What is Forest School?

“If we want children to flourish, to be truly empowered, we must first allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”

David Sobel

Many of us lead very indoor lives, and Forest School is one way to help children – and their grown-ups – to develop a closer relationship with the natural world.

At Bramblers Forest School in Oxfordshire, children can learn to play freely and find wellbeing in outdoor environments, while developing their environmental awareness and practical skills and learning about the plants and animals around them.

Bramblers Forest School follows the six Forest School Principles, agreed by the UK Forest School community in 2011. These principles aim to develop ‘confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting’.

All activities are optional and child-led. Safety is paramount, but sessions also aim to encourage active curiosity and an adventurous spirit. We might hunt for minibeasts, make paintings out of natural materials, dig muddy holes or work on a natural craft project – or simply explore and enjoy some space to run and play. Creative projects – from the simplest leaf pictures to more complex crafts involving working with tools – can help children to feel inspired by nature and to feel that their own imagination and creativity is in harmony with their environment.

Attending Forest School classes on a regular basis can bring a wealth of benefits to children in terms of physical health and wellbeing, intellectual development, emotional and mental health, and social skills. As they play and explore, children may begin to learn about some of the plants and wildlife they find. This may not involve learning names – and there is no pressure to do so – but instead could mean learning how a tree’s bark feels, how it changes with the seasons, what seeds or fruit it bears, or which of its branches are good to climb. This may lead to a natural-born curiosity about what the tree is and how it works, as well as a sense of value and respect for it.

Bramblers Forest School sessions take place every week during school term times. Sessions are led by Rachel Huckvale, an FSA accredited Level 3 Forest School leader. Rachel is a member of the Forest School Association, holds an ITC certificate in outdoor and paediatric first aid (January 2023) and has completed an enhanced DBS check (November 2022).