Valentines Day is a controversial one in some respects – although the tradition goes back years, more recently it’s been overtaken by consumerism and capitalism – urging us that the only way to show our loved ones we care is by spending money on things they probably don’t even want or need. So this year, we thought we’d do it our own way and instead, have written a love letter to Forest School…
When we recently interviewed some of our attendees about what they liked most about Forest School, the most common answer was freedom! We love that Forest School gives children and young people the opportunity to choose what they want to do in a natural environment, full of possibilities and new experiences.
2. Promotes Risk-Taking
Being in an outdoor, wild environment naturally promotes risk taking as attendees have to navigate uneven terrain, test their limits by climbing trees, and learn to manage risk when using tools for woodworking or lighting fires. Experimenting with taking risks is crucial for our development and happens organically at Forest School sessions.
3. New Skills
Forest School gives those attending the chance to learn a wide range of new skills from whittling to den making, to fire lighting to identifying plants. These opportunities for learning are sought out by attendees and when they find something they love doing, they often practice for weeks on end to hone their skills – also helping with their ability to stick with something and be resilient as they slowly see themselves improve.
We love seeing friendships form, grow, and develop over long-term Forest School sessions. Bonds are forged and strengthened through shared experiences and exposure to the outdoors and all the unpredictability that this brings.
5. Changing Seasons
Attending a Forest School session on a regular, long-term, basis allows children and young people to see the seasons change in real time around them. They see bare branches in winter, leaf buds in spring, trees in full bloom in the summer before leaves start to fall in the autumn. They see the flora and fauna of their woodland site change as the year turns, helping them to understand and appreciate the natural world that we are all part of.
Similarly to number 5, being outdoors all year round gives the opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of weather – from seeking shade during a heatwave to splashing in puddles in the middle of a rainstorm. The weather is a great equaliser and helps groups bond and share solidarity through experiencing the extremes that the weather often brings.
Turn up at any Forest School session and at some point you’ll hear peals of laughter ringing out throughout the woods. We don’t know why but something about being outdoors relaxes everyone and before you know it, complete strangers will be joking and exchanging banter with each other. It’s glorious to experience!
8. Campfire Cooking
We couldn’t complete a list of our favourite things without giving an honourable mention to campfire cooking. A staple of many Forest School sessions, food cooked over the fire is inexplicably better than food cooked anywhere else. Give us a campfire curry with pan fried homemade naan over a michelin star meal any day! Cooking food provides those attending with the chance to be useful and productive, it creates a sense of community and it warms and nourishes bodies.
This one was a no brainer! Forest School promotes creativity and we love seeing the ideas and inventions that our attendees come up with! Whether it’s a particularly impressive woodwork project, a complicated but workable den, a brand new team game to play, a beautiful bit of natural art…the opportunities for creativity are endless, and everywhere in the woods!
Finally, it’s just so much fun! Life’s too short not to seek out opportunities for fun and they are not in short supply at a Forest School session. A childhood passes so quickly, we’re all up for maximising as much fun as possible as we can during this fleeting period of their lives!
So Happy Valentines Day folks. Whether you’re avoiding it all together or drowning in chocolates and flowers, we hope you appreciated our love letter to Forest School and if you haven’t yet, why not send your kids to experience it for themselves with us at one of our Forest School sites this year?!
Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader
Date: Tuesday 14th January 2022