Woodside Junior School in Amersham has been providing regular Forest School sessions for pupils for five years. Blessed with large grounds and an ecologically diverse woodland area, the two-form primary school aims to ensure all pupils get to experience Forest School during their time at Woodside.
Headteacher, Dorota Milner, says, “Being outside, enjoying the freedom of nature and expressing themselves through open play has been hugely popular with our pupils. As soon as they join us in year 3, they begin eight weeks of Forest School with qualified practitioners and their new class teacher. It is an ideal way for the children to be introduced to a new school, classmates and teachers. It also gives the class teacher the chance to develop a more rounded perspective on their new class by seeing how they relate and respond to different surroundings, circumstances and challenges.”
Forest School at Woodside is provided by Amersham-based Woodland Adventure Club CIC (WAC), run by Level 3 qualified practitioners, Jack Gocher, Kathryn Ridout and Bizi Boyd-Hall. WAC provides everything needed to run a session with a class of up to 30 children, including tools, fire pits, marshmallows and more. As well as Forest School, WAC also provides year 3’s annual Stone Age Day, where everyone dresses up and enjoys a day of fire lighting, cloth-dying, tool making, herbalism and story-telling.
“Over the years we have seen some incredible acts of creativity and imagination in the woods,” says Jack, adding, “I think my favourite was seeing a group use the tarpaulins to create a shadow theatre – performing a play in front of the rest of the class. One of the joys of Forest School is that it allows the quieter children to express themselves in a group, revealing hidden talents and simply taking pleasure from being out in nature.”
Mrs Milner adds, “Formally evaluating the impact of Forest School has always been a challenge, but we can say with confidence that it has had a huge benefit at our school. We recently carried out a survey amongst 60 year 3s and every one of them said they enjoyed Forest School and learnt new skills. We have also seen the positive effect that Forest School has on the emotional well-being and general happiness of children in school. It is something that Woodside is proud to provide to our children and we know from parents’ feedback that it is very much welcomed and appreciated.”