So what is a forest school?
A forest school is an educational approach that takes place in a natural outdoor setting, typically a wooded area, the one we went to is near Sintra Portugal in a lovely pine forest. It is a type of experiential learning that focuses on the development of personal, social, and technical skills through hands-on activities and exploration in the natural environment. The goal of a forest school is to encourage a love of learning and to help children develop confidence, independence, and a sense of responsibility. Forest schools often operate on a regular schedule, with children attending for a half-day or a full day on a weekly basis. The activities at a forest school might include nature study, outdoor play, art and craft projects, and group games.
I can say that our son loved it, and in just one morning he became more independent and self-confident in nature, touching and making questions about what he was seeing.
Why are forest schools important?
- They provide opportunities for children to learn and play in a natural environment, which can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health.
- They encourage children to develop a sense of responsibility and respect for the natural world.
- They can help to build self-confidence and independence in children, as they are given the freedom to explore and make their own decisions within a safe and supportive environment.
- They provide a unique and engaging learning experience that can foster a love of learning and a sense of curiosity and wonder.
- They can help to promote social and emotional development, as children learn to work together, communicate effectively, and resolve conflicts in a natural setting.
- They can have a positive impact on the wider community, as they can promote conservation and sustainability, and foster a sense of connection to the natural world.
What do you learn in a forest school?
We only went for one day so I’m no expert, but I can safely say that in a short time he definitely became more confident in a forest environment and also in his ability to judge and face a challenging situation by himself. Being around other kids that felt more comfortable and were more used to the forest also helped him relax and go beyond what he would normally do.
What happens in a forest school?
In our case, we started with a song to get to know everyone, made a short hike while playing games, visited some animals, made some crafts in a tent, played in a small stream to pick up water and socialized a little before heading back. Uff, it was quite a busy morning, but that doesn’t really describe it, our son for example, really enjoyed learning about a plant that you can use to replace straws and is now always looking for them.
Adapting to ‘normal’ school routines and processes after a forest school?
This seems to be a common issue for some parents. We do notice that taking our son to experience different and exciting activities he sometimes doesn’t want to go back to “normal”. This is ok and to be expected and we give it the same importance as he not wanting to go to bed, take a shower or turn of the tv.
What is the best age to go to a forest school activity?
There is no “best age” to attend a forest school, as the benefits of this educational approach can be enjoyed by children of all ages. Some forest schools offer programs for very young children, starting at around 2 or 3 years old, while others may have programs for older children up to the age of 12 or 13. The activities and lessons at a forest school will be tailored to the age and abilities of the children in the program. In general, children who are at least 3 years old and are toilet trained may be ready to participate in a forest school program. However, it’s important to keep in mind that every child is different and some may be ready for this type of learning experience at an earlier or later age. If you are considering a forest school program for your child, it’s a good idea to discuss your child’s interests and needs with the program staff to determine if it is a good fit.
Where did we go?
We went to a morning activity in a Sintra, Portugal by Movimento bloom. They offer both school programs and activities and they were super nice and friendly. Unfortunately for our son, we live pretty far from Sintra and in our region, there is nothing like this so we can only go to weekend activities when they are available.
Are there other forest schools in Portugal?
It’s really becoming more and more avaiable but for now that I know of there are schools, in Lisbon – Caminhos da Floresta, in Ovar Tribo Terra , in Vila nova de Gaia- Play – Brincar para Crescer and in Mafra – Academia da Alegria. We really hope more start to appear in other regions.