Forest Schools

We create Forest Schools layouts

Developing confidence and self-esteem through outdoor learning environments

Forest Schools are an inspirational educational process, that offer opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning in a woodland or natural environment with trees and other plants.

We design Forest Schools layouts which encourage easy supervision, flowing movement and practical efficiency.  We work with you to realise your vision, bringing the designs to reality. 

What are Forest Schools?

"An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment"
O'Brien, Liz; Murray, Richard (2008), Forest Research

nature friendly outdoor learning design

Forest schools - empowering children

Forest Schools is a key educational concept for early years. It is the Scandinavian model of taking kids up to 7 yrs old and spending all day (or significant periods of the school day) in the forest/garden whittling sticks, building dens, observing the natural world, lighting fires and cooking food on open fires etc.

Invigorated by these positive, practical skills children generally find it easy to learn reading and writing skills once they return to the formal classroom.

Child-led learning with a focus on the senses

"The forest school movement has a philosophy of child-led learning, with a focus on all the senses. The aim is to foster rich learning experiences, ecological literacy, and healthy living by connecting children to nature. In Britain, the forest school has been defined as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment”. 
Forest Schools: A Philosophy of Child-Led Learning

Forest in the City

"Children need nature, nature needs children – cities need both. A connection with the natural world is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits, including lower rates of obesity, depression, stress and attention disorders. However, the effects of urbanisation, such as deforestation, land take and diminished biodiversity, as well as a tendency for parks to be kept overly tidy, can make it difficult for children to develop and maintain meaningful contact with nature." from Cities Alive, Designing for Urban Childhoods, Arup Design Manual, 2017.

This recent inner city urban project (which we designed, coordinated, supervised and installed - Spring to Autumn 2020) took an underused hard surface area and transformed it into a multifunctional outdoor learning environment.  From infertile asphalt to:

  • Native deciduous woodland
  • Evergreen trees for winter structure and shelter
  • Bird hide tipi, campfire garden, loose parts play
  • Forest school
  • Standing stones circle for yoga, mindfulness and contemplation.

Many happy days were spent working with this enthusiastic school community.

A majority of the children and students at this school live in flats above the city scape, and many had never been on muddy ground in their lives before - they had certainly never had the opportunity to dig into the earth.  But this project required their input to help level, dig, plant and mulch the new woodland habitat.

All school outdoor projects should seek to include children and young people in practical tasks – planting is an obvious activity but helping construct seating areas, carrying materials, making paths and compost bins, raking and levelling etc.….these are all vital tasks to build inclusive ownership.

Research shows time and again, that projects which include children in practical endeavours of construction achieve something far greater than just an attractive landscape. The project is affirmed with ownership and affection, and the school benefits from that special atmosphere where everyone has been part of a shared endeavour.

In our experience of having coordinated such inclusive projects over many years, this affection is further passed down to future generations with stories that recount who did what when the area was constructed.  That special place is imbued with personality.

The slide pics below show the site progression, the third slide set show the project at 3 months old, with the orchard seed mix (including good nitrogen fixers) greening up in January.  The children were out and planting up a section of hazel tunnel.

In May 2021, the forest is establishing well with a notable ground cover swell from the seed mix.  This was an opportunity to re mulch some of the trees and check on growth.  The Forest is regularly used as an outdoor classroom, and we will continue to monitor events an evolution.

The 4th slide set below, shows the Forest in its first full year of growth, here in May.  Our strategy is to settle the soils, build up the organic matter in the ground and provide a firm foundation for future growth.

Harvington School Forest School

In 2001 we worked with Harvington School to transform their school grounds from a flat dull field and rectangle of tarmac, into an exciting multi functional landscape for adventure and exploration.  In doing so, we also discovered, over the following years that, the grounds became a learning environment second to none.

Having been granted a new piece of parish land following the success of the first development, Leaves of Green were asked to create a new layout for forest schools activities.

The low cost and simple weatherproof shelter we built is the central focus of FS activities - it has seating for a whole class; storage for firewood, loose equipment and clothing under the extensive eaves; and radiates a welcoming presence for the fire circle which is at a safe distance in front of the shelter.

There are winding paths, changes of level and a stone circle, seen in the foreground of the picture (left), and the whole is set within a planting of fruit trees - this being a traditional orchard area at the north end of the Vale of Evesham.

See more of Harvington School landscape development here.

For more examples of some of our Forest Schools designs see our Photo Gallery.

 

school grounds design, art and sculpture
forest school grounds design and build

Coughton Primary Forest School

In 2010 we had a great time working with Coughton Primary School, which lies at the entrance to the famed Forest of Arden - the woodland setting for local Bard Shakespeare's As You Like It.

A shelter was a necessary part of the whole, as well as a fire circle and log storage.  We made a long table for displaying natures gifts and for sitting,  writing and drawing.

However, it is the entrance which really creates a major threshold for the school, and with it, the sense of crossing over into a special place.  An old shed, which originally dominated the whole space, was stained dark green - this had the effect of making it recede in dominance, allowing the planting and new layout to encourage a great place for the intricacies of the Forest School day.

For more examples of some of our Forest Schools designs see our Photo Gallery.

Guiding your landscaping project from concept to completion

We'd love to work with you to create an amazing landscape together.

Contact us today for an initial consultation and a clear overview of how we can help guide your landscaping project from concept to completion.

Phone: 07925 690070