Forest School

The Forest School enriches the national curriculum and enables some of the children who live in the most socially and environmentally deprived areas with the Mersey Forest area to reconnect with nature.

2,000
Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Our story

Forest School is an innovative, self-led learning approach suitable for all ages in a woodland setting, supported by a trained Forest School Leader. Within a school setting, children might take part in regular two-hour, weekly sessions over the course of a minimum of six weeks. The sessions, which include activities such as building dens, cooking over fires, knot-tying and making art with natural materials, help to combat children's increasing isolation from the natural world, arising from greatly reduced freedom to roam and society's increased fear of risk.

Classes are taught outdoors in a wooded area, either within the school grounds or at a local woodland, and help children build their confidence, improve their teamwork and practical skills, and learn about natural environments.

The Mersey Forest helps schools and other organisations to access, create and adapt woodland spaces for their Forest School sessions, and provide advice and support to fledging Forest School programmes – some of which are based in woodlands which The Mersey Forest helped to plant over the past 25 years!

We've already worked with over half of Merseyside and North Cheshire's schools to introduce the benefits of natural play to children's education through school grounds improvements and Forest School. We're now helping teachers and practitioners to gain the Open College Network teaching qualification in Forest School, so that they can teach Forest School sessions on a regular basis.

What have you learnt that others will find most useful?

  • Forest School isn't just about delivering the national curriculum at a primary school level, however. It has a range of applications and can be used to teach all ages.
  • ‘Training the trainers’ is key to success, and we encourage teachers and other practitioners to gain qualifications in Forest School.
  • Seek advice on the choice of a site where you would like to set up a Forest School woodland, so there are no issues in accessing or managing the site, and make sure you have the necessary landowner agreements and other formal documents in place.
  • Set up cluster groups and support networks – so that advice and support is never far away.

Measures of success?

Number of schools enrolled, number of children who participate, geographic coverage of the schools involved, e.g. inner cities vs suburbs.

Read more: https://www.merseyforest.org.uk/our-work/forest-school/

Clare Olver
Forest School