Leaves, logs and life skills

Leaves, logs and life skills

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The British School in The Netherlands (BSN) provides a broad and balanced British-based education for children from junior to senior levels.

The Netherlands is abundant with gardens, parks and natural land where children can play, explore, get dirty and make structures out of leaves and logs.

In this article I encourage all adults to maximize these opportunities for children in their care so that important life skills can be acquired and practiced.

Learning from nature

When children are engaged in outdoor activities and are absorbed in play using natural materials, they are making connections and understanding the interplay and relationship between how things occur in a way which cannot be replicated on screen or in a book.

The physical interaction of learning through doing at a self-directed pace is far more powerful in the longer term.

Creating lifelong habits

Being active outdoors is much more likely to lead to healthy lifelong recreation. Children who walk and cycle regularly develop their physical and emotional wellbeing which contributes to their all-round health.

In the Netherlands it is possible to easily extend outdoor activities into a wide range of sports including canoeing, sailing and hiking.

Connecting with people and developing skills

Spending time outdoors in self-initiated play or more structured activities enables children to mix with a wide range of people in a shared and often spontaneous way.

If guided, rather than directed, by adults these activities allow children to develop important skills to assess and manage risks when making decisions.

Awareness of the environment and the self

Being outdoors regularly encourages children to engage with the natural and built environment and begin to understand the global significance of sustainability issues.

With this knowledge children are more likely to contribute ideas and make personal decisions which can lead to a greener environment.

Being in nature enables children to freely explore their space and place in the world. They have the chance to feel connected to something bigger than themselves, to feel calmer and to just "be".

Connecting with nature at school

Many schools in the Netherlands acknowledge and support the importance of providing outdoor learning spaces for students.

Some schools offer experiences such as walks through local nature, field trips and residential experiences with farms and nature reserves in the Netherlands. Sometimes in later years the outdoor adventures are extended futher into Europe and abroad.

Forest School, a specialised learning approach

For younger students, the Forest School specialised learning approach offers all learners regular hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.

This approach supports the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world whilst fostering resilience, confidence and creativity.

Included within the programme are opportunities to take supported risks which involve using tools and fire-making equipment.

Learning outside the classroom

Through these outdoor activities, students thrive and often demonstrate skills, knowledge and emotional intelligence not always recognisable inside the classroom.

The approach enables students to lead their own learning process and take the time they need to complete an activity. Forest School also provides a different pace to the regular classroom structure and enhances the school curriculum.

Explore the great outdoors!

So I encourage you to put on your wellie boots and plastic mac, load up your bike and cycle to the nearest park, forest or dunes.

Within no time, your children can be engrossed in a rich imaginative land played out through their natural toys; a few leaves, a stick and an old log.

The British School in The Netherlands in The Hague practices the Forest School learning approach and offers nature-based excursions and campuses with outdoor learning spaces.

For more information you can explore the BSN's website or:
› Call: +31 (0)70 315 4077
› Email:

Sue Aspinall


Sue Aspinall

Sue Aspinall is the Headteacher of BSN Junior School Vlaskamp (JSV), housed in a unique building with extensive grounds in the Mariahoeve area of The Hague. As one of the...

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