Whilst St Katharine’s is a school in the forest we have not, until now, been a Forest School. From the beginning of January 2019 we were able to officially call ourselves a Forest School and are very excited to be able to offer an outdoor learning element to our exciting and developing curriculum.
So what is a Forest School?
Forest Schools were first introduced into the UK by a group of Nursery Nurse Students and professionals form Bridgewater College, Somerset. During the mid-1990s they visited Denmark to observe a Danish Forest School for themselves. What they discovered was so inspiring and innovative that they brought the concept back to Britain and set up the first British Forest School. Since then the movement has grown from strength to strength.
The Forest School Ethos
During a Forest school session children are allowed to work at their own pace. The repetitive nature and routine that is embedded allows the children to build their confidence and self-esteem. Children can freely explore their environment and grow in confidence by taking responsibility for their own learning. Children also develop a greater appreciation for the natural world in which they live. Research has shown that children with emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties especially benefit from the Forest School approach. The opportunity to succeed in an alternative environment makes Forest School a great place for learning for children of all ages. As well as educational and social benefits, there are health benefits from engaging in outdoor physical activity.
Our Forest School
We are delighted to have been given permission by the estate manager at Ramsbury Estate to have sole use of the spinney next to St. Katharine’s School for the purpose of forest school learning.
The spinney consists of several acres of mature broadleaved trees mainly beech, ash and sycamore and forms part of the famous Savernake Forest. It is full of wildlife and carpeted in beautiful bluebells and snowdrops in spring time. The site is ideally situated; next to the school car park and within easy walking distance of the school. The site has no public access and is cordoned by fencing and entrance gate.
We are still in the relatively early stages of our Forest School experience and we are very excited by the opportunities that having this small piece of woodland, that we can call our own, will bring to the children at our school. Whilst we are keen to ensure that everyone has regular Forest School opportunities, in line with the principals above, we can see so much potential for using the woodland to support other aspects of our curriculum such as art, science, maths, geography… the list is endless. We are also keen to explore how we can support other settings to have access to outdoor learning and are already beginning discussions with other schools as to how we can support them.
Our parents and school community have already been involved, supporting us with their time and physical effort in a recent family working day. Parents and children came to help us to create our fire pit and a natural boundary as well as moving piles of logs and dead wood.
We look forward to watching the children flourish as they have many adventures in the woodland and being able to articulate how this element of our curriculum develops further the already eager learners at St Katharine’s Primary School.