Over the last year we have been able to deliver two forest school leader training courses for East Lothian staff. The places have been prioritised to staff working in the target communities for Support from the Start.
The first group of staff that started the training last October are now delivering programmes in East Lothian schools – a minimum six week programme during which they are assessed.
I have encountered the view that forest school is all very well but in a time when we have to prioritise, is it important enough to invest time and effort into developing – usually this view comes with the challenge of wheres the evidence that it contributes to outcomes for health or learning. Well below is a list of research references for those that like their evidence hard and peer reviewed.
Personally I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating – go with children into a woodland environment and you will experience how their innate ability to be interested and curious about their world and to learn how it works comes easily to the surface, particularly if the adults with them can resist the temptation to be overly prescriptive and directive .
Maybe the Calvinist ghost in the Scottish psyche frowns on forest school – it sounds too much like fun – and if it is fun it can’t be good for you – can it?.
Summary of Research on Forest School References.
provided by Aline Hill forest school trainer
Borradaile, L. 2006 ‘Forest School Scotland: An Evaluation’, Edinburgh: Forestry Commission Scotland
Davis, B., Rea, T. and Waite, S. 2006 ‘The special nature of the outdoors: Its contribution to the education of children aged 3-11’, Australian Journal of Outdoor Education 10(2): 3-12.
Davis, B. and Waite, S. 2005 ‘Forest School: Opportunities and Challenges in Early Years ‘, University of Plymouth
Eastwood, G. and Mitchell, H.2003 ‘An evaluation of the first three years of the Oxfordshire Forest School project’, Oxford: Oxfordshire County Council
Copy obtained by email from OCC. Not available on web but copy in the Forest School shared folder.
Massey, S. 2005 ‘The benefits of Forest School experience for children in their Early Years’: Worcestershire LEA.
Maynard, T. 2003 ‘Forest School Swansea Port Talbot: An Evaluation’, University of Wales Swansea: Unpublished.
Maynard, T. 2007 ‘Forest Schools in Great Britain: An initial exploration’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 8(4): 320-331.
Murray, R. 2004 ‘Forest Schools project evaluation: A study in Wales ‘, London: New Economics Foundation.
Murray, R. and O’Brien, E. 2005 ‘”Such Enthusiasm – A Joy to See” An Evaluation of Forest School in England’: Forest Research.
O’Brien, L. and Murray, R. 2007 ‘Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain’, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 6(4): 249-265.
Swarbrick, N., Eastwood, G. and Tutton, K. 2004 ‘Self-esteem and successful interaction as part of the forest school project’, Support for Learning 19(3): 142-146.
The two below are experimental studies of the benefits to children’s physical and motor skills form playing in a forest environment
Fjørtoft, I.2001 ‘The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children:The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary School Children’, Early Childhood Education Journal 29(2): 111-117.
Fjørtoft, I.2004 ‘Landscape as Playscape: The Effects of Natural Environments on Children’s Play and Motor Development’, Children, Youth and Environments 14(2): 21-44.
Forest School (the Scandinavian model) is mentioned in this document as particularly promising approach to education outside of the classroom.
House of Commons Education and Skills Committee 2004-2005 ‘Education outside the classroom ‘, London: The Stationary Office.