Why Forest School at Hatherop is so much more than just den building

Children at Hatherop have without doubt the most beautiful grounds in which to play. But there is a place down in the woods less manicured with lots of leaf debris and twigs on the ground where the children love to visit.

Each Forest School session starts with a couple of minutes of mindfulness to connect with nature after a busy day. Pupils sit at base camp on logs around the fire pit and we listen to nature and discuss our observations linked to seasonal changes, flora, fauna, weather or sounds we can hear.

This routine is so important in setting the scene for the rest of the session and it provides a focal point for adult supported activities such as whittling, drilling, fire building and weaving.

Children are encouraged to set their own projects, select their own materials and follow their natural curiosity to learn in a practical context. It is essential that pupils develop a sense of awe and wonder about the world around them, thus promoting deeper thinking and questioning skills which in turn promotes a deeper understanding.

The woodland here at Hatherop serves as an active learning ‘classroom’ without walls. With space for the children to explore, experience and learn in a practical context. Values such as collaboration and team work are valued and praised. The children are provided with real-life problem-solving tasks and they must work as a team, delegating tasks and working collaboratively to achieve their goal.

The cross-curricular opportunities within Forest School are limitless, with the potential for all subjects to be greatly enriched and for learning experiences to gain greater depth and relevance for all children.

Amanda Houghton-Brown