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Learning in the Forest at Kedleston

Meeting outside the woodland, excitement is in the air. The birds are chirping, the gentle wind rolls across the hills while wellington boots search for puddles. The woodland has been checked and the equipment is ready to be taken with us, our focus in on the wellbeing, physical and emotional, of each person within our community.

The woodland space is a blank canvas, full of textures and materials to enrich the senses and stimulate the learning journeys that we will all undertake. As leaders we have both an idea for the direction of the day should learners need us to provide this for them, but also understand the importance of encouraging them to decide their own direction. During this time of exploration and discovery, our role as a leader is to provide the nurturing they need whilst also encouraging them to stay with challenge and to make sense of the experiences they have. Through review and reflection their voices are heard, and their emotions are recognised.

Shelley Richards from our Arc School Napton has been awarded her Forest School Leader Qualification which she has worked exceptionally hard to achieve. She consistently provides active, engaging and fun lessons for every young person in her class. Her assessment and monitoring of learning is outstanding and this is reflected in the workbooks that all the children take great pride in creating.

Shelley Richards from our Arc School Napton has been awarded her Forest School Leader Qualification which she has worked exceptionally hard to achieve.
Shelley Richards from our Arc School Napton has been awarded her Forest School Leader Qualification which she has worked exceptionally hard to achieve.

Arc School Napton offers a broad and creative curriculum designed to meet the needs of the individual, whilst ensuring that opportunities are provided for children to achieve the best possible educational outcomes and lay the foundations to future educational success.

Children in the Forest School sessions have to work and learn together with their peers both independently and collaboratively.  They also have to learn to manage themselves in what is often a new and unpredictable environment. Within this we have seen the children develop the skills to play, turn take, share, collaborate and plan, largely independent of the focused adult support they may previously have needed.

The children – and adults supporting them – face a range of complex problems and tasks, which they have to solve.  Because they need to learn to assess risks (and decide if these risks are ok for them to take) we have seen an increase in their problem solving skills, as opposed to reliance on an adult to problem-solve for them.

The biggest challenge for the children – and often the most exciting – is the chance to learn new skills and achieve things they may previously have thought they couldn’t. They then bring this confidence and excitement back into school, which positively impacts on every aspect of their life and learning journey.

Forest School is an inspirational process that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and complements the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.

  • Forest school is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
  • Forest school takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
  • Forest school uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
  • Forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
  • Forest school offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
  • Forest school is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

Congratulations to Shelley and thank you for your amazing efforts!

This article is available and can be accessed in Spanish here.

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Kedleston Group
Our innovative, independent, specialist residential schools, day schools and children’s homes across England help young people to thrive, flourish and reach their full academic and personal potential. We support young people living with social, emotional and mental health challenges, autism and specific learning difficulties which may affect their behaviour. Our mission is to develop confident and capable young people by meeting their educational, health and social care needs in structured, nurturing school and home provisions. We work in partnership with young people, their families and carers and other stakeholders to achieve outcomes which make a difference.

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