Forest School at Primley Wood Primary School, Alwoodley
If you go down to the woods today…
As school starts back this year, we’ve got something really exciting planned for our new Reception children. Forest School has arrived at Primley Wood Primary School!
Being situated off the ring road where Alwoodley meets Moortown isn’t the first place that you’d think to find a forest but alongside having our own playing fields and dedicated wildflower areas, we have a wood right on our doorstep. Plus, we couldn’t very well be called Primley Wood without Forest School could we?
What is Forest School?
Originating in Scandinavia in the 50s, Forest School was first developed in the UK in the early 90s and since then centres have started to appear all over the country. The principle is based on child-led personal development in team situations based outside, around trees and ideally with plenty of mud to stomp through. Wellies and waterproofs are a fashion staple for Forest School. Schools are increasingly developing Forest School areas as for those joining Reception, and also school-affiliated nurseries, it’s a no-brainer way for them to swap from playing at home or at the child-minders to suddenly being in a classroom environment with 30 new classmates.
It’s education but it doesn’t feel like it
That’s the beauty of it really: at no point do children feel like they’re doing structured learning. Inside an Early Years school setting you may see areas which feel like they’re for exploration and play but they’re styled just so to develop motor skills, start the journey to writing, counting, reading etc. In Forest School, all rules are off: we’re going to get leaves in our hair and do our darnedest to sneak a worm back into the classroom in our anorak pocket.
But whilst they’re outside having an adventure you can bet on two things – they’re happy and they’re actually going to tell you what they did at school today when you collect them at home time. And if they’re enjoying themselves, they’re relaxed, getting on with their peers, pushing themselves to meet new challenges, and they’ve collected ten conkers each before they’ve realised they can now count to ten. It builds resilience, confidence, social skills, a sense of freedom and individuality…they may even offer to help you in the garden. And what’s it going to cost you? Well, you’re probably looking at an extra box of washing powder a year. What’s not to like?
For the school experience, it’s a fantastic way to cement some strong bonds within a team of young people who are going to grow and learn together for at least the next seven years. Exploring the outdoors comes with no competition and no peer pressure, just puddles that demand to be jumped in. Class sizes are not set to get smaller any time soon so the wide open spaces that Forest School provides is a natural way to give everyone the space they need as they work out where they personally fit in the new school, class and friendship groups.