A quiet forest school revolution has been emerging in recent years and Fairfield Primary is part of that revolution. The movement is strongly influenced by contemporary Scandinavian practice but also by earlier, pioneering open-air education concepts such as Margaret McMillan’s outdoor nurseries. Now it is spreading organically, spurred by concerns about children’s loss of contact with nature and worries that a cotton-wool-wrapped generation no longer gets the chance to take risks.
The Forest School approach has been highly successful with children of all ages at Fairfield who visit the same woodland area twice per week and through play have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, handle risks, use their own initiative to solve problems and collaborate with others. Other important life skills are also developed, children learn how to build dens, light fires and use make innovative use of natural resources.
Through Forest School learning children will develop self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, good social communication skills, independence, a positive mental attitude, raised self- esteem and confidence. As a school which actively uses a teaching approach called Building Learning Power (BLP) Forest School helps develop these important portable learning habits, helping prepare our young people for a lifetime of learning. This is ensuring that progressive learning behaviours (BLP) become infused with learning in the outdoors, both an intrinsic part of the Fairfield ethos.
Fairfield has been reaching out to share this fantastic experience with other schools and in the summer of 2015 and 2016 also hosted a Forest School experience for the children of Belarus who stay with host families in Cockermouth. Sharing our expertise and resources to allow more children to benefit from Forest School is important to us and we now offer this service to other schools (see website for details and costs www.fairfieldprimary.co.uk).
Whilst using the Forest School site we endeavour to minimise the harm caused to local plant species and wildlife. As the site incurs a higher level of erosion due to increased use the children are encouraged to be more responsible for the protection of plants and wildlife and we have extended our site to accommodate this, allowing for rejuvenation. The children are also taught to abide by The Countryside Code as well as our Forest School Rules.