Children learn most effectively through play experiences. This is about creating interactions with people and the places where they play, learning to care for nature and the world in which we live. The concept of sustainability is best understood through experiential learning. Being outdoors in a natural setting enables children to develop a connection with the natural world that can lead to long-term environmental awareness, understanding and positive action.
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 survey conducted as part of the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Forest Kindergarten Feasibility Study (2009, p8) highlighted the value respondents placed on accessing quality training. A Forest Kindergarten training course has been developed and is currently being delivered to selected local authority areas, with the aim to reach further parts of Scotland in future. 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.