The positive and negative impact of forest school on students.
Forest school is a process of inspiring and educating children by providing them with opportunities to develop their confidence in a woodland environment. It is developed on the basis of Scandinavian philosophy. This philosophy highlights the importance of having contact with the land from an early age. It is a long term program which facilitates play, exploration and develops risk-taking ability of the children. The idea of forest school was developed in the United Kingdom in 1993. Since, then it grew from strength to strength. It is because inside the four walls of the classroom a child can learn how to pass an exam but they do not learn the importance of nature and are away from PE lessons and the natural world outside. It is observed by leaders that when a child is in woods he or she feels empowered as they learn more about the natural environment. A literature review is conducted to further explore the concept of learning in the environment with the help of a forest school.
Coates and Pimlott‐Wilson (2019) stated that outdoor play of children is declining even though there is a clear link between learning, play and development. The researchers further stated that there is a requirement of alternative play opportunities for children. They stated that one such program is growing phenomenal in the United Kingdom known as forest school. Despite its popularity, the impact it has on learning is stillnot understood by educators around the world. To find out primary children's experience an interview of 33 students were conducted who have recently completed a 6-week forest school program. Thematic analysis was done on the data collected from these students. It revealed three inter-related themes. These include learning through play, break from routine and collaboration with the team in work. These findings suggested that if an organization blends forest program along with the regular studies it would help in contributing to the child's cognitive, emotional and physical skills. The findings from this research are significant because it highlights the importance of social constructive play pedagogy in effect with the primary schools.
Similarly,Turtle et al. (2015) claimed that children in the United Kingdom are suffering because of a lack of engagement with the outdoor environment. It was also identified that the environmental attitude of children was not good. Further, it was realized that there is a significant difference between children who attended a forest school program and those who did not. They also stated that although forest school is not only a factor which can influence the environmental attitude of the people. There are other things as well which need to be paid attention too. Despite it is an important finding as it helps in determining the overall benefits of the forest school program. The researcher analyzed the school based on participation and non-participation. These schools were given a questionnaire which needs to be filled by the students. The questionnaire was based on their environmental attitude. A t-test was conducted don the data collected from these schools. The findings of the study state that children who participated in the forest program have a higher pro-environmental attitude in comparison to the children who did not participate.
A research was conducted by Morgan (2018) to identify how important it is to have forest school. It was determined that people who play in the natural environment are more likely to be creative, imaginative and diverse than the children who do not. It was also identified that outdoor activities play a very significant role in a child's development as they adapt in the space and modify things to meet their needs. It was also found that forest school helps the children to increase their self-esteem and confidence. It also improves the individual's ability to work in a corporation with one another. It increases motivation and concentration of the children. It contributes to language and communication development of the child. It improves the physical and mental skills of the person. Children learn to enhance their knowledge and understanding of nature.
Contrastingly, Haron et al. (2020) stated that it is very difficult to manage the forest school in different weather conditions. It can be very challenging for the educators to allow the children to play in the environment during bitterly cold, rainy or scorching heat days. If allowed the children can suffer from the seasonal flues which can have a detrimental impact on the child's health. It may even happen that forest school does not suit every child as he or she may have allergy with mud or different types of grasses. To avoid such things, it is advised to the parents to first check whether the forest school would suit their children or not. In addition to these, since children spend time outdoor jumping in puddles and climbing on trees. They may get injured or else get full exposure to potential items which can harm them. Even it's also observed that when the children are sent back to the normal school it becomes more challenging for them to adopt that kind of environment.
Leather (2018)claimed that there are many activities which require skill but are not taught in the classroom. Like jumping in water, sailing or canoeing. These type of activities are not featured in the syllabus but fill the children with fun and excitement. These help the children to create a connection with the environment and also help in personal and group development. But there are certain issues with forest learning these include whether the forest school are based on social construction, is play a central tenant pedagogy and why forest school took a corporate turn. Through this research, it was identified that forest school was based onfriluftsliv philosophy which means air for life. The main purpose of this philosophy was to give children freedom in nature so that they can connect with the landscape. It also emphasized on how forest school are culturally, socially and historically situated in the UK. It further emphasis on the central pedagogy of play. It was found that teachers and educators find it very hard to interfere with the child learning process. Forest school pedagogy bangs and extra dimension to contemporary outdoor practices. Numerous authors in the research described the importance of learning through play. It was determined that when the people started understanding the importance of learning in the environment they started selling the forest school as a product in the market despite it being an educational philosophy.
Similarly, another research was conducted by Savery et al. (2017) to understand the perception of parents and children towards forest school and to identify the potential influence that it can have on the learning and development of the children. A qualitative approach was selected by the researcher to conduct the study from the data that they have collected from primary school. The study found that it was due to forest school program that children were able to communicate the fun and excitement and enjoyment that they had experienced. It was also depicted that children developed a caring attitude towards their surroundings. Parents of the children also stated that they value the initiative taken by the school. Although initially, children took it as a privilege but later they used to improve their skills.
Contrastingly, Sackville-Ford and Davenport(2019) stated in research that few students did not find forest school as interesting and motivating as was the ambition of establishing it. They hated going to the forest school because it was too boring for them. When they tried to find the reason behind it, it was found that the students were given a long not-to-do list which restricted them to enjoy and explore nature. The students were not interested in the principles and rules and regulations, they just wanted to enjoy in the presence of nature. They did not want to hit anybody with the stick and also knew how to carefully light the fire with stones. If these children would have got the opportunity, they would have explored more and have gained knowledge about the flora and fauna surrounding them. It was shameful for the authority of the school that children were not enjoying themselves in the environment where they supposed to be. Even the students were not even able to flourish in the environment.
From all the above pieces of literature, it can be stated that forest school has both a positive and negative impact on the children. The concerned authorities must try to minimize the negative impact and fully engage children in learning activities maintaining their health and hygiene conditions so that they love to be in the environment rather than thinking about that it is boring. It was also identified from the study that children who attend forest program were more concerned for the environmental issues in comparison to others. The entire process of playing in an outdoor environment empowers children to reflect and share their experiences with others to protect the planet from the damage. Parents of the children also stated that they value the initiative taken by the school. They said that children because of this initiative are able to understand the trust and responsibility that they have towards environment.
Coates, J.K. and Pimlott‐Wilson, H. 2019. Learning while playing: Children's forest school experiences in the UK. British Educational Research Journal, 45(1), pp.21-40.
Haron, M.N., Kasim, R., Wahab, N.B.A., Yasin, S.N.T.M. and Kusin, S.A. 2020. Forest-friendly pedagogy (PeRIMBA) at indigenous school: risk and risk perceptions. Journal of Counseling and Educational Technology, 3(1), pp.11-17.
Leather, M. 2018. A critique of “Forest School” or something lost in translation. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 21(1), pp.5-18.
Morgan, M. 2018. Forest School: An Innovative Approach to Teaching and Learning.
Sackville-Ford, M. and Davenport, H. eds. 2019. Critical Issues in Forest Schools. SAGE Publications Limited.
Savery, A., Cain, T., Garner, J., Jones, T., Kynaston, E., Mould, K., Nicholson, L., Proctor, S., Pugh, R., Rickard, E. and Wilson, D. 2017. Does engagement in Forest School influence perceptions of risk, held by children, their parents, and their school staff?.Education 3-13, 45(5), pp.519-531.
Turtle, C., Convery, I. and Convery, K. 2015. Forest schools and environmental attitudes: A case study of children aged 8–11 years. Cogent Education, 2(1), p.1100103.
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