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Forest Schools Reconnect Children to the Natural World

female teacher pointing to something above her to four young students sitting in the grass outside.


In a world increasingly dominated by screens and concrete, the allure of nature remains as strong as ever. The concept of Forest Schools stands as a testament to this timeless connection between children and the great outdoors. But what exactly are Forest Schools, and how do they foster learning in children?


What are Forest Schools?

Forest Schools are outdoor-based educational settings where children engage in learning activities amidst natural environments like forests, woodlands, or other green spaces for long periods of time uninterrupted. Unlike traditional classrooms, which are often confined and structured, Forest Schools embrace the open, ever-changing canvas of nature.


The Classroom Beyond Walls

Imagine a classroom without walls, where the rustling leaves, chirping birds, and soothing natural light become the backdrop to learning. In Forest Schools, children are encouraged to explore, investigate, and play in the natural world. Curriculum is place-based, student interest driven, and interdisciplinary. This unstructured environment sparks curiosity and creativity, allowing children to develop a profound appreciation for the wonders of nature.


boy looking at a dragonfly on his hand

Learning Through Experience

One of the key principles of Forest Schools is learning through experience. Instead of textbooks and lectures, children learn by doing. They might build shelters, identify plants and animals, or simply let their imaginations run wild amidst the trees. This hands-on approach fosters a deeper understanding of concepts and promotes problem-solving skills.


Holistic Development

Forest Schools prioritize holistic development, nurturing not only academic skills but also emotional resilience, social competence, and physical well-being. Because students are getting their needs met with sensory stimulation and integration, there are less discipline problems as well. Spending time outdoors has been linked to reduced stress levels and improved mental health, making Forest Schools a sanctuary for children in today's fast-paced world.


Freedom to Explore

In Forest Schools, children are given the freedom to explore and take risks in a safe and supervised environment. Climbing trees, exploring streams, or getting their hands dirty in the mud are not just allowed but encouraged. This sense of freedom fosters confidence and independence in children, empowering them to overcome challenges and embrace new experiences.

father and son at the edge of a river cleaning with plastic bag and net

Connecting with Nature

In an era marked by environmental concerns, fostering a connection with nature is more critical than ever. Forest Schools instill a deep respect and understanding of the natural world, encouraging children to become stewards of the environment. Through hands-on experiences like planting trees or studying ecosystems, children develop a sense of responsibility towards the planet they call home.


Breaking Down Barriers

Forest Schools are inclusive spaces that welcome children from all backgrounds and abilities. Regardless of academic prowess or physical capabilities, every child has something valuable to contribute in the natural classroom. By breaking down barriers and celebrating diversity, Forest Schools create a sense of belonging and community among children.


A Lifelong Love Affair

The lessons learned in Forest Schools extend far beyond childhood, leaving a mark on the hearts and minds of children. The memories of building forts, splashing in puddles, and chasing butterflies linger long into adulthood, nurturing a lifelong love affair with nature.


In a world where the pace of life seems to accelerate with each passing day, Forest Schools offer a sanctuary of simplicity and serenity. By embracing the enchantment of the natural world, they cultivate not just scholars, but stewards of the earth. As we navigate the complexities of the modern age, perhaps the greatest lessons we can learn are found in the quiet whispers of the forest.


Learn More

Wondering what a typical day in a forest school is like? Listen to Justine Wilson, founder of Curious and Kind Education, discuss how her students thrive on this podcast episode on The Brighter Side of Education, Nature's Classroom: Justine Wilson on the Wonders of Forest School Education.



Bentsen, P. (2013, February). Udeskole in Scandinavia: Teaching and Learning in Natural Places. The New Nature Movement. Retrieved from

Hassler, L. (Host). (2024, March 14). Nature's Classroom: Justine Wilson on the Wonders of Forest School Education. The Brighter Side of Education [Audio podcast episode]. Retrieved from

Syed, Z. (2021, April 21). Young kids learn the realities of climate change in forest schools. Popular Science.,more%20than%20800%20forest%20schools

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Lisa, your blog is spot on and so appreciated! The Forest School movement is growing in the USA and we are so excited about it. The benefits to children are not to be overlooked.

I have received quality training for Forest School Teacher Institute (FSTI? which also does Director trainings!!

We are thrilled to be reimagining learning where childhood is preserved and children thrive!!

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Thank you Justine! Curious and Kind Education offers a space for children to grow in like no other. We are fortunate to have you in Sarasota County!

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