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.

Outdoor Education

The school stands in 45 acres of wonderful grounds in the Oxfordshire countryside.  Pupils are given every opportunity to explore and enjoy them: in games and sport, in play and through our own Forest School and outdoor education programme.

Pupils from the age of 3 to 9 are all enjoying the opportunities offered by our Forest School, which is situated in the woods within our grounds and is run by our own specially trained staff.  Forest school gives children an understanding of nature and the local environment, whilst developing their fine and gross motor skills and coordination as well as their ability to communicate with their peers, working together on joint tasks and problem solving.

The outdoor education programme continues for pupils in Years 5-8, offering the children the unique opportunity to explore a range of activities and problem solving games both independently and in small groups. The children develop their confidence and team work through outdoor activity challenges such as survival skills, orienteering and exposure to unfamiliar and changing environments. Highlights of the programme include residential trips to outdoor education centres such as The Wilderness Centre, Foxlease and Youlbury, as well as overnight camping Bushcraft expeditions. The programme culminates with the Leavers' Expedition which departs following the completion of exams, where Year 8 pupils enjoy a week under canvas in Devon.