Forest School

Rows of muddy boots line the hallway at St Ives School, reflecting our strong belief in the importance of outdoor learning. Getting outdoors is a big part of life here at St Ives School.

Set in 8 acres of stunning forest, St Ives is perfectly positioned to offer a range of exciting learning opportunities to its children.

Having our own woodland area on site maximises the learning potential, enabling regular sessions rather than one off visits.

Historically there has always been a connection between the school and the outdoors, and the school archives contain work from Nature Studies lessons that formed part of the 1930s curriculum. Today, throughout the year, children from Nursery to Year 3 spend an afternoon each week in the forest, taking part in a range of engaging and inspiring Forest School lessons.

Activities range from shelter building and tree climbing to scavenger hunts and natural artwork. Our children learn about the plants and animals that live in the forest, how to use tools safely and how to build and light campfires in the fire circle. Children learn to take risks, make choices and take greater responsibility for their own learning. Forest School is all encompassing, and enhances and develops the whole child.

Forest School enables us to instil an appreciation of the natural world in children from an early age, and embeds the importance of looking after nature and a sense of responsibility to do so. Sessions are intended to give children time to be outdoors and the freedom to be themselves.

The benefits of forest school are far-reaching. It encourages children to explore and experience the natural world in a practical, hands on way, fostering a love of nature. At Forest School, everyone succeeds, and no one fails, and sessions are full of opportunities to boost self confidence and self-esteem. It helps to develop social and communication skills as children work cooperatively alongside each other. As well as the physical and health benefits that come from being engaged in physical activities in the fresh air, both fine and gross motor skills are developed, which proves hugely beneficial when back inside the classroom. Moreover, there are huge mental and emotional benefits of being in the great outdoors, working in groups of friends and, most importantly, having fun.

Forest School is an exciting initiative which allows children to explore and experience the natural world around them.  At St Ives we believe passionately in the value of Forest School for our children. It is a great way of helping to develop social and communication skills along with confidence and self-esteem, letting children learn through play and experience practical learning in a novel environment. 

Bear Grylls Affiliation

Getting outside has always been a major part of life at St Ives School in Haslemere. Pupils enjoy Forest School for an afternoon a week from the age of 2. But never before have the pupils been put through their paces like they were when a team of ex-marines from the Bear Grylls Survival Academy challenged them to complete a number of daring trials in the school’s 8 acre forest. 

A great deal of development work took place in the forest in 2015, and the school was keen to celebrate this with a major outdoor event. Seeking world-class experts in outdoor adventure, St Ives got in touch with the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, and ‘Forest Fury Day’ was born. 

The adventure started with commando-style training on the school field. This was swiftly followed by a run down into the forest where the children were instructed to slather mud all over their faces to keep the bugs at bay. Shock and disgust were soon replaced by squeals of delight as dozens of muddy children prepared for their survival challenges. Tasks included commando crawls on ropes between trees, making fires, building shelters and stalking each other through the undergrowth. Perhaps most memorable of all was snack time; the usual fruit and breadsticks were replaced with live mealworms and crickets, and the children showed nerves – and stomachs - of steel as they delightedly tucked in. 

It was the first time the BGSA had worked with a school, and the event was an enormous success. Bear Grylls is a hugely inspirational adventurer, and the children found the challenge of working in teams to push themselves beyond their limits enormously exciting and rewarding. Now they can’t wait for their next adventure in the forest. 

Principles Underlying Forest School Education

  • Forest School is for all children and about all children.
  • Forest School is about children exploring and experiencing the natural world through practical involvement.
  • Forest School is an inspirational process offering children opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on experience.
  • Forest School allows teachers to see children in a different context and often in a different light.
  • Forest School builds on a child's innate motivation and positive attitude to learning, offering them opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves.
  • Forest School maximises the learning potential of the local environment through regular experiences throughout the year, not just a one-off visit.
  • Forest School helps the children to understand, appreciate and care for the natural environment.

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