How Forest School is transforming the way children learn
There is an ever-increasing awareness and interest in nature and teaching. Many of you will have heard of the “Forest School”. At the British School in The Netherlands, teachers are incorporating the philosophy of the Forest School programme into the learning process.
Forest School originated in Scandinavia and was widely adopted in Denmark in the 1980s, with young children spending the majority of their school day outside; exploring wildlife, experiencing the seasonal changes (rain or shine) and developing their gross and fine motor skills amongst many others.
Around the same time, shinrin-yoku (taking in the atmosphere of the forest) was developed in Japan, which has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Hence, developing a life-long love for nature in young learners is crucial for their physical and mental wellbeing.
Outdoor playtime is learning time
“No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” Sir David Attenborough`s words encapsulate the ethos of Forest School so accurately.
Similarly to a student who called a dandelion`s seed head “a great ball of wishes”, when children go outside, they make many wishes. They make one with every acorn tucked into the soil or the dandelion seeds parachuting away.
Surprisingly, they do not wish for a new toy. They wish for more time to play outside and by play they mean: to build castles in the bushes, to grow and water the plants, to have a go on a rope swing, to create a game to play with their friends, to make a potion, a mini-beasts` house or to saw more sticks into claves because they've lost their old ones.
They simply wish to be outside where they can experience a plethora of emotions, practice their personal and social skills and problem solve (they call it play).
Building confidence, independence and creativity
With children being inherently curious, the natural world offers them the best learning space possible. The outdoors can be an art room, a music room, a science lab, a gym, a theatre, a botanical garden, a home for wildlife, as well as a mindfulness haven simultaneously.
It is where the children learn how to use tools purposefully whilst keeping themselves and others safe. This builds the children’s confidence and allows them to take informed risks, in addition to developing long-term thinking skills and environmental integrity.
It is where trained specialists allow them to take informed risks that build their resilience and confidence. Finally, it is where they come in contact with nature and reveal their real strength.
Understanding and making sustainable choices
Regardless of our age, spending time outdoors benefits our physical and mental health. It builds our resilience and helps us to understand how to make sustainable and environmentally friendly choices.
What better way to start working on a greener world, than by starting with ourselves and our children? We all still have so much to learn from nature and it is our duty to preserve it.
The more children know about the importance of the plant world for our existence, the less encouragement they will need to protect it. Then, one day they will be able to find the cure and solutions to diseases, food shortage or soil degradation; make the world a better place while enjoying a meaningful and satisfying career.
A source of inspiration
The natural world has always been an outstanding source of inspiration. We need to allow ourselves some time to fully immerse in the natural world and experience it. Holidays are a great opportunity for this multidimensional approach to personal growth. Remember that there is no bad weather, just wrong clothing.
Take your children outside and encourage them to write a diary, poem, make a scrapbook or a movie, make a natural toy, a tooth-fairy garden in the corner of your back garden or a park – the sky is the limit when it comes to accessing your curiosity.
The British School in The Netherlands practices the Forest School learning approach and offers nature-based excursions and campuses with outdoor learning spaces.
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Barbara Burley 13:16 | 6 June 2019