Forest School

Learning Outside the Classroom

Opportunities for Learning Outside the Classroom are embedded across all areas of the Brookmead Curriculum. This includes subject-related visits as well as learning outdoors. Learning Outside the Classroom is an important aspect of our school vision to bring learning to life and life to learning. Learning outdoors and away from the classroom can often provide children with the most memorable learning experiences and help them make sense of the world through real-life experience.

We make regular use of the local area including the Watermill and Windmill, Ivinghoe Beacon, College Lake Nature Reserve to enhance our curriculum; our extensive outdoor area includes a yurt, a willow classroom and wigwam and Forest School. Children also take part in cross-year-group planting activities each year within our school grounds and local area.

Click here to visit the Learning outside the classroom gallery.

Forest School

Forest School has grown from a concept of outdoor learning implemented in Sweden in the 1950’s which has developed throughout Scandinavia and other European Countries. The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences.

Forest School is well-established at Brookmead and we have our own Forest School area within the school site which is used by pupils in all year groups; we have a trained Forest School Leader who is a member of the school staff team.

What is Forest School?

Through learning within our woodland environment, Forest School inspires children to develop the school values of confidence, self-esteem, independence, resilience, determination, teamwork and cooperation, problem-solving, respect for others and our environment, sharing and taking pride in their achievements, and supporting and encouraging others. Sessions provide opportunities for children to extend their learning, drawing on their interests and imagination. Children learn how to assess and manage risks, take care of themselves and others and how to collaborate effectively and share. At Brookmead, Forest School complements our approach to learning in the classroom.

What happens at Forest School?

Regular visits to Forest School over a number of weeks allow learners time and freedom to explore the woodland area independently and at their own pace. As they become familiar with this special environment they develop a sense of ownership and become increasingly observant of the plants and wildlife within the setting as well as seasonal changes. As children become more confident at Forest School they can be challenged with tasks that are increasingly complex, including building shelters, climbing trees and lighting fires. Forest School offers our children the opportunity to connect with nature in a magical and stimulating setting.

Forest School provides the opportunity for children to learn to take risks

Children’s safety and well-being are an absolute priority at Forest School. Forest School Rules are agreed by children and leaders to manage and minimise risk. Over time, children develop the skills to recognise and assess risks for themselves, enabling them to explore and discover independently whilst making informed decisions about how to deal with unfamiliar situations and challenges (e.g. tree climbing, using tools and splashing in puddles).

High adult-pupil ratios ensure that children can stretch the boundaries of their learning and enable them to take risks that would not be possible in school e.g. making damper bread on a woodland fire, using bush tools, and tree-climbing.

Smaller group sizes also mean children have the time and support to try and master more complicated tasks (e.g. knot tying, whittling and whistle making) with adults on hand to help and encourage if necessary. Working in this way often liberates children from a fear of failure as there is always time to have another go or refine what they are working on.

Sessions are held in all weathers (except very extreme/windy weather). Over time this can lead to much greater physical and mental resilience which also supports children's learning confidence and achievement in school.

What are the benefits of Forest School?

At Brookmead we believe that the experience of Forest School leads to:

• increased self-esteem and self-confidence

• improved social skills

• language development and improved communication skills

• improved physical motor skills

• improved motivation and concentration

• increased knowledge and understanding of the environment and of themselves.

Extending Opportunities through Outdoor Learning and Learning Outside the Classroom

At Brookmead we are keen to make the most of the opportunities available in our local environment as part of our commitment to Outdoor Learning and Learning Outside the Classroom.

These include visits to the Watermill at Ford End, the Pitstone WIndmill, the Ridgeway and Ivinghoe Beacon, the local allotments, the Church and churchyard; learning visits by train are also encouraged, in particular to London and Bletchley Park.

Learning outdoors enables us to explore alternative learning spaces: the school has a Yurt (funded by FAB, our PTA) which we have used as an outdoor classroom, a space for drama, an outdoor cinema, a stimulus for learning about lives in history and in other cultures, the Yurt has been used as a Celtic round house, a Mongolian Ger and a Stone-Age dwelling.

The willow classroom which we planted in January 2016 continues to grow and provides a natural space for learning and exploration.

Pupils in Year 3 and Year 6 take part in residential trips which enhance classroom learning and deepen pupils' understanding of their learning, of themselves and of others.