Since 2009, Scottish Forestry developed a Forest Kindergarten Project across Central Scotland, to connect young children, staff and parents from Early Year’s establishments with their natural heritage. A Forest Kindergarten training course has been developed and is currently being delivered through teacher training colleges and universities. The course is based upon three variables - people, place and activities.
Most early years establishments adopting a Forest Kindergarten approach allocate one session per week, using trained staff to lead programmes. However, this can be increased to children being outdoors more than 80% of the time. Forest Kindergarten supports child-centred learning through play, in a 'real world' context, provides young children with freedom to explore, using multiple senses, promotes health and well-being, confidence and physical and emotional resilience, supports the acquisition of knowledge, skills and care for the natural heritage. It is not surprising that parents and carers are increasingly keen to see their children offered regular and frequent outdoor experiences.
Young children with Forest Kindergarten experience can progress naturally to other outdoor learning opportunities including Forest School programmes. Further information on Forest Kindergarten training in the context of outdoor and woodland learning progression can be found here.
What is Forest Kindergarten?
Forest Kindergarten aims to foster children’s connection to the natural world. By playing and learning about how to be outside, the children develop confidence and independence. Through a child-led
approach, staff help children to cherish nature and learn about real life. Typical experiences include:
• Simple investigations and explorations with minimal equipment, using natural materials as the learning resource.
• Playing games, using the woodland for inspiration. Often these involve a lot of physical activity.
• Having snack outside and foraging wild food.
• Listening to stories and participating in songs, rhymes and simple games which help them learn how to be in nature.
• Simple stewardship activities such as planting trees or bulbs or creating habitat piles for minibeasts, in agreement with the land owner or manager.
• Having time to relax and chat with friends.
• Observing simple wonders of the natural world such as discovering a worm emerging from soil or a bird flying overhead.
• Setting up a tarpaulin shelter or adventure tipi.
There is a variety of training available which supports forest kindergarten:
Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland
OWL Scotland is a networking organisation for practitioners supported by Scottish Forestry which supports outdoor learning. OWL Scotland operates through local groups who provide CLPL and networking opportunities. Most groups run a programme of free training events throughout the year. Please subscribe to the OWL Scotland bulletin for updates and also join your local group.
Outdoor Learning Directory
The Outdoor Learning Directory is a signposting website which lists opportunities such as training, resources, events and funding for the partners from the Environment and Forestry Directorate ( Scottish Forestry, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, RBGE, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and Cairngorm National Park). www.outdoorlearningdirectory.org
There is a summary of outdoor learning training opportunities listed here.
Inspiring Scotland support outdoor learning through their Thrive project.
Outdoor Nurseries and Not for Profit Organisations
A number of outdoor nurseries and other organisations offer training. See the summary of Outdoor Learning Training Available for Early Years Practitioners.