What is Forest School?


The official definition is: 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 may not seem like anything new, and a lot of it is as old as humanity itself. Who doesn’t enjoy sitting around a campfire with some good company?

What is unique is that it is centred around the participant’s interests – they get to choose what they want to do, NOT the leader – and it is play-based. Not very much like school at all then, but there is so much learning going on! Ideally it happens regularly all year round, so we get to experience all the seasons and develop a relationship with a woodland. Participants find many special places to explore and make meaning over time.

Forest school is for all, anyone and any age. The majority of forest school programmes (approx 80%) are with very young children, at nursery and kindergarten, even full time outdoors. It is also popular in education with teenagers and children who might not be succeeding in a classroom environment. Another growing area is with adults for better health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.

At Free Range Creativity, we work with all these different groups.

Our forest play holiday club is for all ages of children and young people. We find that a difference in age range matters less outside, as each child or young person can find their own way and place in the woods. We also encourage young people to become volunteer assistants if they are interested in continuing, and this is a wonderful way for them to develop further skills for life and work.

Our training courses and workshops for adults incorporate a lot of the elements of forest school. We also run forest school training for those who want to start their own programme or find out more about this unique approach.

To know about forest school, here is some information that we trust. There’s a lot of info out there on the interweb to wade through. Please feel free to ask us any questions. Mel is one of very few international experts on Forest School practice and a great source of knowledge and experience.

What is Forest School, from the Forest School Association (FSA) – the professional body for all practitioners and trainers.

Mel’s articles on the history and development of forest school are here – Part 1 and Part 2. Co-written with Jon Cree, FSA Chair.

These great videos show some work with young children.

We’d like to show you some other great work with younger people and with adults…. but we probably have to make those films first!