Written by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll, Play the Forest School Way is the first book to share Forest School games, crafts and skill-building activities with families and friends, its magical illustrations and simple instructions drawing children easily into a world of wonder.
Outside the confines of four walls, without the distractions of electronic devices and excessive supervision, children can move, explore and discover at their own pace, connecting to the natural world – a place not created by man, that had deep spiritual meaning for our ancestors.
Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where we can find peace and wonder. It is not limited by time or confined by walls, and even today we cannot control it completely. It is much larger and older than we are, and its rhythms resonate deep within us. Nature is where we are from and where we belong, and our survival is intricately linked to its existence. For children it is the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, its creatures of all shapes and sizes, its abundant plants, some edible, others toxic. Nature offers a myriad of opportunities for risk taking, for a wealth of learning and amazement, and for freedom, separate from the adult world.
Forest School is one of many grassroots movements around the world that are currently aiming to connect children with nature once more. Now a global phenomenon, Forest School developed in the UK in the 1990s as both an approach to early years learning, initially inspired by the play-based, nature-centred pedagogy of Scandinavia known in Denmark as friluftsliv (‘free open-air life’), and as an ever-growing collection of individual Forest Schools. These range from educational play schemes held in local parks and in mainstream schools to specialist programmes to help with addiction recovery and social inclusion.
The Forest School Association, the independent body representing Forest School in the UK, has provided the following definition:
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.
Children are immensely curious and have a strong desire to play and explore the world around them, and by making choices in this way they actively drive their own learning and development. Research suggests that young children learn best from experience, by using their senses actively rather than passively, and it is via these experiences that the learning remains with us into adulthood. Providing varied outdoor experiences can help with this development. Free play gives children space and independence, and a chance to imagine and learn social skills, while adult-guided activities such as tool use build new skills, vocabulary and the ability to manage risk, creating a positive self-identity and laying foundations to be a successful lifelong learner.
Peter Houghton is a qualified Level 3 Forest School leader, running, with Jane Worroll, year-round Forest School sessions for children in London and elsewhere. At a charity supporting vulnerable inner-city children and young people, he worked as an artist (in woodwork and other media) and as a key worker, as well as leading Forest School sessions. He is qualified and experienced in historical and ornamental woodcarving and in green woodwork. Jane Worroll has worked outdoors for the majority of her adult life, in gardening, tree surgery and, for 12 years, as a Countryside Ranger, a role that included habitat management, monitoring protected species and leading volunteers. She has a degree in ecology as well as an MSc in environmental conservation.
Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll
Play the Forest School Way
£12.99, available from Watkins Publishing
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