As the world becomes increasingly digital and technology-driven, it’s more important than ever to ensure our children are getting enough time outside in nature. Forest schools have been gaining popularity around the globe as a way of providing an experience that is both educational and fun for young minds. At Copthorne Prep we include Forest School as part of our learning week for every year group, and have been doing so for many years.
Forest school at Copthorne is a time for the children to connect with themselves, with nature and with each other. With a strong child-led approach, activities are provided with an emphasis on choice. Some children love spending their time reflecting and relaxing in a hammock, while others enjoy adventures through the woods with a stick that has become a lightsaber, a sword, the nimbus 2000 or the beginnings of a fantastic woodland shelter. Opportunity to cook, light fires, team build, construct, play, imagine and get muddy are bountiful and these are just a few of the possibilities waiting in the woods for us.
Studies have proven strong links between time in the woods and vastly improved mental and emotional health, wood bathing being a great activity for this. Exposure to the mud, plants and microbes has been proven to improve immune systems. Time in the woods at forest school has also shown a positive increase with children’s academic progress in class and much improved concentration.
A strong respect for nature, animals and bugs is promoted, with learning about new things and investigating encouraged.
We apply the six forest school principles which are:
- Sessions are delivered on a long-term basis: forest school needs to be regular, so we take the children our weekly
- Sessions are risk-aware, not risk-averse: we suggest meaningful activities which nurture the instinctive human ability to learn through overcoming a risk, challenge, or problem. We also teach the children how to safely use tools like knives and axes for whittling or chopping wood, and how to light and safely be around campfires.
- Forest school is invested in the holistic development (emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, physical, communication and language) of the participants.
- Forest school should take place in a natural wooded environment
- Forest school should be run by a qualified forest school practitioner
- Forest school is learner-centred with learner-based outcomes
We embrace the woods at Copthorne and the time that can be spent in them. With many activities available, learning through play is one of the children’s favourite and most beneficial options, so no matter what the activity is, we approach it with playfulness and fun in mind. We will go into the woods no matter the weather, as long as it’s safe to do so, avoiding strong winds and electrical storms. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
Come rain, snow or sun in the woods is where you will find us.
If you have a toddler, why not try our Mini Acorn Forest School Sessions (open to all).