The Innovative Kent Forest Schools

In Britain, we spend a staggering 92% of our time indoors. For children, this means that they are missing out, not only on a lot of fun but also on getting enough Vitamin D - needed for bone and skin health. Forest Schools aim to get children out of the classroom and bring learning into forests and other areas of nature across the county. Their education has a different focus, it is about creativity, encouraging independence, building self-confidence and learning about the world around us. Throughout Kent, Forest Schools are becoming more commonplace and are really enhancing children’s education experience.

How are academic skills transferred from the classroom?

Typical Forest School activities may include building an outside shelter or a simple log cabin. Pupils  have to work together as a team to construct the cabin, relying on the teacher’s knowledge to put it together. Students would also need to pay attention to detail in the construction and help each other to get the task done, teaching each other valuable life skills that they will have learnt in a classroom but may have lacked the opportunity to practice outside in a different environment.

Forest school students also learn about the natural life cycle of plants and animals. Pupils may have talked about this in biology and seen examples of pictures online and in textbooks, but at a forest school they have the opportunity to grow their own flowers, fruits and vegetables, and learn exactly what it takes to nurture a living plant so that it thrives.

What would students learn in the process?

In the construction of a simple shelter, for example, students would learn about the importance of placement - for instance, you wouldn’t build a shelter in an exposed area, with muddy groundcover. They would learn some valuable communication skills in working as a team and would have to consider the survival skills that they would require to live out in a forest area. Students will learn about how mankind lived many hundreds of years ago, relying on only what nature provided. Thinking about what it is like to have no electricity and running water can be an eye-opener, especially for teenagers.

What about younger children?

Primary school children love getting their hands dirty and learning to grow their own food, this can then be taken into the kitchen. Kids also love learning about insects and small mammals in their natural habitat. The curriculum is enriched through woodland adventures, all supervised in a safe environment. As everything is outside, it doesn’t matter if they make a mess - they have a different sort of freedom than they would have in a classroom environment.

Where can I find forest schools in Kent?

Kent County Council runs a Forest School programme that takes place in Brockhill Country Park, Shorne Woods Country Park, Lullingstone Country Park and Trosley Country Park. These are aimed at Early Years and Key Stage 1 & 2 and schools can book with the council directly. Earth Craft UK, based in Canterbury, also offer forest school activities for all ages.

Forest schools have originated from a Scandinavian idea, inspired by open-air culture. Here in Kent, we are embracing this opportunity for children to experience more in the Garden of England.  

Has this blog inspired you to spend more time outdoors in your school? If so then check out this blog on how schools are adding beekeeping to their curriculum to improve wellbeing in school. 

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