Forest Schools have been an important part of Early Years Education in Denmark since the 1980’s. British Forest Schools have been developed and adapted from the original concept implemented in Sweden in the 1950’s and developed throughout other Scandinavian and European Countries. The Forest Schools concept established in Denmark for pre-school children (under seven years) in the 1980’s stemmed from their Early Years Education and, in the mid 1990’s was visited by nursery nurses from Somerset and independently by representatives from other early year’s professionals.
The philosophy of Forest School is based on a desire to provide young children with an education which encourages an appreciation of the wide natural world. Using the outdoor environment, children are encouraged and inspired to grow in confidence, independence and self esteem through small achievable tasks.
Studies have shown that children attending the forest school perform markedly better at concentrating than other who don’t. It appears that the principle reason was due to the greater range of opportunities present for play in nature, children played for longer at a time, with less annoyance or interruption of each other compared to the children in the city kindergarten. The studies observed that when children in mainstream nurseries were interrupted, they became irritable, their stress levels rose significantly, and their ability to concentrate fell. When they could not concentrate there was a clear tendency to selfish and inconsiderate behaviour and aggression. The forest school children were much more considerate towards each other.
The studies also showed that the forest school children had 25% fewer sick days compared to other children. One reason for this is that the air is nearly always better outside than indoors because outside a child is less likely to be exposed to virus and bacteria and not so likely to be infected by other children. Another reason may be that, since stress has been shown to have a negative effect on the immune system, high stress levels may be having a weakening effect on the ability for the mainstream children to resist infection.
The forest school children, on the other hand are in a pleasant, natural, fun and less stressful environment.
As a consequence of this, children attending Forest School kindergartens were arriving at school with stronger social skills, greater ability to work in groups, and generally children had high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities.
All these attributes proved to be an effective foundation that raised academic achievements. Since its introduction Forest Schools has developed opportunities in an outdoor setting for children and adults of all ages to develop a variety of life skills: altruism, independence, self awareness and social communication skills, all of which assist individuals to grow in self-esteem and confidence.
Participants gain confidence in their own ability. Kinaesthetic learners [learning by doing] are particularly suited to learning in this woodland outdoor environment.
Forest Schools alls children space and time to explore, experiment and learn at their own pace. Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception) and Year 1 visit Forest School