In line with our Christian vision:
Our Forest School is committed to sustaining and growing a nurturing, learning community. We strive to promote a welcoming and open ethos to ensure all feel happy, safe and respected. We value each member of our community as unique individuals where all are encouraged and inspired to fulfil their potential as God intended in a sustainable, well managed, woodland setting.
At Eastry Church of England Primary School we feel that All of our children benefit greatly from making connections with the outdoor environment. Due to the holistic nature of activities offered, Forest School provides the opportunity for our children to engage in child-led activities that will promote ALL areas of their development. This means their physical development, language and communication, emotional intelligence, self-confidence, spiritual awareness, social understanding and therefore their general well-being will be nurtured and grow in our Forest School.
Following The Forest School Association guidance, our Forest School is run according to 6 key principles:-
1. “Forest school is a long term, repetitive learning process that uses a natural outdoor space”.
2. “Forest School empowers children and young people to take responsibility for their own learning and development”.
3. “Forest School promotes holistic, individualised learning and development”.
4. “Forest School encourages emotional growth, self-esteem, confidence and independence”.
5. “Forest School is facilitated by qualified Level 3 Forest school Practitioners”.
6. “Forest School instils a deep respect and awareness for the natural world and reconnects participants to their environment”.
Our Forest School Site/ learning environment:
Our carefully selected Forest School sites at Eastry Church of England Primary School, provide a happy, safe, sustainable environment that promotes a love and respect for each other and for our natural world.
The Forest School area is set within the school grounds and all children have regular access to sessions. Site 1 is towards the back of ‘Marchbanks Meadow’, within clearly marked boundaries, incorporating numerous varieties of tree and wildlife species. The site is organised into zones to promote different learning opportunities e.g mud kitchen, fairy garden, tool area, den building and fire circle (to name a few).
Forest School by its very nature supports the EYFS curriculum but rather than supplying classroom equipment and resources, children are given the freedom to use natural materials found in the woods. In small groups (up to 15 in each session), they explore the joy of the outdoor world with activities such as collecting and sorting leaves and sticks, building dens, tying knots, climbing trees, using tools and digging in the mud. The children are given the opportunity to make supported risks appropriate to their environment and they build self esteem and confidence as well as beginning to build a knowledge, understanding and compassion for the world around them. Any planning is informed by observations on how and what the children choose to interact with outside. Activities are not prescribed (though they are always on offer in the form of making nests for animals, creating mud pictures or numerous other hooks) and children can pick what they would like to explore during each session.
In Key Stage 1, the children continue to build on their individualised Forest School learning, with regular sessions taking place in small groups (up to 15). They continue to develop their gross and fine motor skills, empowered with the knowledge of how to use some tools such as the hand drill, peelers and knives for example. They are offered ‘hooks’ in the form of pine cone creations, stickmen, nature hunts, leaf threading and more. They continue to climb trees, dig in the mud, create mud creatures and are given the space and time to explore and connect further with the outdoor world. They understand what is ‘natural’ and belongs on the forest floor and begin to form their own ideas on how to best preserve, sustain and respect our natural world.
During Key stage 2, the children continue to grow in every aspect. They are still given freedom and choice in how they spend their regular Forest school sessions, still accessing these in smaller groups (up to 15). They may persevere and re-visit building a den week on week- changing their design and testing out their own theories, they may continue to dig for gold (or worms) or perhaps they conquer climbing trees. The children are introduced to more tools that they might find useful in designing and making their own creations. They may enjoy learning to tie different knots and use them to create outdoor sculptures, dreamcatchers or use them to secure dens. Forest school remains a regular and important part of their schooling where they continue to build their resilience, empathy and independence as well as developing their mutual respect for one and another and for nature. Hooks are still offered during every Forest school session (planned through observation and sometimes discussion with the class as to what they would explore). Children also become more familiar with the flora and fauna in our Forest School setting and deepen their understanding of how to respect and protect the natural world.
All of the children will take part in Forest School in smaller class groups and will be assessed regularly by the Forest School teacher and teaching assistant observing. Observations will be fed back to the class teacher every 6 weeks and will be based on monitoring the following :
Confidence, social skills, communication, engagement and well-being.
Forest school can provide numerous benefits for all children because they are given the chance to be successful, choosing the activities they would like to participate in, setting their own criteria for success with a focus on the process of the activity not the product. Forest School activities can be built around their interests and talents. Parents and carers can be invited in to share and celebrate their successes as well as be taught new skills by their child. Forest School also promotes a holistic approach to learning in connection with the outdoor woodland environment which can also hugely benefit children returning to the classroom, home and in the wider world.
At Eastry, through our Forest school, we endeavour to provide all of our children with opportunities to develop at their own pace, at a level which is appropriate for them, in the outdoors. Children are given the chance to ground and make connections with nature. They learn to take appropriate risks in a carefully assessed and safe environment- building their resilience and confidence. This confidence (first seen in the forest school environment) will hopefully then grow in the classroom and the world beyond. Similarly their emotional regulation, self-confidence and self-esteem will flourish through their engagement in their own ‘learner-centred’ activities . Through teamwork and dialogue between peers and teachers, the children will also develop improved social interactions which again will benefit other areas of their lives.
As a result, children leaving Eastry Church of England Primary school will feel more empowered. They will have overall improved wellbeing and mental health, they will have developed more skills at self-regulation, cope with and learn from failure. They will have built more resilience, have increased motivation and confidence and will have built more positive relationships with peers and adults. Ultimately they will be ready for their next steps beyond Primary school.
Albert Einstein: Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.