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Chapel Break Infant School

Forest School

Forest School Brief (A simple version of what we are aiming for)


  1. To provide regular outdoor play experiences
  2. To support pupils to explore and connect with the natural world
  3. For play to be child led (and intrinsically motivated where possible)
  4. To support pupils to take risks (physical emotional social, mental, spiritual - pupils will always be given the option to pass)
  5. To support pupils to problem solve and find their own solutions.


The Why? 


Connecting with the natural world - Research shows that spending regular time in nature helps individuals to develop a connection and appreciation for the natural world. Returning to the same place deepens the sense of familiarity and connection with a significant outdoor environment. Starting young, if we can facilitate this nature connection in our pupils at Chapel Break our hope is that they will be invested in learning about, enjoying and looking after the natural world as they grow up. When asked for a happy childhood memory, many people refer to early outdoor experiences they have had.


The term nature deficit disorder was coined by Richard Louv, his book ‘last child in the woods’ offers a message about the crucial role of nature in developing children and society in general. He argues that nature is as important as food and sleep. The benefits of time in nature are well documented. Today there are growing concerns and research suggests that today’s generation of children lack the pleasures of a ‘free range; childhood and that their indoor gaming habits are contributing to obesity, attention deficit disorder, isolation, childhood depression and other mental health and well being issues. 


Child led sensory play - Forest school sessions include child led outdoor (sensory) play as well as structured and focussed activities (to meet the curriculum). Child led outdoor play supports children to progress according to their own interests and level of learning. (a child in Robin Class created a river in the ‘mud play’ raised bed and we talked about the flow of rivers. The other pupils used the same area for imaginary play and cooking ‘pasta’, making soup and chocolate milkshake). The child led learning approach supports the key feature of forest school for pupils to become intrinsically motivated (and lead their own learning). When children play on their own terms they are more likely to stay engaged, focussed and motivated. This provides adults fantastic opportunities to facilitate learning and pupil progress. A key feature of forest school is that sessions are based on adult observations of children playing and the reflective practise of the practitioner. Through observations adults can gauge pupil interests and level of learning. This enables the practitioner to scaffold learning for each pupil (Lev Vygotsky / Brunner) by combining pupil interests, their level of learning (and any EHCP outcomes). 


Outdoor learning involves all of the senses and naturally accommodates different types of learners; Visual (Spatial), Aural (Auditory-musical) (Linguistic), Physical (Kinesthetic), Logical (Mathematical), Social (Interpersonal), Solitary (Intrapersonal) (Harrold). In his book Forest School and Autism, Michael James talks about the additional senses; vestibular (sense of balance) and proprioception (sense of our physical positioning and the strength of effort our body is exerting).  Outdoor learning naturally leans to multi-sensory learning approaches (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, balance and our physical sense of ourselves in the world.


Forest School will include circle time which provides opportunities for our pupils to learn and practise the social skills of social interaction, taking turns to talk, listening to others and sharing their ideas.


Building self esteem and emotional literacy - Pupils always have the option to pass at forest school (this supports them to assess and take their own risk whether it be physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental. By having the option to pass children learn about their comfort zone and what challenges them. When expectation and pressure is removed this can ease / remove anxiety so that pupils feel able to join in. Sessions are planned and managed carefully so that pupils can succeed. It is okay to make and learn from mistakes. Pupils are supported to take risks using a risk / benefit analysis. This helps pupils to build resilience and self esteem as challenges are faced and overcome. 


What is Forest School?


The 6 key principles of Forest School


  1. Forest school is a long term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment.
  2. Forest school supports the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world. (A forest school programme constantly monitors its ecological impact and works within a sustainable site management plan. Forest school primarily uses nature as it’s resources cupboard to inspire, enable ideas and encourage intrinsic motivation)
  3. Forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all of those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
  4. Forest school offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and themselves. (Forest school uses tools and fires only when deemed appropriate and is dependent on a baseline risk assessment. Any forest school experience follows a risk-benefit process).
  5. Forest school is run by a qualified Forest School practitioner who continuously maintains and develops their professional practise. 
  6. Forest school uses a range of learner centred approaches to create a community for development and learning. (Play and choice are integral to forest school, reflective practise is a key feature of each session, observations lead into scaffolding and tailoring learning experiences for pupil development).

Our role as adults


  1. To facilitate play experiences rather than direct pupils
  2. Observe pupil interests to support the planning of future sessions in order to scaffold learning and support next steps of learning.
  3. To model play and have fun.  


Dreaming big - We would like Forest School at Chapel Break to be;


A therapeutic space

A space of wonder and wow

A safe space that pupils connect with, love being in and ‘run too’/ ask to go to when experiencing difficult feelings or finding it hard to self regulate.

A place and community to build self esteem, confidence, resilience, a place to take risks (physical, emotional, mental, social spiritual...)

A place to play

A place to make mistakes and learn

A place to learn new skills and gain knowledge of the natural world (tying knots, building dens, playing with and crafting using natural materials, growing plants from seed to plate, tasting foods grown themselves, using tools (knives, bow saw, loppers, drill)

A place to build social skills by sharing ideas and equipment, working together, solving problems, falling out and making up, resolving conflict, making decisions together.

A place to build and develop speech language and communication, learning ‘subject’ specific vocabulary (Rowan tree, Cosmos, vegetable names, names of tools and gardening jobs e.g. planting, potting on, harvesting)

Opportunities for proprioception and vestibular activities (laying in a hammock and swinging) 

A non judgemental place to ‘be’

A beautiful ever changing evolving space that pupils design, create and make decisions about. Natural art work in collaboration with Angela in the heart

A place that represent the children’s learning processes and working together (e.g. making a musical instrument together (xylophone), making bundles of kindling that together help to light a fire, art made from natural resources that is displayed in our outdoor spaces, photographed and included in our weekly newsletter / on our website.

Circle times to develop social skills, taking turns to talk, listening, tell stories, reflecting on sessions

A place that is MAGIC

A place that incorporates the BEES, and what they mean at Chapel Break

A place for parental engagement and volunteers to get involved