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Forest School

What is Forest School? 

We venture out into Wanstead Park whatever the weather, children get to experience rain, summer heat, autumn leaves and muddy puddles, even snow! Every class gets to have forest adventures twice, one half term in the warmer months and one in the colder season, around 12 sessions per year.

After having made our way through the ‘jungle’ brambles, we start with a circle time where we sing our Forest school song (younger children) and play an animal name game that encourages confidence, creativity and communication.

Then there’s a challenge to complete. It might be a team game, a construction task (build animal dens or fairy castles) or a competition: Which team can erect a tarpaulin or the tallest and safest structure in a set time? It might be an activity in silence: Can we line up in the order of our birth months without saying a single word? And if we aren’t speaking for a while, what other means of communication can we come up with?

The Forest school ethos is child-led and holistic. Therefore most sessions feature free time, where the children get to decide who and what to engage with: solo-digging (“Look, I found a worm! And a dinosaur bone!!”), tree climbing, exploring a holly bush jungle, hauling logs around, craft activities, inventing your own game or having some quiet time to  yourself, snuggled up to a tree…  Children are free to explore “This leaf has all the colours of the seasons on it!” and achieve real-life superhero stunts: “I’ve just jumped off a tree - for the first time ever!” We might take our truck along that carries hot drinks to see us through rain or cold, but pushing and pulling as a group can be tricky indeed! Forest school is all about teamwork, sharing and turn taking. Yes, there might be the odd mini-breakdown about sticks “that one was mine!!” or teams discussing about the best strategy – what wonderful learning curves and life lessons! Risks are taken, struggle is welcomed, fears are faced and tears wiped away by smiles.

Imagination and creativity run free as natural objects (as opposed to toys) like leaves, sticks and stones can be made into anything! The children created a baby hedgehog orphanage, zip lines for ants and buffets for squirrels. We got to admire log dens for foxes (plus tigers and unicorns of course), fairy villages (including hot tubs and sun loungers for the residents) and a multi-storey flat for our friend Ruby Robin who often comes to visit and flies around the group. Children design intricate gardens with washing lines and furniture (sofa logs, even tellies!). They ‘light up’ campfires of yellow leaves, arrange logs around it and sit down to tell each other scary stories. Some might perform with an impromptu band “Can I have a bit more string for my guitar?” whilst ‘woodcutters’ enjoy bashing logs with stick tools, getting a workout and rid of pent up energy. The children create artwork and sculptures, they build planes and train stations – out of natural treasures they find on the forest floor. And then there’s the food: We had mashed potatoes, spaghetti with meatballs and parmesan (vines with wood shavings sprinkled over the top – yum!), (leafy) wraps and celebration cakes… 

Sessions end with a sharing circle, reviewing what we enjoyed or found challenging. We sing a goodbye song or create a communal ‘flower’ with our hands. And the last session of half-term ends on a high: we get to sip a hot drink and roast marshmallows over an open fire!

Take a look at our photos here: Forest School Gallery