Forest School

Childen round a campfire

In Forest School, I showed resilience because I chose to make a fire. The fire wouldn't light but I kept trying until it did. Guusje (Y5)

Our forest is more than a simple outdoor space. Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence, and build self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences. This takes place in a woodland setting, but the positive repercussions of this process impact the students' performance across their whole academic life.

The Forest School ethos focuses on an approach to learning that maximises the emotional, social, and developmental benefits of education. We believe that this is of vital importance to all children, right through their primary level schooling and beyond. This is why we, uniquely, offer Forest Schooling to all children right through to Year 6.

The Learning Process

Outdoor learning is rooted firmly in the key educational theories of the past 150 years. From Froebel to Stein, Vygotsky to Montessori, Dewey to Gardner - all put the child at the centre of their own learning, and all talk of the importance of children being allowed to explore the world independently with appropriate support, not control. Interestingly, many of these leading thinkers were themselves significantly influenced by the great outdoors.

Forest School encourages children to explore their own innate drive to learn, in the richest classroom we have - the outdoors.

What do we know about childhood today? We know that modern children are in desperate need of:

Forest School student learns how to use a knife safely- chances to manage risk, in order to develop life-skills vital for success as adults

- to be more active, for physical health and maximum cognitive development

  • - more independence in their learning, and less time as passive receivers of information
  • - more play, to build creativity, courage, and social skills
  • - to spend more time outside the daily routine, coming up with strategies to cope with unknown challenges

- real life experiences, to grow into resilient, capable adults

- more time in nature, to develop a life-long love of nature - biophilia - inspiring the future guardians of the natural world.

Caring for the Natural Environment

Students clearing the forestAt ISL Surrey Primary School, we actively encourage all of our children, from Nursery to Year 6, to look after our woodland. Children will voluntarily litter pick around the site, and dispose of any rubbish responsibly. The children are encouraged to spot different signs of growth and are careful to avoid trampling new spring buds underfoot. They are taught how to care for growing trees by avoiding damaging branches and leaves. When building fires, children collect fallen branches and debris. We store this in our Forest Shed to ensure sustainability. With the support and guidance of our qualified Forest School teachers, the children learn to master the correct use of tools so they can safely help in managing our forest.

'They become increasingly responsible for themselves and for those around them.'


Our younger children have built a bug hotel, considering the varying requirements of different bugs, choosing appropriate designs and materials, and collecting what is required independently.

Students in Years 3 and 4 recently realised that nursery children can struggle to get through the undergrowth in their wellies and waterproofs, and so decided to create a path for them. This required cutting logs and whittling pegs to build the path, with significant care and perseverance, and the careful management of risk and tool-handling.

Year 6 Treehouse built by the studentsYears 5 and 6, are renovating Forest shelters, and building a Tree House to leave behind for the younger students. This has been a project of unprecedented scale - it has involved planning, teamwork, design, maths, decoding Health and Safety legislation, complex measurements, and high level problem-solving skills. It is with great pride that we watch these ideas blossom, the developing commitment to projects, and the students' growing maturity in handling the ups and downs of such endeavours. Most importantly, the Forest School has been tied into the entire curriculum, boosting engagement with mathematics, literacy and art.

We invite you to visit our Forest School and speak to our incredible young forest guardians yourself to see the benefits of allowing children to learn the way nature intended.

"The best classroom and the richest cupboard is only roofed by the sky."

Teacher helps students build a fire