Kerr Mackie Primary School

Forest Schools at Kerr Mackie

At Kerr Mackie our aim is to provide the pupils with a number of experiences that will bring pupils closer to nature, new skills and strengthen friendships. Forest School sessions start in a safe environment where the needs of the group are met. All pupils are equal and feel valued during every activity.

During sessions the role of the class teacher is one of a facilitator providing opportunities and encouragement for pupils to learn through play and exploration. Sessions are child-led and session plans allow for flexibility with practitioners prepared for and encouraging pupils to deviate from planned activities. Forest school sessions are led by ourstaff that have an understanding of practical skills and activities. As well as learning about the natural environment and developing practical skills, sessions provide opportunities for pupils to develop their self-awareness, social communication skills and emotional intelligence.

Forest school sessions involve pupils reflecting and reviewing both experiences and activities. This supports confidence building and communication skills. Feedback from learners is taken into account when planning future sessions and teachers are flexible if that feedback requires deviation from any planned activities. Pupils will have opportunities to take appropriate risks, such as tool use and fire lighting. These opportunities will build self-confidence, allow children to learn and develop their physical and mental resilience and make them better equipped to handle risk.

Pupils are taught to take responsibility for themselves and for others. They are encouraged to think about how their actions could have a direct link to other people. Through the use of tools the pupils are engaged with the direct responsibility that they have a peer next to them. They are taught about the cause and effect of what they are doing. They become aware of the things that may happen if they are irresponsible with the tool that they are using. In a controlled environment they are trusted to follow the rules shared with them. The whole philosophy of Forest Schools is supported by the engagement between the people who are taking part, whether working independently, in a group or with one other person. The interaction between those in the group develops a bond that cements them as a team, enabling each member of the team to believe in themselves as well as feel equal and valued.

Research continues to show that the amount of freedom pupils are given and the time they spend, freely and independently, playing outdoors have both decreased over the years (especially under recent circumstances) with a significant number of pupils having neverbuilt a den or climbed a tree. The term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ has been used to describe this phenomenon and draw attention to the impact this lack of contact with the natural world is having on pupilsand young people. We believe access to Forest School, for thebenefit of our pupils is increasingly important – especially the importance of play.