concept design for Forest school

The forest school site design process is an enjoyable and productive experience. It is a guided process which allows the school to consider what it would like to acheive in developing an area, activities to include, resources available, and what other potential exists.

Here, we look at a recent example of a Forest School site design made for Jack Hunt School.   The school had recently decided to use a strip of land adjoining a new sports facility.  We set up a site visit to meet the main decision makers, and had a chance to look at the site via Google Earth images before the visit.

using google earth to look at features of the site for development
Google earth image of area for development

Stage 1:  Site meeting with stakeholders to understand requirements and discuss potential.

During the initial site meeting with the Forest Schools Team, we discussed requirements and ideas were suggested.  We walked the site, talked of practicalities, and proposed layout options.   

A few days later their requirements and initial ideas were agreed by email.

Stage 2:  Initial pencil sketch design allows consideration of layout options.

We then translated these discussions into an initial sketch plan of the area. Being a long thin site, we made 2 sketch designs for the site on A3 paper. These sketches allowed the Forest School Team to examine placement of outdoor learning environments, the size of structures and gathering spaces, layout, facilities and intended activities. 

initial sketch design for forest school 
 -school end of site
Initial sketch – school end of site.
initial sketch design for forest school - field end of site
Initial sketch – field end of site.

Format: In our experience, we find that if the initial sketch design looks somewhat unfinished, then our clients feel more confident in providing feedback and making suggestions to inform the final design.   

The sketch design was presented; and a few days later, another meeting resulted in the feedback from The Forest Schools Team to inform the final layout design.

Stage 3: Finished concept design.

We made the finished concept design at A2 size, which is ideal for this site and good for public display purposes.  The finished layout allows easy estimating for materials, making strategies, and the finished appearance is appropriate for funding applications.   

This finished concept design allowed the school curriculum team to liaise easily with the various groups involved with the PFI administration and funding. 

Finished Concept Design for Jack Hunt School, A2 format.


We would like to emphasise that every site is unique and one size generally does not fit all.  We recommend that consideration of the design and layout is essential before any installation work takes place. A good design will make the project successful, so always examine and question the rationale for the design and think through the practicalities. 

In our experience of having visited hundreds of schools, the sites which appear to have the most problems or are not fulfilling their true potential, are generally the ones which have put little or no effort into the front end design work.

See our post on developing a forest school site using existing trees

Resources: for information on forest school training see the Forest Schools Learning Initiative Website