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In Britain, there has, over the past decade, been a growing interest in Forest Schools. Originating in Scandinavia: Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Research Paper, TUD, Ireland

University Technological University Dublin (TUD)
Subject Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood

In Britain, there has, over the past decade, been a growing interest in Forest Schools. Originating in Scandinavia, Forest Schools are closely associated with the Danish early-year program. Inspired by the ideas of Froebel, nursery schools in Denmark have traditionally favored play, movement, and fresh air, while a sense of connection with nature and the environment has been linked to the Danish notion of an ‘ideal’ childhood.

Indeed, the development of young children’s understanding of the natural environment is seen as an important aim of all day-care facilities. Williams-Siegfredson (2005) notes that most nurseries in Denmark incorporate some form of nature education, although there is great variation in how this is achieved. Designated forest or nature nurseries are located in their own woodlands; other nurseries have ‘wood groups’ – groups of children who are taken by bus to spend time every week in a woodland area – while some simply use whatever outdoor space is available.

The Forest School concept was brought to Britain in 1993 following an exchange visit to Denmark by staff from Bridgwater College, Somerset. On their return, Bridgwater College set up the first Forest School, an adaptation of the Danish model. Since that time, numerous Forest School leaders have been trained at Bridgwater College and, to date, around 50 Forest School projects have been set up across Britain.

This article identifies and evaluates the aims, approach, and ethos of the Forest School concept as it has been established in Britain. While Forest School is seen as being appropriate for ‘all ages and all client groups’, the article focuses specifically on its relevance to young children aged three to five years.

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