Research now backs up what forest school practitioners have known all along – that children and young people are stimulated by the outdoors and typically experience, over time, an increase in their self belief, confidence, learning capacity, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving skills and emotional well-being.
Mentally and emotionally healthy
At Forest School children are physically active a lot of the time and their stamina improves as they go through their Forest School sessions. Their experience can also help to lead to the development of healthier lifestyles as children ask parents to take them on trips to woodlands and green spaces outside of school times. As the children gain confidence and improve their self-esteem this can impact on their emotional and mental well-being.
The ‘wild’, and yet controlled, safe environment of Forest School ensures that children taking part naturally learn to assess risk and are encouraged to make sensible and informed decisions about how to deal with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations (such as exploring or climbing trees, using tools to build shelters and dens). Much of the learning for a child comes as a result of the opportunities they have for testing their own abilities in a real life context.
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Enjoy and achieve
Achieve stretching national educational standards at primary school
Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation
Forest School sets learning in a different context for children where they can undertake a range of practical activities and carry out small achievable tasks. At Forest School children can develop their team working skills and also learn to become more independent. Those who are unfamiliar with woodlands and green spaces can become confident in using them and this can form the basis of a life-long relationship with natural spaces.
Make a positive contribution
Develop self confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges
Developing enterprising behaviour
Forest School helps children to develop their confidence. As they become familiar with Forest School they can take their new-found confidence into school and into other areas of their lives. Forest School can be particularly effective for children who do not do well in the classroom environment. Children learn to solve problems and be creative and imaginative at Forest School thus showing enterprising behaviour.
('A marvellous opportunity for children to learn - A participatory evaluation of Forest School in England & Wales') Murray & O'Brien go on to make a number of recommendations, primarily making Forest School more widely available:
Forest School benefits many children and should be used on a wider basis as a vital part of children’s outdoor learning experience, and to provide many more children with the opportunity to experience this as part of their overall education.