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At Emmaus, Forest School provision is intended to encourage, inspire and develop our children’s well-being, skills and attitudes through positive outdoor learning experiences. By accessing regular Forest School sessions in such an enabling environment, we aim to provide our children with an enriched curriculum which, over time, will promote their social, inter-personal skills and behaviours as well as a wider understanding and respect for the natural world around them. We hope that these unique and awe-inspiring opportunities will provide our youngest children with a firm foundation for success in school, at home, in the community and have a significant legacy for their future happiness in life.
Our school is founded on the Gospel values of hope, love, trust and friendship. Forest School nurtures these values by adopting a ‘learner-centred approach’ when delivering provision. We want to place our children at the heart of the process, knowing that they are unique individuals who are loved by God and have the potential to be capable and competent learners able to take on new challenges and achieve shared goals. In so doing, we hope that our children will understand that they are:
*all equal – in Forest School the children lead the learning with adults in a facilitator role
*encouraged to explore, discover, try new ideas, make mistakes, find solutions, be creative and have fun
*prepared physically, emotionally and socially to learn new skills outdoors
*inspired to feel the freedom, wonder and awe that only nature can provide
*entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
*motivated to be independent in choosing, initiating and driving their own learning and development
*allowed to experience regular successes and equipped to know how to deal with setbacks
*encouraged to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
*to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world
The Forest School ethos at Emmaus is underpinned by the following six guiding principles, agreed by the UK Forest School Community (2012).
This ethos creates a learning communities where deep-level learning and progression are the norm:
Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions and the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Principle 5. Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Principle 6: Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning.
It is fundamental that children’s basic needs are met before any higher learning can take place (Maslow’s Pyramid of Hierarchical Needs). With this in mind, at Emmaus, we ensure that correct outdoor clothing/footwear is worn (warmth); healthy snacks and meals are available (food); water/hot drinks are accessible (drink) and individuals feel supported and safe, both physically and emotionally (safe). We acknowledge the wealth of research and evidence bases that demonstrate success with children of all ages who visit the same natural environment on a regular basis.
Forest School provision at Emmaus will be delivered in adherence to the ‘best practice’ guidelines recommended by the UK FS Community:
Principle 1: Forest School sessions will take place regularly, ideally at least every week, with the same group of learners, over an extended period of time, in all weathers (except for high winds). The initial sessions will establish physical and behavioural boundaries as well as making initial observations on which to base future programme development. A structured Forest School programme, demonstrating progression of learning, will be based on observations and collaborative work between learners and practitioners.
Principle 2: Forest School sessions will take place in the Forest School area in the early years outdoor environment or, occasionally, in the woodland of Croxteth Park. Our Forest School programme will constantly monitor its ecological impact and work within a sustainable site management plan agreed between the senior leaders/rangers, the forest school practitioner and the learners. Provision will primarily use natural resources for inspiration, to enable ideas and to encourage intrinsic motivation.
Principle 3: The Forest School leader will aim to develop, where appropriate, the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of the learners. Children may use full size tools; learn boundaries of behaviour, both physical and social; establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated. Our children will have the time to thoroughly explore their thoughts, feelings and relationships. This time and reflective practice develops understanding of the world, the environment and their place in it through the use of emotions, imagination and senses.
Principle 4: Forest School experiences will be designed to build on an individual’s innate motivation, positive attitudes and/or interests. Learners will be offered the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves. Tools and fires will only be used where deemed appropriate to the learners, and dependent on completion of a baseline risk/benefit assessment. Any Forest School experience will follow a dynamic risk–benefit process managed jointly by the leader and learner that is tailored to the developmental stage of the learner.
Principle 5: Forest School will be led by qualified Forest School practitioners, who are required to hold a minimum of an accredited Level 3 Forest School qualification. There will be a high ratio of practitioner/adults to learners. Practitioners all hold up-to-date first aid qualifications, which includes paediatric and outdoor elements. Forest School is backed by relevant working documents, which contain all the policies and procedures required for running Forest School and which establish the roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers. The Forest School leader is a reflective practitioner and sees themselves, therefore, as a learner too.
Principle 6: A learner-centred pedagogical approach is employed by Forest School that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners. Forest School provides a stimulus for all learning preferences and dispositions. Practitioners will model the pedagogy, which they promote during their programmes through careful planning, appropriate dialogue and relationship building. Play and choice are an integral part of the Forest School learning process, and play is recognised as vital to learning and development at Forest School. Reflective practice is a feature of each session to ensure learners and practitioners can understand their achievements, develop emotional intelligence and plan for the future. Practitioner observations feed into ‘scaffolding’ and tailoring experiences to learning and development at Forest School.
At Emmaus, Forest School provision creates a community where deep-level learning and progression are the norm. Our children will respect the natural environment, know how to handle risks and use their own initiative to solve problems and cooperate with others. All of our learners will demonstrate self-awareness, self-regulation, intrinsic motivation, empathy, good social communication skills, independence and a positive mental attitude, self-esteem and confidence. Ultimately, this engagement will enable Emmaus children to recognise the huge benefits nature can have in sustaining their own well-being. They will have an innate respect for the natural environment and understand the significant impact they can have in taking responsibility for the world around them. This will provide them with a deeper sense of themselves and a more meaningful connection with the natural world.