Forest School

Forest School at Barlow Hall Primary School is delivered by Jane Doyle from Something Wild and Sarah Gillibrand, from Manchester Forest School Sarah and Jane are Level 3 trained Forest School Practitioners with over 10 years experience, they also have additional Outdoor 1st Aid qualifications, a whole variety of Continuous Professional Development training and adventurous activity insurance cover

Forest School programmes are an enhancement to general school lessons providing educational woodland adventures which inspire, engage, and build confidence in the children who attend.

Repeat weekly visits under the guidance of trained professionals give the children the opportunity to explore, play, achieve, build skills, take risks and reflect in a safe and nurturing atmosphere. The learning environment is dynamic, with the woodland (and the children) changing and growing through the seasons and over the years. Development is holistic, attending to all aspects of the child’s learning: socially, emotionally, intellectually, physically, culturally and spiritually

Barlow Hall Primary School have been commissioning Jane and Sarah to deliver Forest School programs since January 2015. The sessions are embedded into the curriculum as a rolling program, so all the children from year 1 to year 6 go out for 6 weekly sessions over a half term, each academic year.

Children in Year 1 and 2 attend mini sessions in the school’s own woodland over lunchtime. They eat a packed lunch while listening to a spoken word story, delivered alternately by Sarah or Jane. There is always time to play and explore in the wood with activities linked to the story and the last week of every programme is a celebratory fire session where the children get to put a stick in the fire, have their sandwiches toasted and share popcorn.

Children in Years 3 to 6 attend sessions in Barlow Wood, a tiny pocket of ancient woodland that runs along the side of Chorlton golf course, a private site with access only allowed for educational purposes. It has an interesting history which links it to the school by name, it is a rare and rich environment, over 500 years old, and plants include ancient woodland indicator species and it supports a wide variety of British woodland birds and animals making it a very special teaching provision for Forest School. Each child in Year 3 to Year 6 takes part in Forest School for half a day a week, over a half term, by class group.

As the pupils progress through the school they also progress through the seasons, so by year 6 they will have experienced the wood in Spring – spotting flowers and nesting birds, Summer – identifying plants from leaves and animals from tracks and dens, Autumn – investigating the science of leaf colour change and making mandalas from fruits, nuts and seeds, and Winter – learning tree id by stick and bud, taking the woodland parkour challenge and den building.

Sessions begin with a welcome circle where we get to know each other, followed by engagement activities, then free play, then we end with a closing circle where we share a snack and drink and reflections on our session. A programme includes the following sessions: w1 – guided explore of the wood; w2 – independent explore of the wood; w3 – explore natural materials; w4 and w5 using tools on green wood and natural material crafts; w6 – celebration, families are invited to share our learning and have a fire with us.

Programmes are based on the seasons and activities on the availability of resources in the wood. As well as progression through the seasons we map progression through the school curriculum subjects for the age and abilities of the children, taking the opportunity to deepen learning through experience, self directed investigation, observations and transferring knowledge from theory to application when the opportunity arises. Sarah and Jane say ‘Our Forest School aim is to inspire a life long connection to nature, and a love of learning that will be carried back into general school life’. 

The Forest School activities form a part of the outdoor learning activities at Barlow Hall, where we are not only surrounded by nature but are lucky enough to have grounds which give us plenty of outdoor space to play and learn and learn in.