Helping to develop confident, resilient, independent and creative learners

Resilience comes from experiencing overcoming problems. This in turn promotes a sense of confidence in someone’s own ability and capability, creating a sense of ease and a feeling of ownership and empowerment. Experiences that are derived from encountering (managed) ‘risk’ can be some of the best experiences to produce a resilient, confident and independent learner. It is in situations that have a risk element that creativity is sometimes needed to be employed: to get out of an uncomfortable predicament; to make a decision; to take responsibility for someone else; to learn through adversity. The end result of being able to look back at your own actions and mistakes and to confidently understand where you did well and where you can improve next time, gives enlightened insight into your own ability.

Forest Schools doesn’t require any great risk or adversity, nor does it provide activities that push people too far out of a comfort zone. What it does provide is an environment where people can feel comfortable in the knowledge that if a mistake is made, or if a problem occurs, it won’t be so significant that something terrible may happen. Forest Schools gives a scaffold where people can experiment with their social and physical interactions, with other people and the natural environment so that they can take ownership and control over their learning-developmental journey, ultimately through self-directed play.

The Forest School practitioner understands a child’s development and their particular needs at a given time and a promotes a learning community where everyone supports and mentors each other, lending guidance from their own experiences, skills and talents. The practitioner is able to identify certain traits and patterns (schemas) within children’s activity to in turn identify new opportunities to help extend play in new and interesting areas. The woodland environment offers almost unending opportunities for such extension by children and a fuel for creativity. A woodland’s resources of sticks, stones, mud, leaves, plants, animals, open space, changing weather, enclosed space, water, tracks and a sense of real freedom are just some of the natural ‘loose parts’ that children can innately seek to interact with and modify.[1]

The practitioner plans and manages activities and the local environment well enough to facilitate opportunities for play while being able to adapt to changes in the child’s focus. By placing the emphasis on what the child needs to play rather than what the adult wants them to do, a relationship of trust and understanding develops. Over time the child recognises and understands their own developing ability and that they do not need an adult’s tactic approval of their activity, but trusts their-self instead. The same is true when their activity doesn’t go to plan (if there is one). When mistakes happen the child learns to rectify their own mistakes, receives support and mentoring from other children and gives support and mentors others, rather than falling-back to an adult.

[1]”Simon Nicholson and The Theory of Loose Parts – 1 Million Thanks”, Creative STAR Learning | I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!, 2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02- Nov- 2019].

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