The Pros and Cons of Forest Schools

We’re beginning to see that models of education based around rote learning and based within the confines of a classroom don’t suit every individual’s needs. Society as a whole is also beginning to recognise the holistic value of the education setting for its ability to instill personal and social values, nurture relationships and create associations that prompt positive well-being for children as they grow.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what is meant by Forest School, and discover some of the pros and cons it might have as a style of education. 

What is a Forest School?

Learner-led, Forest Schooling is a holistic system that encourages children to nurture healthy relationships with risk, problem-solving, and self-discovery, whilst outdoors in the natural world. This hands-on process is usually aimed predominantly at younger learners, for example, nurseries and primary school-aged children, but the value of outdoor education delivered by Forest Schooling has benefits at all stages of educational development. These can be stand-alone institutions for outdoor education but are also sometimes facilitated by private or state schools to run additional sessions to complement regular classroom learning.

This doesn’t mean no protection from the elements, however. A forest school may invest in something like our outdoor Healey classroom or something similar to create an area to gather and learn as well as shelter.

The Origins of Forest School

Forest School as it is understood today in the UK began in the 1990s, inspired by the pedagogical practices showcased in Scandinavian countries. The Forest School Association (FSA) was established formally in 2012.

Forest Schools all vary, of course, like any education setting. But their positive core beliefs, according to the FSA, are that learners are all:

  • Equal, unique, and valuable.
  • Competent to explore and discover.
  • Entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge.
  • Entitled to choose, initiate, and drive their own learning and development.
  • Entitled to experience regular success.
  • Entitled to develop positive relationships with both themselves and others.
  • Entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with the natural world.

The Pros and Cons of Forest School

Pros

Case studies have shown that Forest School aids children in developing skills of self-regulation, coping with and learning from failure, building resilience, gaining a sense of achievement, and increasing motivation and concentration. It has also been shown to improve problem-solving, improve overall wellbeing and mental health, expand vocabulary and communication skills, empower, and build positive relationships with adults and peers.

Cons

Forest School, just like any specific learning environment, doesn’t suit every child. It can be challenging on cold and wet days, as children will be outdoors come rain or shine. Safety and hygiene might be a con for some parents and children too; activities like climbing trees and jumping in mud and puddles encourage controlled risk-taking and also put children in potentially unhygienic scenarios. It might also make adapting to a ‘normal’ school more challenging, if and when they are reintroduced to this system later on.

Landscapes for Learning provides outdoor learning equipment for all different types of education environments. Check out our range to find out more.

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