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Forest School (for Beginners)

May 06, 2018

Forest School (for Beginners)

As the season changes from Winter to Spring, so does our daily rhythm in the home. The sun greets us earlier, which means the hastier sound of little feet scampering to welcome us into the day, it means the windows open and the song of the birds, and the beckoning of the woods to come and explore.

As we get out to explore, often time we don’t think to change our role from ‘protective mother’ to ‘hands-off teacher’ in the woods - todays post will give you some fresh ideas to help just that. My inspiration comes from a stocking stuffer I gifted myself, “Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games, Crafts and Skills for Adventurous Kids,” by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll. Simply put, “Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where we can find peace and wonder…it is much larger and older than we are, and its rhythms resonate deep within us. For children it is the greatest playground of all…offering a myriad of opportunities for risk-taking, for a wealth of learning and amazement, and for freedom, separate from the adult world.”

Our role as teacher in the forest is to get out of the wayand let our children experience the sounds, smells, textures, foliage and creatures, who perhaps are themselves finding their new Spring rhythms.  It’s a chance to let our children get their linens dirty and scrape their knees in pursuit of the adventure of what we will call, forest school.

By definition, forest school is, “An inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.”  Here’s how we can help:

Tip 1: Put your phone away! Be fully present and aware of your children’s findings.

Tip 2: Let your child lead the experience and encourage them off the beaten path of the planned activity if they so choose.

Tip 3: As you explore, teach your children the physical boundaries of the play area (for safety) and how to treat each other and nature with respect.

Tip 4: At the end of the lesson, ask your children how they feel. What did they learn? What did they find challenging? What was the most interesting thing they discovered? (We have a lot to learn from these inquisitive minds!)



Activity: Journey Stick (Forest teachers be prepared and bring rubber bands or twine)

The “journey stick” comes from the Aboriginal people of Australia who created journey sticks to record their travels and retell their stories. In this activity, your child will get to create their ownjourney stick on their woodland adventure.

First, find a stick appropriate to your child’s age and height - that won’t hinder their ability to explore but is large enough to display their treasures. Tell the children they’re going to be gathering objects (feathers, leafs, berries, bark, etc.) from the woods to become a part of their sticks. As they walk, have them place the first object they’d like to tie (or tuck into the rubber bands you’ve bound to their stick) at the top of the stick. This will represent the beginning of their journey. Continue on until they’ve filled their sticks and ended their journey through the woods.

When your expedition is complete, first take time to admire each stick and how unique it is: every journey was different. Next, ask each child to recount their journey using their stick, starting from the top and moving down. If anyone struggles, ask probing questions about why they chose that particular object, which one was their favorite and why?


From forest play and exploration comes knowledge, and as forest-school teachers it is our job to encourage our children’s sense of wonder, to give them safe boundaries in which to explore and gain confidence in their own skills and judgment. For many more forest activities, please order a copy of “Play the Forest School Way.”

Our favorite forest-school tools (with links to purchase):

-Written by Autumn from @autumnsjoys, lover of organic adventures, creative homeschooling, urban homesteading and her two treasures, Maxwell and Annie.

Photography by:  Jess Hunter Photography @iamjesshunter and LilBellies @lilbellies