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Forest School

Our Woodland Classroom

We are extremely fortunate as a school to have the rural location that we do.  One of the amazing benefits of our location means that we have access to Ancient Woodlands within our grounds. This not only adds to the magic of our learning and creativity,  but encourages outdoor learning in the form of our very own Forest School. 

St Mark’s is situated in a beautiful rural setting, nestled behind the village church in Staplefield. Our children are fortunate to have access to beautiful countryside and a safe and nurturing environment. However our footprint is small and the governors took the decision to purchase some scruffy woodland adjoining the school.

So why do we feel the need to develop this woodland area for the children?

We are continually seeking to enhance our provision for the children at St Mark’s. Two of our School aims for the children are to ‘develop joyous leaners with high self esteem’ and to ‘encourage a natural curiosity and excitement for learning’.

Much of this can, of course, be developed in the classroom. However, we believe that children also learn when they are outside and our woodland will give our children the opportunity to learn in different ways and to develop skills that cannot be taught as effectively in a classroom setting. We believe it is important that they learn from first had experiences about how to manage and protect the environment.

Much research has been undertaken about the benefits of working in this way. The recent Forest schools initiative really started to take off in the post-war era throughout many parts of Europe. Scandinavia led the way and development in the UK dates back to 1993 following an exchange trip by staff from Bridgwater College to Denmark. The staff were so inspired by the outdoor activities they observed that they came back and developed a similar approach to learning and development at the college.

In 2012 a new national governing body was launched for the promotion of this way of learning – The Forest School Association.

So how will our children benefit from working outside in this woodland classroom and what will it mean for their learning?

  • Children will have space for physical movement – an emphasis on physical health
  • The promotion of self esteem – all can achieve and contribute
  • By developing team work and communication skills by working together whilst playing and learning.
  • By developing the confidence to take risks within a safe environment –with high staff ratios (the optimum number of children working at any time being 15)
  • By developing independence and giving children the opportunity to make choices with their learning
  • By developing concentration skills as children work on a task for an extended period of time
  • By encouraging fun and laughter in a relaxed setting
  • By developing a sense of awe and wonder as the children work in a beautiful setting and learn to respect and care for their environment. ‘To become thoughtful, responsible citizens in the Global community’. (School aim)

We are committed to providing the best opportunities for our children to enhance their learning so that ‘Together, in God’s love, we will shine’.

Provision at St Mark’s.

Approximately three years ago, we bought a piece of woodland adjacent to our school so that our children now have access to an outdoor classroom whenever needed. We use it to support our curriculum work, but also for dedicated Forest School teaching sessions each week.

Due to the size of the School, children are taught in their year groups. They enjoy half a term’s series of sessions each year with Mrs Alex Sandford, our trained Forest school teacher along with a teaching Assistant or volunteer parent/governor. The children thoroughly enjoy these sessions, cooking, whittling sticks, building camps, finding out about the trees and birds in our woodland and just being outside whatever the weather!

It was named ‘Whispering Wood’ after a competition for the children and families.