I love forest school, the staff love forest school and the children really love forest school. Do the parents love forest school? This was the question we asked ourselves as a staff and none of us really knew the answer. Every parent appears very happy with it but do they really understand forest school? Much research has been done on the benefits of forest school and we wanted to provide this information for the parents.
We wanted them to understand what makes forest school unique and that having regular opportunities to learn outside of the traditional classroom and having the freedom to explore the ever changing environment, to take risks and “assess risk for themselves” is real learning. We believe that being outside seems more natural than the classroom and ‘touches something deep’ within the children. We would even go as far to argue that all aspects of the curriculum can be taught outside, stimulating the imagination and bringing subjects to life in a real context. Learning in the forest stimulates all their senses and builds firm foundations for further learning.
It's easy for me to understand as I accompany the children to forest school. I have had the unique opportunity to observe the children’s developing love of the woodland and to watch as their confidence and learning grow.
One of our very inspiring and talented forest school leaders, Sue Ingram, came up with the answer 'Forest School For Parents'. We decided to run forest school sessions for parents. This way we wouldn't rely on presentations, powerpoints and photographs to promote all the benefits of forest school. This would give the parents the opportunity to get the full forest school experience first-hand. We planned to run sessions for groups of parents and treat them exactly as we would the children. This was going to be REAL forest school.
I was slightly surprised to see our first group of parents had bought handbags, wore full make up and had immaculate clothes on! Sue advised them to leave the handbags in the office and warned them that they would get dirty! Then off they went...
What a result! The parents came back absolutely full of it, in fact it took ages to get them back because they didn't want to leave the forest. The feedback was amazing, the parents had really understood forest school and the only complaint was that the sessions weren't long enough for them! The idea paid off and this was a really successful way of informing parents and for them to see high quality teaching first hand. We now have high demand for more 'forest school for parents' sessions and look forward to seeing more and more parents participate.
Head of Pre-Preparatory School, Clifton College.