top of page

What is Forest School?

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Forest School was initially born out of the Scandinavian outdoor culture, Friluftsliv, or 'Free Air Life'. This way of being is much more than just a walk in the park but instead suggests a spiritual connection to the outdoor world. It means a commitment to a time outdoors and nature connections, whatever the weather. As well as getting fresh air and moving our bodies, a Free Air Life has holistic effects, and this is the basis from which Forest School is born.

"An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment"

In 1993, a group of nurses from Bridgewater College in Somerset, went to Denmark to get a firsthand look at their pre-school system and the outdoor culture of Friluftsliv, which was very much part of Scandinavian schooling. Inspired by what they saw, the nurses returned to the UK and set up the very first Forest School which was a mostly outdoor, child-centred and play-based structure to see how it faired in the UK. After observing the incredibly positive response from the children, the college started offering a BTech in Forest School to early years practitioners and by 2000, many local authorities in England started to offer trainings. Two years later, the first national conference was held by several practitioners where the first definition of Forest School was created: 'An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.’

Forest School is a holistic way of educating children so they are not only growing and expanding their knowledge of the world but also being nurtured physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and socially. One of the key principles of Forest School is that it's a long term process with regular contact with a local wooded environment over the seasons where care of the natural world is integrated. I see it as an absolute necessity to mainstream schooling (where outputs and targets are of the greatest importance) because it's at Forest School that children are given the agency to make their own decisions, the support to manage their own risk, the ability to express, emote and test their skills and curiosity, and where the child to adult ratio is high so proper observation can take place.

The individual child is at the very centre of the Forest School ethos and sessions are long-term and child-centered with an emphasis on play, exploration and supported risk-taking. . Rather than teachers, we are facilitators, gently scaffolding the learning processes but allowing the educational pathways to take the turns they need to take. It's also acknowledging that each child grows and learns in a different way, so we are observers first and foremost.

There's some great books to learn more about Forest School with incredible ideas and resources to bring nature connection into your child's life. Or feel free to reach out to me for a chat at!

Play the Forest School Way - Jane Worrol and Peter Houghton

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page