Forest, Canopy and Coastal School
At Westmeads, all our children are fortunate to receive a full Forest and Coastal School learning experience. Westmeads Forest and Coastal School is led by a fully qualified Forest and Coastal School Leader.
We are passionate and dedicated to facilitating children's emotional well-being, confidence, and self-esteem whilst developing a love of nature and the great outdoors. Outdoor learning is not a tag-on activity. It is a carefully structured and important part of our Science and wider curriculum.
What is Forest School at Westmeads?
During Forest School, the children travel on our school minibus to a local forest, where they will learn about the importance of being outside and respecting our natural habitats. They will begin to explore the area, learn the rules of the forest and how to keep themselves safe. They will look at seasonal changes, use a variety of tools to look closely and be encouraged to think about ways in which they can record their findings in non-traditional ways.
Some information about Forest School.
The setting is not the usual one. Whether in a wood…or in an outdoor area, it is defined as Forest School because it is where Forest School rules apply, not those of the setting that the children have come from.
The Forest School is made as safe as reasonably possible to facilitate children’s risk-taking.
Forest School happens over time…most experienced forest school leaders recommend blocks of ten weeks…children who are given longer opportunities to participate in Forest School sessions exhibit play and focus that is progressively deeper and more meaningful. The benefits can be felt when they are back in their usual environments.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. It is only unsafe to go into the woods in high winds.
Trust is central
The learning is play-based and, as far as possible, child-initiated and child-led. Forest school is about an internal process of holistic development, something that is difficult to achieve in a busy classroom, indoor or out.
The blocks and the sessions have beginnings and ends…each session has its rituals at the beginning and end to signal the difference and specialness of Forest School.
Where possible, staff are trained.
Forest School Promotes...
Confidence and independence grow in the natural environment, giving a sense of success and self-esteem.
Development of relationships with other children and adults.
Adaptation to new situations, trying new activities and openness to experiences.
Children can become more motivated to use extensive language and vocabulary for different contexts, and questions can become more specific.
Physical development- enhanced stamina, gross and fine motor skills
6 key thinking and learning skills: enquiry, hypothesis, information processing, decision making, communication and vocabulary, review and evaluation are experienced regularly.
Children’s attitudes to the outdoors change, respect for the environment begins to develop, and they want to spend time in the great outdoors.
Patiently counting to seek the hiders
Hide and seek in the woods
We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Forest School. In their final session block, the Y2s learned how to tie a clove hitch knot and collect evidence to identify trees, plants and wildlife. We finished the session by working together and creating a tree using natural resources.
The pedagogical approach of Forest School can also be facilitated through the Coastal School environment. Here are some of the experiences had by the children.
During Coastal School, the children walk to our local beach and use our amazing seaside location to learn about coastal systems. They will start by learning our coastal school rules and water safety to explore our local surroundings confidently and carefully. The children will also travel in our school minibus to a sandy beach, allowing them to explore and develop their understanding of different coastal environments, making links to prior knowledge and contrasting beach locations. They will explore the shoreline and look for sea creatures and plant life. They will learn about how our coastal location impacts our town and think about how we can best protect and preserve our beaches.
Coastal School at St Mildred's Bay, a sand beach to compare with Whitstable's pebble beach.
At Canopy School, the children will be introduced to the area on our playground. They will learn our canopy classroom rules and have a chance to explore and question. They will use various tools and skills to observe the area and record their findings closely. The children will track changes in the environment, sing songs, play games, and learn basic knot-tying. The children will have supervised access to our school pond and the chance to explore the creatures that live there, learning about water safety and how to protect our natural habitats best. They will also have the opportunity to learn about fire safety, to light a fire under supervision, and ultimately use the fire pit to cook a meal.
Forest School Skills in our Canopy. Learning how to use a fire striker safely to light a fire. Making popcorn and toasting marshmallows.