What’s a Forest School, I hear you ask?. They didn’t have those around when I went to school. In my day we sat all day facing the teacher and you spoke only when the teacher spoke to you. Let me tell you, those days are thankfully over. Schools in Scotland rightly put children’s needs centre stage and Forest schools are instrumental in leading this change.
Forest schools offer a holistic approach to education that has been described as offering children and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop self confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment. At a time when many parents and guardians are worried about the amount of time young people spend on their phones or gaming in their rooms, Forest Schools and Forest School type experiences are the complete antithesis of screen-based learning.
I had the opportunity to see this in action at Grandtully Primary School near Aberfeldy, Perthshire. I was asked to come along and cover the official opening of their new school yurt and had the opportunity to talk to the Head, Mrs Forest (how appropriate I hear you say) and some of her pupils.
What’s the best thing about Grandtully Primary?
The yurt was funded by the parents at the request of the children and the school. It provides a dry space outdoors that enables the pupils to continue their work out of the classroom. Eve Muirhead, a local Olympic champion came along to officially open the new facility and enjoy the afternoon with the children. The school has a strong focus on Forest schooling to the advantage of the children’s wellbeing.
’The children learning about their environment is one of the main focuses of the school. We need a shelter to enable us to work outside in all weathers.’’Mrs Forest, Head of Grandtully Primary school, Aberfeldy Perthshire
The children were also excited about this new facility. Two Primary Three pupils told Bylines Scotland that the best thing about going to Grandtully Primary was:
‘’We get to go outside and actually, it’s really fun, we can play and it’s really fun to make food in the mud kitchen and play in the sand, It’s actually really fun.’’
Eve Muirhead commented, “Having been here for just a few hours it’s incredible to see how active this school is.It’s something that I’m very passionate about, getting kids active. When you wander round the playground you can see how outdoorsy this school is.”
A unique approach that’s spreading across the UK
The Forest School movement originated in Scandinavia in the 1950s as a way of teaching children about the natural world. By the 1980s they were an integral part of the Danish early years programme. The benefits of this approach to education were witnessed by a group of British nursery nursing students who visited Denmark in 1995 and they brought the idea back with them. Since then, Forest schools and this unique approach to holistic learning has spread throughout the UK.
They are found across the country and not only in rural areas. It is possible to find city-based partners who can offer Forest School experiences to city kids. If you are interested in learning more about Forest schools visit https://www.forestschools.com/ for more information and find out if there is such a school near you.