For children, Forest School is not just an enjoyable way to pass the time, it provides so many benefits. One of the most noticeable benefits that practitioners observe is its impact on children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Before we jump into why this is, let’s take a quick look at what is Forest School…
Forest School is a learning approach, created to complement the context of outdoor and woodland education.
The Forest School Association defines Forest School as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adult’s regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment”.
At Forest School all children are viewed as:
· Equal, unique and valuable.
· Competent to explore & discover.
· Entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge.
· Entitled to choose and to initiate and drive their own learning and development.
· Entitled to experience regular success.
· Entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people.
· Entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world.
And now, let’s explore confidence building!
Forest School gives children opportunities to develop and learn in a non-classroom environment. Children who don’t excel within the classroom often find something they are good at via exploratory play.
And children whose learning comes easier within the classroom can be challenged further and resilience strengthened.
Unlike classrooms, Forest School activities allow children to direct and control their own activities.
When in control, children can develop a stronger sense of self and take the opportunity to challenge themselves at their own pace.
This doesn’t only give them a better understanding of their boundaries but also allows them to realise they are capable of more than they thought/can overcome obstacles they didn’t know they could.
For instance, when a child is having fun with others and exploring a park or forest before they know it, they’re challenging themselves to climb a tree or pick up a bug, even though they had an aversion to these things before. So, they end up challenging themselves as they feel safe and confident enough to do so.
And by doing this regularly, where sessions last a minimum of 1 hour 30 minutes, children build on their confidence and self-esteem. This is something that stays with them as they manoeuvre their way through education and later adulthood.
However, it's important to be able to identify when a child might benefit from adult intervention. In Forest School, this is done via 'scaffolding', theorised by Vygotsky, it states that practitioners should only intervene when they are either invited by the child or when they see an opportunity to support the child's learning.
For example, in a knot-tying activity, a child may need a hint to help secure the knot. In this instance, a practitioner wouldn't do this for them but offer open-ended questions such as 'Do you think that's a good way to do it?'. This will allow them to complete the task by themselves, giving them the feeling of accomplishment (and so growing confidence over time) whilst giving them a chance for rich communication.