In September 2017 Leweston Prep became an accredited Forest School. Whilst we have always embraced our outdoor space and ethos, the accreditation enables us to offer a host of outdoor opportunities to the children in order to benefit every area of the curriculum.
We have a large area of designated woodland, called ‘The Enchanted Wood’ which we use for our Forest School sessions. The wood is furnished with two clearings, with log seating circles and fire pits. In one of the clearings we have our full outdoor classroom, with an all-weather awning, a storage area and sufficient seating for a whole class. Positioned around the blazing fire, with a cup of hot chocolate and a marshmallow on a stick, children are briefed about their outdoor challenges. They may be den building, or using tools to make equipment from tree branches. They may be moulding clay to form faces on trees or using the iPads to follow barcode trails.
Each class has a weekly Forest School session and once a term each class spends a full day completing all their lessons in the outdoor environment. The sessions take place in all weather, from snow to sun, so it is crucial that all children have full kit for each lesson. We share our philosophy with the Norwegians, there is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing. Building shelter in the pouring rain develops grit, determination and perseverance…and is enormous fun.
The possibilities of Forest School are endless, but the benefits remain the same. Children learn to work as part of a team, to solve problems and adapt their ideas, to interact with the world around them and to approach challenges logically. These ‘soft-skills’ will be transferable and beneficial to them throughout the rest of their lives. In our modern world, the knowledge that we provide our children with may become obsolete, but the ability to think and adapt will always be crucial.
Forest School also enables staff to view their pupils in new ways. Providing an additional insight into what motivates them and how their minds work. This can be of enormous value in the classroom. Fresh air and exercise part of the principle, but Forest School offers much more to our pupils and it is firmly at the heart of an education at Leweston Prep.