We recognise that the best place for learning may not always be in a conventional classroom environment, whether this is because there is a focus upon community based learning, the generalisation of learnt skills across settings or because the outdoors creates an intrinsically engaging and motivating setting in which to plan learning experiences.
We acknowledge the importance of outdoor learning and sustainability and have worked hard to produce many outdoor learning opportunities across the curriculum. We have extensive grounds at our Napier Miles Road site that have been adapted to enable a wide variety of outdoor teaching to take place. These facilities include: a large playing field; a forest school provision; large playgrounds with areas for active and quiet activities; a walled secret garden with a large polytunnel and raised beds for growing flowering plants, fruit and vegetables; compost bins and a water butt to encourage recycling and conservation; a large outdoor pergola that can be used as a base for group teaching sessions; a pond with a dipping platform; and natural habitats for a variety of creatures. We have recently been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Five Star Gardening School award. This is the highest level that can be achieved. This award represents all the hard work that all students have put into growing and maintaining a successful garden, sharing produce with our wider community and developing an understanding of the importance of nature in our outdoor envionment.
What happens at Forest School?
Forest School sessions are held in our Forest School area, Meadow School and Secret Garden alongside Horticulture sessions. These areas are located on the safe and secure private grounds at Kingsweston’s Napier Miles site, this allows for our pupils to be comfortable with an outdoor approach to education and play whilst in familiar surroundings.
We have a circle area for seating made from wooden benches which surrounds our fire pit. Wind breaks around the benches provide protection from the wind and create a cosy, enclosed area for a calm time to be together as a group.
Classes from Primary, Secondary and our offsite provisions at Shirehampton & Brightstowe all receive opportunities for sessions throughout the year.
Classes receive a block of around 10 – 14 sessions in the year, each session lasting for around 2 hours. The group will have introductory sessions exploring the site, establishing physical and behavioural boundaries, safety procedures, hygiene and routines.
Once the group is established and routines are set up, the sessions develop through a child-led approach with opportunities for sessions to be taken back to the indoor setting to be continued.
It is fundamental that a child’s basic needs are met before any higher learning can take place (Maslow’s Pyramid of Hierarchical Needs).
- Warmth – correct clothing provided
- Food- Healthy snacks and meals
- Drink – Hydrated water /hot drinks
- Safe – individuals feel safe both physically and emotionally
Pupils are asked to bring in appropriate clothing and footwear but we are able to provide this where necessary. Each session will involve a snack and a drink appropriate to the climate.
Before each session a dynamic risk assessment of the area is undertaken, for example checking the weather has not caused any damage or felled branches overnight.
Studies have found that pupils have improved health and wellbeing, motor skills and behaviour through outdoor learning opportunities.
Children will often come home with something they have created or found in our outdoor sessions; this is to encourage parent interest and communicative interaction.
All sessions are designed around the needs of each class and are individually tailored. Forest School sessions are traditionally learner-led. This will take time with our pupils as they need to learn how to be independent learners.
Sessions are designed around a theme; themes are sometimes subtle such as evolving or exploring the site or more obvious such as butterflies, birds, nature investigators or wildlife conservation. Many areas of the National Curriculum are covered in the Forest School experience without the sessions needing to be curriculum led. With small achievable tasks, teamwork skills are developed through games and activities. Individual skills and self-esteem are developed throughout activities such as hide and seek, shelter building, treasure hunts or environmental art. Each activity develops communication skills as well as practical and intellectual skills.
When appropriate, tools are used in Forest School sessions; introduced gradually with a structured safety base that your child will become familiar with. The use of tools promotes trust and self-confidence within those taking part; their use will develop both gross and fine motor skills.