Forest School

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Since the introduction of Forest School at St Hugh’s in 2012, it has developed progressively, year on year, and it continues to be an integral part of the children’s time at school.

The two sites occupy more than three acres of the school grounds, one predominately for Nursery, Reception and Year 1, and a much larger site accessed over a small bridge for children in Year 2 and above. Alongside this is a fenced vegetable garden, consisting of raised beds for vegetables, flowers, herbs and a small pond. The children assist in planting seeds and bulbs. Annually the pond affords us the opportunity to see frogspawn develop into frogs, which they then release into the nearby stream. The garden also provides an abundance of insects to aid pollination. There have been a number of fruit trees that have been planted since 2012 that are used in foraging activities. There are also multiple elder trees, which provide the chance to create elderflower cordial and elder fritters. We also make nettle soup and tea, and delicious hedgerow compote, alongside other foods.

Both sites are furnished with bespoke octagonal woodland shelters, with canvas roofs and log seating. They are equipped with large fire bowls for group cooking, and staying warm on the colder days. These shelters act as base camps during FS lessons but also provide excellent outdoor learning zones, for other subjects such as wellbeing and science.

Alongside activities and skills taught to the children, we often link with class topics. A good example of this would be the Vikings theme in Year 2, where we create long boats complete with sails, and enjoy a Viking feast. In Middle School’s ‘Take One’ Indian project, the children built mud brick ovens, and cooked chappatis on them.

For the children in Nursery and Reception, the focus is on the sensory experience of being outdoors. Whatever time of year, something is going on, and we combine their activities with the seasons. Examples of this include identifying plants and flowers in springtime, bird watching, animal tracking, bug identification, making bug hotels, and playing in the mud kitchens.

Older children are taught life skills such as lighting fires, how to whittle using penknives, tool use, knot-tying in shelter building, and foraging. The larger site has a clay oven and in the warmer months we cook delicious wood-fired pizzas. Alongside the practical skills, the focus is on flora and fauna, particularly tree identification, along with the responsibility of nature conservation. The children learn to work both independently and collaboratively, managing risks and ultimately learning about their own limits.