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Forest Schools
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What is Forest schools?

Forest schools is all about getting out into the woods to explore and learn. It was developed in Scandinavia in 1950’s – using a woodland setting as an ‘outdoor classroom’ as a way of helping young people learn about the natural world. In the 1980’s it spread through Denmark as part of their early year’s education. Forest Schools were introduced to Britain in 1995 by Bridgwater College, Somerset. All Suffolk Wildlife Trust Education staff are trained to Level three as fully qualified Forest School leaders.

What happens at a Forest School?

Forest Schools uses the natural resources in the woodland and the children’s interests to stimulate imaginative, creative and investigative activities; Children can saw wood, whittle sticks, help to light fires, leap into puddles, climb trees and build shelters.

The child led and child centred activities help children to take risks safely, take care of themselves and others and take responsibility. It has structure but at the same time leaves lots of room for personalised learning opportunities – children allowed time and space to explore their own evolving learning interests e.g. studying a bug, searching for badgers, filming with a stick.

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The Forest Schools programme

Suffolk Wildlife Trust Forest Schools typically lasts for 6 weeks with the children visiting their local reserve, woodland or local green space for around 1.5 to 2 hours each week. Whilst forest schools is child led and activities are tailored to the children's interests and abilities, we offer a menu of activities around a theme for each session. Each session follows the children's interest and needs, encourages personalised learning and is very flexible.

The programmes are designed to give the children a varied experience of the woodland through experimental and hand on tasks and   activities. A typical forest school programme for early years and KS1 starts out like this (see below) although it is subject to change depening on the children's interest and how they respond to the woodland environment.


The six week programme for early years and KS1:

Exploring the woods

Week one: Exploring the woods

Find the base

Practice safety games

Collecting activities

Free play


Textures and touches

Week two: Textures and touches

Meet a tree

Rope mobiles

Soil painting

Free play

Animals of the woods


Week three: Animals of the woods

What lives in the woods

Footprint trails

Free play



Week four: Survival

Survival trail

Shelter building

Free play

Special places

Week five: Special places

Tree faces trail

Journey sticks


Free play

  Sounds and celebration

Week six: Sounds and celebration

Woodland orchestra

Free play

Forest schools is suitable for all ages. The above programme is based on early years and KS 1. The programme is also run for KS 2,

KS 3, pupil referal units and special schools which are group specific and often incorporate more advanced tasks including tool use.



  • Research has shown a powerful effect on children’s confidence, self-esteem and independence as well as an increase in social interaction and physical skills.

Forest Schools Learning Objectives

To create opportunities for the children to:

  • Build their self esteem and confidence
  • Become independent learners
  • Stay safe and establish their own boundaries for risk taking
  • Show creativity, innovation, motivation and problem solving
  • To be able to explore at their own pace

Beyond the children

  • To evaluate how outdoor learning through the Forest Schools approach improves and enhances learning
  • To engender an ethos of respect for the environment based on feeling connected and content
  • To highlight good practise of outdoor learning To help develop a model that could be used throughout the county


Taster days for teachers

Teachers training days
Teacher training days
Training days for teachers

Suffok Wildlife Trust also runs taster days for teachers and play workers who are interested in finding out more about forest schools and learning some of the activities to use in their settings.

A typical taster day programme includes the following sessions:

What is forest schools? - background, ethos and benefits of forest schools

Forest schools health and safety - codes of practice, equipment and resources, risk assesments, staff ratios, locations and evaluations

The forest schools experience - daily risk assesments, setting appropraite boundaries, safety games and kit bag

Forest schools programmes and activities  - the six session programme and activities


View a copy of our information leaflet pdf file

If you want to find out more about forest schools please contact: Judy Powell, Education Manager, telephone 01473 892429 or email: #

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