Forest School Resources:
There are many support resources available for Forest School practitioners. These include:
Forest School Scotland Resource Pack - designed to support Forest School practitioners working in a range of situations across Scotland. It provides ideas and activities, templates and sample programmes that you can adapt and develop to fit your particular setting and group.
Forest School & Curriculum for Excellence – useful links and resources developed with teacher practitioners.
Guidance Notes – including Guidance for Land Owners, and Your Child and Forest School - Information for Parents and Carers
Local OWL group project reports – including local Forest School initiatives
Woodland learning ideas and activities
The OWL Facebook group is a great source of shared ideas, resources, and debate on all aspects of outdoor learning, including Forest School.
Forest kindergartens offer young children frequent, regular play opportunities in woodland and/or a natural setting, throughout the year, in almost all weathers. Most ELC centres adopting this approach
begin with a weekly session but this may become more frequent. The learning happens through play. It is child centred and led with freedom to explore using multiple senses. There are clear curriculum links and a
high ratio of adults to children.
Every outdoor nursery is different. Some outdoor nurseries are nomadic. They have a base, such as a village hall, yet tend to spend most of their time on a walk where they move from site to site. Others have a static site or two which they use all year round. The similarities include:
- The nursery must be registered with the Care Inspectorate.
- The children and staff will be outside most of the time all-year round. They tend only to go inside when the weather is particularly inclement or a child really needs to be inside.
- The emphasis is on learning through play in nature. The woodland, wildlife and weather are the resources.
- The same curriculum and inspection processes apply to an outdoor nursery as to a standard nursery.
Forest School is a process not a place, and programmes are not available country-wide, although regular sites may be established in some locations, both urban and rural. Holiday and after-school clubs run by Forest School practitioners may be available. As an experiential long term programme, Forest School may start and stop according to school or community priorities, often depending on the availability of funding, access to sites, transport and qualified Level 3 Forest School practitioners to develop and lead the sessions. Parents who are interested in their children attending Forest School sessions may find the guidance note Your Child and Forest School - Information for Parents and Carers useful.
Increasingly Forest School programmes are being delivered in schools by teaching staff, trained and qualified in Forest School, in recognition of the benefits to individual pupils and to deliver the Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning. Other Forest School or Forest School 'style' programmes may be run at the weekend for family/ community groups. Settings that support Early Years children may offer a Forest Kindergarten programme or similar.
It is possible to offer Forest School programmes on a freelance basis if you are suitably qualified, but it can be very challenging. Options could include:
Set up in business as a sole trader and charge a fee for delivering Forest School programmes on a supply/demand basis.Note that you won’t be able to apply for grants.Business Gateway can provide advice and free workshops on different aspects of commercial provision.
Set up as a social enterprise and apply for funding. Then find interested groups to participate.
Work in association with an existing organisation.
Run a pilot project to test what people think of the format and activities.
Run Forest School activities as an after-school club or as a holiday programme. Consider working with family groups. Parental support allows you to maintain child:adult ratios. See the Guidance note Your Child and Forest School - Information for Parents and Carers (May 2012).
Encourage your local schools and/or local authority to look creatively at their own budgets which may be allocated to meet certain targets – for example, health and well-being/ outdoor learning/ physical activity/ behaviour issues, etc. Structure what you offer through Forest School to meet these aims.
Target schools which do not already have Forest School L3 trained and qualified staff, or where they have the L2 qualification only, or have to release class teachers for other activities. It may be cheaper for schools to hire you to lead Forest School sessions rather than fund additional teacher cover to support their Forest School programme. In the long run though, it is more sustainable for schools ensure their staff have the appropriate training to support outdoor learning.
Outdoor Learning including Forest School and Forest Kindergarten can happen in urban and rural locations. The minimum required is an outdoor site with natural features including some trees and shelter. In some cases, school grounds can make an ideal starting point. You should be best able to judge suitability of a site for your needs. However, even if you think a wood may be ideal you must check with the landowner or manager that they agree to its use. See the OWL Scotland Guidance for Landowners.
Other ways to find and record information about your Forest School site - Explore your local area – what green spaces can you find? Look at local maps. Use online satellite mapping online to identify possible sites.
Scotland’s Greenspace Map is an innovative Geographical Information System (GIS) based map which provides comprehensive information on the location, extent and type of greenspace across all of Scotland’s urban settlements (towns and cities with a population of 3,000 or more).
Education Scotland has an online site search facility for Places to Learn Outdoors
VisitWoods is an interactive website developed by the Woodland Trust showcasing local woods. The site includes searchable maps, inspiring ideas, free activities and space to upload your photos and tips.
Outdoor Learning can support many aspects of the curriculum including health outcomes, and can make a real difference to all involved.
There are lots of ways to support outdoor learning, many of which require no special qualification – just enthusiasm! Your local OWL group may offer skills sharing and training opportunities. There is also a guidance document plus a short introduction which explores the range of woodland learning options outdoors, and associated training. This may help you to decide what training is right for you. There is a summary available outlining Training provision in outdoor learning for early years practitioners.