Ditching the classroom for the great outdoors is the stuff dreams are made of when you’re a kid and possible with Forest Schools in Queensland soon to be a reality.
In a Queensland first, the partnership will deliver a number of training opportunities to educators working with children aged 2-10 years, aimed at supporting the introduction of Forest Schools in Queensland.
So, what are Forest Schools anyway?
Forest Schools flip the traditional classroom setting on its head offering children an alternative way to learn that uses the great outdoors as the classroom and nature and all it has to offer as their learning instruments.
Kids leave their iPads, computers and books behind, replacing them with trees, mud and dirt – basically anything and everything that nature has provided. Check out this video to get the idea >
Regular sessions, which could be anything from one afternoon a week to every day, allow children to explore and learn about the environment around them. Qualified practitioners lead the sessions ensuring they support the National Curriculum and Early Years Learning Framework.
Nature Play QLD’s Community Engagement and Resource Coordinator Anya Perkins said Forest School doesn’t necessarily have to take place in a forest or woodland environment.
‘It can be any outdoor area, an allotment, creek or small corner of a playground,’ she said.
‘Forest School is intended for children aged 2 – 10 and works most effectively in kindergarten and Prep, where you can take kids out (from school or care) for longer periods of time.’
Ms Perkins said there has been great interest in the training on offer.
‘There’s a widespread recognition that it is needed as nobody is outside ever,’ she said.
‘People are getting the ball rolling developing suitable outdoor areas and the training is now here to support that.’
Benefits of Forest Schools
According to FSLI, Forest Schools aim to raise children’s self-awareness and self-esteem, offering them opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands on learning experiences in nature. It allows children to initiate learning, take risks and make choices. It also helps them to understand and care for the natural environment.
FSLI said educators involved with children participating in Forest School report significant improvement in independence, self-esteem, social skills and concentration levels.
Forest Schools in the UK
Forest Schools originated in Sweden in the 1950s and have since branched out to the UK, Europe and America, with interest from Australia gaining momentum in recent years. A similar concept to Forest Schools, Bush Kinder, was launched in Victoria at Westgarth Kindergarten five years ago.
Bridgwater College in Somerset brought the Forest School concept to the UK in the early nineties following a visit to Denmark. Since then, the UK has embraced the Forest School movement.
Heart of the Wildwood in Oxfordshire is an example of a UK Forest School. Accredited Forest School leaders facilitate sessions, which usually start with lighting a fire and educating children on how to stay safe. True to the Forest School philosophy, sessions are child-driven and typically include climbing trees, making mud pies and foraging for food.
Ms Perkins said Forest Schools have gone from strength to strength in the UK’s risk adverse and curriculum demanding society. She said Australia will take a similar approach to the UK, where Forest School is intended to enrich rather than replace traditional classroom learning.
Forest School training
Nature Play QLD’s partnership with FSLI offers a number of Forest School learning opportunities for educators, from a one-day introductory workshop to five-day accredited Level 3 Forest School Leader Training.
Training supports the Australian National Curriculum and Early Years Learning Framework and Health and Safety and risk benefit analysis will also take into account the Queensland environment.
The one-day introductory workshop explores the principles and practices of nature play and forest school and the benefits for children. Attendees will learn how to implement these principles into their community and receive guidance on where to start in setting up a forest school. The workshop will discuss the barriers to implementing outdoor nature play and provide strategies for curriculum demands. It will also allow attendees to explore a typical Forest Learning session.
Level 3 Forest School Leader Training
Introduction to Forest School Workshops and Level 3 Forest School Leader Training opportunities in Queensland.