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Forest School is a programme developed in Sweden in the 1950’s. It concentrates on delivering education in an outdoor environment. A forest school programme aims to foster self-esteem, independence, emotional, resilience, co-operation, personal responsibility, autonomy and motivation, as well as a respect for our environment and each other. Roots to Branches aims to encourage learner-led, play-centred, holistic and experiential adventures. When taking part in our forest school programme a participant is engaging with nature in wild spaces in an exploratory, sensory and physical way.


Forest schools operates following 6 main principles;


Long term

  • Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.


  • Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.


  • Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners


  • Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.


  • Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.


  • Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning


Young people can learn about tree and plant life and how to protect them, fire safety and camp fire cooking, shelter building, safe use of tools, woodland crafts and more. Working with fire and tools allows young people to manage risk and take responsibility for their learning, themselves and the people around them. This responsibility in turn leads to young people gaining a greater sense of self worth, self confidence, self esteem, leadership and communication skills. Forest Schools can be used from early years right up to adults.

What is Forest Schools?

How Forest Schools promote learning and development?


A learner-centred pedagogical approach is employed by Forest School that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners. The forest school leader is there to guide, nurture, facilitate, keep safe, encourage and reinforce positive behaviour towards each other and the environment. Through careful planning, appropriate dialogue, relationship building and reflective practice, each session ensures learners get the most of the session and both the learner and practitioners can understand individual/group achievements, develop emotional intelligence and plan for the future.

The Practitioner models the forest school pedagogy during their programing of each forest school session and session evaluation. Pedagogy is the discipline deals with the theory and practice of education and how the two should influence best practices on how to teach. This means that each individual is considered for their learning technique, interests and method of play during and post the forest schools session. Session are often planned but are changed during the sessions responding to the learners responses and methods of learning, this also effects planning for future sessions. Play and choice are an integral part of the Forest School learning process, and play is recognised as vital to learning and development at Forest School.

Below are some examples of learning style or ‘smarts’ that every person uses every day to process everything they learn. The individual will use them all in varying amounts and it is important to be aware of these learning styles so we can best support each person. What are your smarts?

  • Nature Smarts

  • Word Smart

  • Music Smart

  • Self Smart

  • People Smart

  • Nature Smart

  • Body Smart

  • Picture Smart


(Want to know more see Howard Gardener’s theory of Multiple Intelligences)


What does this mean during sessions?

The role of the forest school leader during a session is to offer a safe and secure learning environment suitable for the needs of all. Every young person will be different with different needs so it is important to be in a forest school area that is as versatile as possible.

The forest school leader, along with schools, parents, and key workers work together to identify the needs of a group and the individuals within the group and plan a programme that works for all on all levels. Forest school will tackle all aspects of emotional and social wellbeing including: self awareness, social skills, motivation, empathy and how to manage feelings. Working in this way will help young people to learn tolerance, compassion and empathy showing emotional intelligence and help with developing new skills, concentration levels, independence and communication showing increased self esteem.

During the session associated adults to the learners have a key role to play not just after the session but during. Adults that are not the Forest School practitioner(s) are asked to allow the learners the freedom to fully immerse themselves in the session. This can often be unfamiliar and a bit scary for the adult involved, especially if they have never experienced participant led outdoor learning in this way before. All we ask is to let the forest school practitioner to fully lead the session and resist the urge to use verbal instructions or otherwise to control the learners movement and way of learning so letting them fully explore and experience each moment. The learners want and need to experience and manage their own risk, under the influence of the Forest School Practitioner so avoiding the phrases ‘be careful’, ‘watch out’, which influence behaviour therefore the person’s experience and ability to learn. Assisting adults need to use their keen skills of observations to make sure the risk management steps set out by the practitioner are being followed and that you are aware of the agreed signs or signals set out during the sessions that mean stop at once. This will support the activities to continue and the development of the participant.

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