Originally started by schools and nurseries in Scandinavia as a means of providing extra learning spaces (due to a lack of indoor facilities), the concept of forest schools has certainly gained traction in the UK in the past decade.
The overall concept of the forest schools programme is to allow children to develop self-esteem and confidence through practical and hands-on learning experiences in either a woodland or forest-style setting with trees. The programme is not just for rural based schools either as it is widely practised by inner city educational establishments as well – who perhaps benefit from it more living and learning within an urban environment.
The programme encourages regular visits rather than just being a one-off experience and has been proven to foster the emotional and mental well-being of participant pupils and students.
One could argue that the natural setting of a forest or woodland provides adequate play experiences and we would certainly not disagree with this. But we have a product range which certainly complements this theme of outdoor learning.
The most popular product in this range is our Hideout House outdoor fire pit shelter. Making and lighting fires is certainly part of the Forest School initiative (under forest school practitioner’s guidance) where children can collect wood to burn in the fire pit. The shelter itself is typically octagonal in shape with a special hole in the roof to allow for easy smoke exhaustion. So as to stop rain entering through this hole (and probably putting out the fire!), there is an option to have a two tier roof system which essentially is an elevated “hat” at the apex of the building with side ventilation points.
Children can sit on the benches which run from post to post and we also apply a fire retardant intumescent varnish to the underside of the roof. You can also partially enclose the fire pit shelter with side roll-down canvas panels to give the children a bit more protection from the elements.
Dens and den making are also big features of hands-on play experiences in forest schools. Taking this into consideration, we have developed a living wall tipi. It acts as a den or shelter in the first instance but it has wire mesh side panels so that you can either grow climbing plants up to the side so that eventually it becomes totally enclosed courtesy of Mother Nature….or children can collect twigs, foliage etc and cover it themselves.
The Hideout House Company also offer a comprehensive range of outdoor shelters and classrooms which range from temporary “pop-up” bell tents and canvas canopies secured to trees right over to fully insulated and enclosed buildings. These type of classrooms are usually heated off-grid with wood burning stoves which again complements the whole forest school concept. A certain degree of power can also be supplied by solar and wind turbines.
But not a lot of money has to be spent as we can easily supply a package of an open fire pit with surround woodland benching, a bug hotel and nature observation tables with a magnifying glass attached.
If you would like to know how we can help your school develop its forest school activities and programme, then please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.