The South Coast regional network of PGCert Educators meeting this week was in a Forest School led by Duncan Reavey. We met at Goodwood Home Farm, which is used year round for Forest School with a variety of groups who visit the group as part of a regular routine rather than a one off experience. The spirit of Forest school is ‘to be yourself’. We started off gathered around the fire and had various tasks physically drawing upon on our environment. Forest schools facilitate children (aged 2-5 years) more adeptly through five incremental development milestones in a holistic manner (demonstrated by Duncan with a stick!). These steps are 1. Self awareness 2. Self regulation 3. Self motivation 4. Empathy 5. Social skills.
Duncan described that trainee teachers also shift the way they teach in the classroom through engaging in forest school. For example, they talk less and trust students with more responsibility. I was interested in the examples of undergraduates who undertake a unit in Forest School with ten assessments, seven of which are entirely student-designed assignments. The latter are often creative and students have made poems and sculptures in response. His reflection was that students were more motivated and developed high quality work.
For me, this was the first time I lit a fire without matches, used a storm kettle and had the pleasure of using a compost toilet (there is a ‘wee-wall’ for men too!)
Forest school is much less common in university education, so if you run Forest Schools or Beach Schools with undergraduates I’d be interested in hearing from you!