Monday, 21 June 2010

Forest School

Forest Schools were developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s. The idea is to educate in a 'natural' surrounding; the principle being to provide, '' innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning.’ Since the 1950s the idea has been adopted across Europe including the UK.

Research following this approach found that:
  • "...children attending forest school kindergartens in the countryside environment are far happier than children in kindergartens located in the urban environment. The study concluded that children in the forest school are more balanced with greater socially capability, they have fewer days off sick; are more able to concentrate and have better co-ordination than the city kindergarten children."

Without access to the research we cannot take too much from this, but looking at the concept from a paleo perspective several principles stand out (my emphasis):

  • "The result showed the children attending the forest school to be markedly better at concentrating than the city Kindergarten children. It appeared that the principle reason was due to the greater range of opportunities present for play in nature, children played for longer at a time, with less annoyance or interruption of each other compared to the children in the city kindergarten.

    The study observed that when children in the city kindergarten were interrupted, they became irritable, their stress levels rose significantly, and their ability to concentrate fell. When they could not concentrate there was a clear tendency to selfish and inconsiderate behaviour and aggression. The forest school children were much more considerate towards each other."
This is such an appealing model of education and there is no reason why such an approach couldn't integrate more abstract elements of the modern curriculum such as science and mathematics.

Wouldn't it be great if this concept was taken to its natural conclusion and the children were fed a silvaculture diet? Can you imagine the skills developed in catching, preparing and eating game? Or foraging for seasonal plants and seeds to eat? Those VERY triggers that led to our enhanced brain development being exploited?

I cringe at the thought that lunchtime at Forest School might involve a packed lunch of sandwiches, chocolate bar and a can of soda (sugar free of course). But, hell, this is one heck of an approach to education.


Anonymous said...

Hi, this is my first time reading your blog and I enjoyed your post.

My son went to a "free school" (no curriculum) here in upstate NY until he was 11. It was located on the edge of a large woods and he and the other "students" basically played all day. The kids would have acorn wars, build forts, climb trees, go exploring, etc. Lots of people thought I was crazy for sending him there but I knew my son's temperament and knew he'd feel like a caged bird all day attending a regular school. He loved it and counts those years as being very precious and formative. When he came home from school, I would teach him reading, grammar and math just so he could keep up with his cohort. We spent about 2 hours a day on academics.

At 14, he attends public school now, with all the regulation and homework and endless tests. It was his choice to leave the free environment and he is doing well there. He basically made the switch in order to play organized sports.

I think the trend towards increased standardized testing, decreased recess time, etc. has not served our children well in this country.

Asclepius said...

Thanks for stopping by! :)

I applaud your approach of allowing time for your son to develop - I am trying to do the same with my kids. My time with them is spent playing and exploring. I read stories to them and from that, they have both sought to learn to read themselves. I try to explain the worlds of science and maths (basic numeracy) to them through games, and this also draws out their interest.

The previous UK government has tried a top-down, command and control approach to education. It resulted in children being taught to pass tests rather than developing educational skills.

It is much easier to try to light the 'fire of learning' beneath a child rather than simply seeing them as a 'bucket' to be filled with facts.