Intent - What do we want children to learn?
Quite simply, it is our intention that every pupil, irrelevant of needs, develops a real passion for the great outdoors and celebrates their local, natural environment. We wish for every child to develop a knowledge and passion for their local habitat and how to look after and nurture it – the flora and fauna as well as embracing the physical and personal challenges that working outside can present.
Through Forest School we aim to support this philosophy by:
- Fostering the enjoyment of the great outdoors;
- Embracing the physical challenges that working outside can bring;
- Developing both fine and gross motor skills;
- Developing personal and social skills by working in pairs and teams to complete tasks;
- Developing a range of bespoke Forest School skills such as knot tying, frapping, fire lighting, lashing and whittling;
- Developing a knowledge of local common flora and fauna;
- Fostering an awareness of seasonal change;
- Encouraging children to take risks in a supported environment;
- Developing problem solving and resilience through practical tasks such as den building;
- Ensuring children develop an understanding of keeping safe;
- Encouraging children to be active and have a healthy lifestyle.
- Encouraging pupils’ personal involvement with practical tasks enabling them to improve their attention span, persistence and commitment.
- Ensuring that the learning is matched to the differing needs of all the children as well as specific groups, such as SEND, pupil premium etc. Extra support and additional/ adapted resources to be provided to those children where it is required.
- Using our wonderful onsite Learning Wood to contextualise learning across the whole curriculum eg – making ‘bear porridge,’ over the Forest School fire pit, using our instructional texts we have written / minibeast hunts in science / bringing stories to life with parents and other stakeholders.
At Birchwood we know that children learn best when the curriculum is well sequenced to enable revisiting of core knowledge, skills and understanding to deepen conceptual awareness before demanding application across the whole curriculum. Please see the Forest School Progression of Skills documents (held in school), which outline how the key skills are developed, revisited, assessed and built upon during Reception to Year 6.
Implementation - How are we going to achieve our intent?
All classes participate in Forest School activities. Each week the Reception class spend 2 mornings in the Forest School, Years 1 and 2 spend 1 afternoon and Years 3-6 spend 1 lesson. Regular training of both teaching and non-teaching staff allows for all children to receive a quality session and all staff to understand the potential learning opportunities this resource has to offer. Forest School sessions happen whatever the weather – as the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” – the only exemptions being strong winds and heavy snow due to safety. Forest School sessions are planned to involve a mixture of both adult led and child initiated activities. Adult led tasks may involve the teaching and application of pure Forest School skills such as fire lighting, plant identification or whittling, or indeed the teaching of any area of the school curriculum which is enhanced by being in an outdoor learning environment such as a bespoke phonics session or the geography of a river system. Child led activities often support personal, social and emotional development or demonstrate the independent application of prior teaching and learning such as mini beast hunting or constructing a water tight den.
Impact - What will it look like when we have achieved our intent?
1-EYFS data shows that Birchwood’s Reception children are consistently above national expectation at all measurable national levels. We know that Forest School sessions support PSED / PD & CL particularly strongly. Y1 use of our Learning Wood to contextualise learning such as ‘Forest School Phonics,’ where pupils ‘find phonemes,’ hanging in the tree canopy are attributed to our 3 year PSC pass being well above national – 97% in 2019. KS1 outcomes for Reading, Writing and Maths are above national at all measurable levels. The use of Forest Schools to contextualise learning is fundamental in this achievement
2-Our successful Forest School provision plays a large part in our prowess within international award schemes, such as Birchwood’s Seventh Eco-Schools Green Flag award. It demonstrates our commitment to healthy lifestyles, biodiversity and the school grounds. Forest School also plays an important part in our School Games Platinum award and AFPE Quality Mark with Distinction. We share our Forest School practise through an annual eco-open afternoon and speaking at the Eastern Region Eco-Schools conference and Suffolk’s PE conference. In addition, we hosted 4 different Primary schools over the last academic year all wishing to observe our practise and provision so that they can develop their own Forest Schools.
3-The only criticism of our Forest School, from stakeholder consultation, is ‘why can’t our pupils cannot spend even more time in it!’