Why is forest school so important to us at Whiteshill?
At Whiteshill, we believe that learning outdoors is an important element of life in school. We look for opportunities wherever we can to take the children outside as there are benefits for both their physical and mental wellbeing. As part of this, Mr Pritchard leads forest school sessions across the school all day on a Friday. Willow class (Reception) attend forest school every single Friday morning throughout their first year in school – no matter what the weather! It is so important that whilst the children are in the Early Years Foundation Stage, they have an opportunity to be curious outdoors and demonstrate skills and knowledge that they simply could not do in a classroom environment. It gives them opportunity to learn about risks in a safe environment, build resilience and self confidence and develop their physical and social skills as they work together on activities as a team.
Of course, the benefits of forest school do not stop when you turn 5, so last year we developed our forest school provision further so that all the children at Whiteshill benefit from this fantastic experience. On Friday afternoon, the older children attend forest school for a term as follows:
Autumn Term – Oak class (year 5 and 6)
Spring Term – Maple class (year 3 and 4)
Summer Term – Elm class (year 1 and 2)
Mr Pritchard plans forest school so that it is line with the curriculum for each of these classes, supporting the learning that is going on in school e.g. map reading or compass skills during our geography topic as well as giving the children time to develop their team work, resilience and self confidence with appropriate challenges and forest school tasks.
Where does forest school take place?
We are incredibly lucky at Whiteshill because our forest school takes place in a real forest! We have a long-standing agreement which allows us to use an area in Ruscombe Woods. This means that the children are immersed in nature for the session, experiencing the seasons as they pass and learning all about the natural world in their local area. It also means that forest school is set up and ready for them to access, with a fire pit, den building areas and natural climbing equipment for them to explore.
Attending Forest School
Willow class children arrive at school in their Forest School clothes each week and then bring their school uniform and school shoes into school in a separate bag so that they can change into them when they arrive back at school just before lunch. All other classes bring their forest school clothes with them in to school and change in to them, prior to their afternoon session.
Forest school continues throughout the year, through rain and snow and as it takes place in a shaded, wooded area, it is often colder than at school so it is important the children have enough layers to keep them warm.
Suggested forest school clothing (dependent on weather)
- Long trousers
- Long sleeved top
- Warm outer clothing (layers are good)
- Raincoat with hood
- Old trainers, walking boots or wellington boots
- Sun hat or winter hat – depending on the weather
Please be aware that clothes and footwear may get very muddy!
Even when the weather is very warm in the summer months, the children still need to wear long trousers and a long sleeved top to protect them from bugs and bites.
How can I get involved?
We could not run forest school each week without the help of parent volunteers. There is a sign up sheet in the school lobby so if you are able to come along, please do put your name down – it is a great chance to see the children in action and have a great morning out in the fresh air.
Christmas at forest school
During the final week of the winter term, we hold a whole school forest school, to which the whole school community is invited. Everybody walks up together and we celebrate Christmas with mulled wine and mince pies around the fire, accompanied by the children singing carols to really get us in the Christmas spirit! Everybody is welcome – the date for this year’s event will be found on the school calendar once it has been set.