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The Benefits of Learning in Nature
An Adliberate film for WoodlandsTV
For our school itself, it’s all about being outdoors in nature. And it’s about using learning opportunities within nature and the environment to teach children resilience, challenge them, help build their confidence, their self-esteem, have a deeper understanding, respect, and love of nature. If you’re used to being in a city and in concrete, whatever, it really challenges people being out in the wild. And it can be quite scary, I think. So that regular, repetitive access to it means that they just begin to love and understand it more. I think technology is amazing, and I think there’s a place for it. And it can be used quite well in forest school in some respects.
But first, we’ve got understand the basics of where you come from, and how important it is to our environment, and how our survival is linked back into that. And I feel like forest school helps very gently to open up those kind of avenues of learning. It’s not dictating. It’s just very gently opening up and letting the children explore that love and that connection. First of all, it’s getting them used to being out in the woods to the muck, the animals, the insects, things like that, and then, also, getting them to understand their role, and the animals, the insects role, and how everything works together.
They can work out what things challenge them and then learn how to overcome that, build at more and more skills, and begin to use tools, how to light fires, how to look after themselves, rig shelters if it’s raining. Our role is to make sure that they’re safe within what they do. Teaching children how to use a knife, making sure that they’ve got the right skills to use it before we actually can give it to them, teaching them respect for the fire.
So if you’ve got a really tiny two-year-old, rather than just not letting them near the fire, actually getting them to come, and interact, and sit by the fire, and know to kneel, and know how to behave, and know to put a glove on, it means that, by the time they’re three or four, they’re really safe around the fire. Because they know how to behave, and they’ve learned that over a period of time. They self risk assess. So they learn what’s safe and what’s not for them, or what they think they can manage and what they’re capable of, and whether they think they need help. Classic example, kids want to go and jump in a massive puddle or a ditch.
Rather than say, you can’t do that, because you’re going to get wet or muddy, you say, well, how deep is it? How would you test how deep it is? And work out a way to make sure it’s safe before you do it. Are you going to be cold afterwards? How’s that going to feel? You know, you get the children to think about it rather than me telling them what to do. Children have certain patterns of behaviour in the way they learn, and my job is to recognise those patterns of behaviour and then provide more learning opportunities.
If a child is very much into collecting, picking things up, and collecting them, and bringing them back, or arranging them into a certain way, it’s my job to find more activities, where they can keep repeating that behaviour and learning. And that way, they might begin to recognise certain things, and ID leaves, and ID trees. I grew up on a farm, and I just used to be out all the time. And it really broke, for me, a deep respect for nature, a deep love for nature, a deep connection. But also, it really taught me life skills, and how things work, and how everything’s interconnected. And I feel like children nowadays are quite disconnected from that.
They have a lot of screen time. They have a lot of time in school, or time, where they’re told they can’t get messy. And it really loses that connection between them and the natural world around them. The forest school really helps rebuild that, and reawaken that, and open the window for learning from what’s all around us. I guess it’s kind of– It’s really important to foster that love and that respect for nature and for the environment. Because, essentially, that’s what we rely on for life. Isn’t it?
We put you in charge of placing them in the right part of the rainbow. With the really young children, really, sensory stuff that’s to do with colours, and sense, and touch and feel, and then, as the children get older, things, like building, fire lighting. And then you can get into using saws or drills, and you sort of build up as you go, which is why it’s important that it’s repetitive and regular. Because you then know the children. you know their behaviour patterns. You know that they’re going to be safe, because you know that they’ve listened to all of your instructions. And you can feel confident letting them use the tools.
I get a lot of parents coming to me, saying, the only thing they’ve talked about all week is forest school. The parents often accompany their children. They get to spend their time out in the forest. And they realise the benefits of just being able to be in nature and just be really peaceful, and calm, and be out in the forest. So I think it benefits the whole family, yeah.
Start by exploring the emerging trend of nature-based learning.

As society becomes more and more dependent on technology to meet everyday needs, many parents and educators are endorsing the idea of letting young children spend extended amounts of time in nature. Nature-based learning institutions have popped up all over the world, united in their belief that natural settings offer superior learning opportunities to those of traditional classrooms and curricula.

Forest School, one of the leading nature-based schools, uses a child-centred learning process that promotes holistic growth through play, hands-on exploration, and supported risk-taking in natural settings such as woodlands. It is a long-term learning process relying on regular sessions rather than infrequent visits.

The many benefits of this nature-based learning approach include:

  • building students’ confidence, competence, resilience, creativity, and independence;
  • helping students develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually; and
  • fostering a deep and meaningful connection to the world and their place in it. (Forest School Association, n.d.)

Join the Discussion

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