The element of outdoor exposure has significant benefits for children such as developing life skills including emotional resilience and other non-academic skills, suggests an article published in the conversation. In the last few decades, schools have realized the pertinence of outdoor play time and hence develop programmes which take learning outside the classroom milieu. One of these development programmes is forest school, an outdoor learning initiative which employs outdoor play in wooden spaces as a tool for a child’s development and overall learning.
In the UK, the forest school movement initiated in the early half of the ’90s when a group of educators at Bridgewater College in Somerset day organised a trip to Demark. They accessed how Scandinavian values of living in open-air spaces were embraced by the education system. After return from Denmark, these educators initiated the first Forest School in the college crèche, followed by a B-Tech qualification in Forest School practice. Today the Forest School Association, a professional body for Forest School practitioners based in the UK encompassed more than 1,500 members.
Forest schools function within mainstream educational institutes, where children are given leave from their classrooms, for a full or half day usually once or twice a week, to attend them. Moreover, they provide hands-on experience to young minds and stimulate imaginative play. In forest schools, children are provided opportunities to direct their own learning, get a know-how of risks and challenges in the external environment and explore the natural milieu on their own.
Researches indicate outdoor schools not only allow children to apply their skillset in more meaningful manners but also help them in developing a wide array of non-academic skills. Forest schools encouraged children to think out-of-the-box, stepping out of their comfort zones working more closely with their peers. They increased physical activities of students and allowed them to look after themselves in unpredictable wooden spaces.
The World Health Organisation recently argued that young children needed more prospects of learning in outdoor spaces in order to grow up healthy. Despite having numerous benefits, forest schools were still misunderstood by majority of parents and educators. Forest Schools can play a vital role in developing non-academic skills among children including resilience, negotiation and independence, all of which prepares them in the latter stages of their lives.