Forest Schools came from Scandinavia to the United Kingdom
In the1950-60’s Forest Schools started in the Scandinavian countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. There was a pedagogical focus of returning to the natural world outdoors and allowing young children space and freedom to play through exploring and rekindling the wonder in nature (Pound, 2011; Pound, 2008; Williams-Siegfreden, 2007). In Denmark in the 1980’s Forest Schools became an economically viable way for providing childcare for increasing mothers returning to paid employment.
The focus of this case study is Forest Schools in the United Kingdom, which according to Bridgwater College (2012) started after an interested group visited Denmark in 1993.They were inspired and established the first Forest School [FS] in Bridgwater (click on link for more information), Somerset on their return and it is a training centre for educators of Forest Schools. In 2002 a network for supporting FS was set up with assistance from the Forest Education Initiative set up by government to educate and increase young people’s appreciation of forest environments, this aspect is only a secondary aim of Forest Schools (Maynard, 2007; Pound, 2008). Forest Schools has since spread throughout England, Wales and Scotland to approximately 150 programmes in 2008 (Blackwell & Pound, 2011; Pound, 2011; Pound, 2008; Swarbick , Eastwood & Tutton, 2004).
Why the UK has embraced Forest Schools
Forest schools have spread throughout the UK in recent years due to concerns about children having limited opportunity to play outside on small home sections. Parents no longer feel it is safe to let their children go to local parks due to heavy traffic and the fear of child abductions. Children have less freedom in their play according to Pound (2011) with mothers feeling they need supervision and are less tolerant of mess involved in learning. There are also concerns about children spending large amounts of time indoors sedentarily engaged in electronic games, video games, television, and computers (Maynard, 2007; Louv, 2012; Pound; 2011; Pound, 2008). Louv (2005) identified these lifestyle changes, labelling it ‘nature deficit disorder,' this is not a medical disorder but a recognition of how denature lifestyle has a lasting impact on children by increasing behaviour disorders (Blackwell & Pound, 2011). While they lack opportunities to enjoy the relaxing and wonder that nature provokes (as cited CYE, 2006). He suggests that contact with nature can positively influence conditions such as ADD (Louv, 2005 as cited Child Youth Environments, 2006). [Clink on link for more on Louv]. The modern lifestyle has increased obesity with reduced exercise in young children increases risk of becoming obese adults with a higher likelihood of diabetes and heart disease (Blackwell & Pound, 2011;Louv, 2012; Williams-Seigfredsen, 2007).The when the opportunity for choice is taken away from children so they are ‘safe’, it may lead to a lack of curiosity according to Maynard (2007), if they feel controlled can learn helplessness, avoiding challenges or not persevereing to overcome them (Dweck, 2000 as cited Maynard, 2004). The FS gives opportunities for outdoor play and risk taking that many children have not had opportunity to experience due to over protectiveness and or busyness of families in the UK and other developed countries ( Maynard, 2007). Rogoff (1990) supports risk taking in learning as being at the outset to gaining competency (as cited Blackwell & Pound, 2011).