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Portway Infant School

Portway Infant School

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Forest School at Portway

What is Forest School?

“Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term programme that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.”

The Forest School Association.

Why Forest School?

Forest School focuses on the holistic development of the child, developing the whole child and not just focusing on one area of their development. Children learn to be independent and problem solve.  By offering controlled risk taking activities such as tree climbing or using tools they learn to challenge themselves and persevere to get their project completed.  Children can be themselves in the woodland free from constraints and specific outcomes.   The very nature of being in the woodland will encourage children to be physically active, moving through the woods, climbing and balancing.  Children may work as part of a group and therefore build their social and communication skills, developing their ability to form relationships currently and in the future. There are also opportunities for relaxation and quiet time. 


History of Forest School

Forest school is based on a heritage of outdoor learning.  In the 1900’s movements like the scouts and woodland craft were developed.  During the 1970’s and 80’s the education system moved towards a more teacher/outcome centred approach and the National Curriculum was introduced.  In the 1990 there was a growth of ‘alternative educational models’ and from this Forest School emerged. 

A group of Bridgewater Nursery nurses visited Denmark to study the open air, outdoor way (‘friluftsliv’).  They returned to the UK enthused and created a Forest School with their own nursery children.  The practitioners observed the children, watching the creativity blossom and scaffolded the children’s skills and ideas.  Their entire practice was impacted and in 1995 the college was offering a BTech in Forest School.

Today most schools include Forest School as part of their curriculum.  This is either within their own site, if they are fortunate enough to have a suitable area, or through visiting a nearby location.

Forest School at Portway

Forest School at Portway provides regular opportunities for children to thrive and achieve in activities of their choice, all within the extensive grounds of the Portway Schools.  The activities that we provide are all child led and children can follow and develop their own interests to play naturally. 


Forest School fuses and blends together many aspects of the National Curriculum.  Below are some of the examples of how that is achieved at Portway:


Literacy – Children role play and tell stories within the dens that they have built.  They spend quality time on a nature trail using expressive language describing the enormous range of flora and fauna that we have within the grounds of the schools. We often discuss and share ideas about the planet, sustainability and our natural environment.


Science – The children spend time looking at and building different habitats and environments.  We discuss the different animal groups, birds, mammals and insects etc.  We aim to get the children outside all year round and therefore have ample opportunities to discover what happens to the world throughout the four seasons.    


Maths – There are many opportunities to incorporate maths within our play at Forest School.  Often children measure the sticks that they have found, we have even measured worms to find out which one is the longest.  In the mud kitchen they can count how many cakes they have made or how many more scoops they need for their recipes.  The children assemble bird boxes and measure the wood ready for cutting.


Art and DT – There are lots of opportunities to use tools within a Forest School session.  The children are taught to be safe around tools and how to operate and use tools in the correct manner.  They use vegetable peelers to whittle sticks ready for toasting marshmallows, on the open fire.  They use tools in the mud kitchen to make their masterpieces.  They build and construct bird boxes, log piles for habitats and dens using both natural and manmade resources.


PSHE – Together we embed, build and nurture a connection with nature and the children learn to love the woodland and the world around them.  They are taught to be safe in the woodland and to look after and respect the flora and fauna that they discover within the woodland.  The woodland itself provides many sensory opportunities, whether it’s playing with the mud or smelling the honeysuckle, we have it at Portway.  We play games, providing opportunities to make relationships, play cooperatively and learn to take turns.  Children are aware of the boundaries and behavioural expectations whilst at the Forest School site. 

We constantly evolve our activities and so they change regularly.  Some depend on the weather but here are some of our firm favourites:

  • Toasting Marshmallows
  • Making sparks – fire lighting
  • Den building
  • Bug hunting
  • Mud Kitchen
  • Leaf whopping
  • Puddle jumping
  • Dam building

Suitable Clothing for Forest School and the outdoors

Forest School runs all year and during all types of weather. During the colder, winter months two or three layers work better than thicker clothing, long sleeved t-shirts and a jumper or hoody, with either leggings or tracksuit bottoms, are advised. Jeans are not suitable because if they become wet, they hold the water for a long time. A couple of pairs of socks and wellies are a good idea, as well as some spare socks to change into back in class in case they get wet feet. Hats and gloves that can get muddy are also very useful.  They will also need a waterproof coat and waterproof over trousers if you have them – school has some spares.

During the warmer, summer months, a thin, long sleeved top and leggings or tracksuit bottoms are suggested. Legs and arms need to be covered to avoid scratches and to ward off Tick bites. Children can wear old trainers if the weather is dry.  Sun hats and caps are a must.

Please label everything that comes into school with your child’s name.


Volunteering at Portway Forest School

Do you love the outdoors and enjoy sharing that passion with children?  Can you spare an afternoon?

In return we can offer you the chance to learn practical skills, a chance to be part of the school community and opportunities to make memories for life.

Please contact the school office for further details.