Dsc 0004

Forest Schools for Ringwood Students

Published on 2015-10-16 by Gill Hickman

Ringwood School’s Eco students enjoyed the undiscovered pleasure of Forest School when they were ‘borrowed’ by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust for assessment of teachers and other adults who had undergone a course in Forest Schools Level 3 training.

Forest Schools is more traditionally associated with the primary and pre-school sectors. Indeed, the majority of ‘Sussed’ schools offer it Forest School sessions in some guise on a regular basis. However, the philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of ANY age to enjoy the opportunities offered by natural play, through positive outdoor experiences.


By participating in engaging, motivating and achievable tasks and activities in a woodland environment each participant has an opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation, balanced emotional and social skills. These, through self awareness, can be developed to help reach personal potential. There is tangible evidence of Forest Schools’ success with children of all ages who regularly visit local woodlands with trained practitioners and through play and self- directed learning. And it was for the training of potential practitioners had brought Ringwood students to Blashford. The students, like all those engaged in forest schools activities, briefly experienced the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly how to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others.

Students walked through mixed deciduous woodland from the study centre at Blashford to the Forest school site. En route they collected leaves which they stuck onto a strip of cardboard. Most students made these into crowns which they ceremoniously placed on their heads. Sadly few identified the leaves using the keys provided because they had to proceed with the business of the afternoon!

Blashford ladies

After listening to a short ‘What is Forest School?’ and safety talk, Ringwood students had little idea what to expect during their outdoor session. It was interesting to watch their response as they wandered through the woodland clearing that constituted their unstructured classroom for the afternoon. There were no instructions and a small group quickly found the clay pit, working out exactly what this had to offer and taking to clay play instantly. Others needed more prompting but the trainee leaders were quick to make suggestions to those making swift glances at wood cutting tools. Within five minutes, all had settled into meaningful activity, whether it was den building, weaving, sawing or shaping wood or clay sculpture. Several showed no wish to move onto another activity but others gravitated towards the fire, for instance. Popcorn was ‘popped’ very slowly in a basket over the fire and hope chocolate was enjoyed by all at the end of the session.

We were impressed with the trainee leaders and would like to thank them and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust for an interesting and enjoyable introduction to Forest Schools.

Sadly, this was a ‘one off’ for Ringwood students, but for many of our Sussed schools, Forest School programmes run throughout the year with visits to the woods in all weathers (except for high winds). Pupils use full sized tools; theyplay, learn boundaries of behaviour, both physical and social, and establish and grow in confidence and self-esteem. Forest Schools is said to increase self-motivation in pupils of all ages.

Blash Collage Princess of leaves