using a programme that supports the holistic development of a child, supporting play and risk-taking alongside awareness of the natural world and a persons’ responsibility to care for it. At Becket, we measure the impact of our Forest School provision through the compilation of images and videos of the children’s practical learning as well as gaining an insight into the pupils’ learning through pupil voice and a selection of wellbeing questionnaires taken prior to sessions beginning and at the end of the academic year.