25 Feb

Our Next Course

Nature Play & the Therapeutic Space (Two day training)

Information and Pricing

History of Forest School Internationally

The Forest School concept originated in Scandinavia in 1950’s.

‘According to Niels Ejbye-Ernst, Researcher at Copenhagen University, the first record of a Danish nature school is from 1950, when a woman named Ella Flatau formed a “Walking Kindergarten,” where a daily hike in the woods was part of the curriculum. Within a few years, mothers began organizing schools that bussed their children from Copenhagen’s congested neighborhoods into the countryside. ‘[1]

The approach was widely adopted in Denmark in the 1970’s and 1980’s as a solution to the increased number of Danish women entering the workforce and the lack of indoor facilities for pre-school children.

‘According to the Danish Forest and Nature Agency, over ten percent of Danish preschools are nestled in forests or other natural settings. While these 500 or so schools differ in terms of surroundings, they all place the natural world squarely at the center of early childhood development.’[2]

However it can be said that there were many influences worldwide from varying educators, thinkers, philosophers that started the ball rolling on the concept of outdoor learning & play.

‘Philosophers, naturalists and educators in Europe and the UK such as Wordsworth, Ruskin, Baden Powell, Leslie Paul (who founded the Woodcraft Folk in 1925), Kurt Hahn (who founded Gordonstone and was the inspiration for our first outdoor education centres), Susan Isaacs and the Macmillan sisters all laid the foundations for what is known as Forest School today.[3]

In 1993 a group of nursery nurses and lecturers from Bridgewater College, Somerset, visited Denmark to look at the outdoor, forest based pre-school system which by then permeated the Scandinavian early years education sector. On their return to the UK, the Bridgewater nursery nurses developed their own Forest School programme with the children attending the college crèche. They have been credited with pioneering the Forest School concept in the UK.

Forest Schools arrived in Wales in 2000. And in Scotland in 2003. The Northern Ireland Forest School Association was set up in 2011 and the first training to come to the Republic of Ireland was in 2013.

In 2002 the first National Forest School Conference in the UK was held where the first definition of what Forest School is according to UK practitioners, was formulated:

‘An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.’[4]

Along with this, the network also identified some of the key features of Forest School:

  • It is run by qualified level 3 practitioners.
  • It is a long term process with regular contact with a local wooded environment (preferably over the seasons).
  • It follows a child-centred pedagogy where children learn about and manage risk.
  • It has a high adult:child ratio.
  • Observations of the learners are key to enabling scaffolding of the learning.
  • Care for the natural world is integrated.

[1] http://denmark.dk/en/meet-the-danes/forest-preschools/

[2] http://denmark.dk/en/meet-the-danes/forest-preschools/

[3] John Cree & Mel McCree, http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/history-of-forest-school/

[4] John Cree & Mel McCree, http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/history-of-forest-school/