Benefits of Forest and Nature School
- Improved confidence, social skills, communication, motivation, and concentration (O’Brien & Murray, 2007);
- Improved physical stamina, fine and gross motor skills (O’Brien & Murray, 2007);
- Positive identity formation for individuals and communities (Russell et al., 2013);
- Environmentally sustainable behaviours and ecological literacy;
- Increased knowledge of environment, increased frequency of visiting nature within families (O’Brien & Murray, 2007);
- Healthy and safe risk-taking;
- Improved creativity and resilience;
- Improved academic achievement and self-regulation;
- Reduced stress and increased patience, self-discipline, capacity for attention, and recovery from mental fatigue; (Russell et al., 2013, p. 482);
- Improved higher level cognitive skills (Atchlet, Strayer & Atchley, 2012);
- Male inclusion in education. (Children & Nature Network, 2012; Massey, n.d.).
The very skilled educator knows when to offer an insight, a questionJon Cree, UK Forest School Association
or materials to support a child’s learning, but more importantly knows
when to get out of the way.
Forest and Nature School educators are people who love natural places, and they share this love with children by bringing them to those places to play and learn. The outdoors is their classroom, and they choose and tend it carefully. The educator’s role is that of a facilitator, one who moves from active sparking of the children’s interests into quiet observation and planning.
By modeling enthusiasm for nature play, the educator encourages children who might be nervous or new to outdoor play. Forest and Nature School educators act as a creative spark for the group, encouraging the growth of new ideas by making available to the children materials, resources, and experiences that expand their creative, imaginative, and exploratory play. An educator might bring a personal story that sends the children off into stories of their own or ask a question that encourages the children to look more deeply into something that they have found.
Once the children are engaged in exploration, the educator steps back to give the children space to play and explore. This is an opportunity to become an observer, watching the children’s interactions with each other and the site, collecting and documenting these experiences, and using this knowledge to enhance future outdoor learning.
Learning Alongside Children
The educator gets dirty, explores, creates, builds, learns, gains knowledge, celebrates alongside the children they work with.
During Forest and Nature School, the educator’s role is to make sure the group is physically safe and comfortable. The children need to dress well for the weather and stay warm and dry throughout the day. The educator also assesses the overall safety of the site and the risk management required for specific activities, which can change from day to day, in collaboration with the children they work with.
The educator works to create community with the children, the parents, the place, and the community at large and works with the children to help them through conflicts and discussions that arise.