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Forest School

What is Forest School?
The Forest School ethos aims to promote students’ confidence, social skills, sense of self-worth and emotional well-being in an outdoor environment learning with a hands-on approach. Sessions are shaped by children to encourage ownership and independence, to build trust and relationships and to gain the many physical and emotional benefits from being in nature.

We introduced Forest School at our school as we came out of the pandemic by initially using our Recovery Funding.  This was so well-received and much needed, that we have built this into our curriculum at Dewhurst St Mary and this is now an entitlement for all our pupils on a half termly basis.

What happens in Forest School?
Forest School takes place on our own grounds at Dewhurst St Mary. We are thrilled to have developed some redundant areas and have created our own meadow and little copse too for outdoor learning and exploration. During a Forest School session, activities are provided but the emphasis is on the children choosing what they do. Activities include den building, using tools such as saws, knives (under 1:1 supervision), cutting firewood and fire lighting, crafts such as dream catchers or whistles, games, rope swings, flora and fauna identification as well as stories and sharing. The benefits of improved coordination and physical health from doing activities outside, are enhanced by opportunities to develop imagination and initiative; problem solving and perseverance. Children are encouraged to try things out and learn from experience, rather than rigidly following a set of instructions  with the exception of tools and fire. This often involves learning to work as a team to get something done, feeling comfortable with asking for and offering help. We also learn how to cope with failure or setbacks and crucial emotional skills needed to thrive and be the best they can be.

Forest School involves children learning to self-manage risk, how do I know my child will be safe?
All Forest school sessions are led by a Level 3 qualified leader with an outdoor paediatric First Aid qualification. All activities are risk assessed and children take part in a dynamic risk assessment with the Forest School leader every time they do a Forest School session. This then becomes habit, to look for, assess and manage risk continually throughout each session. High ratio of adults to children mean staff can observe without interfering, but still be able to step in quickly if an activity looks like it is becoming unsafe. Staying on site means that toileting and hand washing will take place in the school building, as usual.

There are strict rules around camp fire and tools and these are used under close adult supervision.

How long will sessions last?
Sessions will take weekly for around 2 hours. The program will run for 5-6 weeks for each year group.

What should children wear? / How dirty will they get?
Children will get dirty! There is no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing, so as long as the leader deems it safe, children are encouraged to get as messy as they like. Many children and young people miss out on experiential learning because they are overly concerned with getting dirty or spoiling their clothes. You can help them overcome this by making sure that they wear old clothes that they don’t have to worry about. Forest School happens in all weathers including snow, rain and sun.
Sessions are only postponed in extreme wind, heat or lightening and when deemed unsafe by the leader.  With this in mind please send your child in appropriate clothing for the weather. Layers in winter, ideally with waterproof trousers, wellies, hats and gloves are the order of the day. In summer, sun hats are important. Your child should arrive in their outdoor learning clothes (old clothes, shoes which will get dirty), with a SPARE set of clothes in a bag for them to change into when they get dirty or wet. This should include socks, pants, shoes.