What is Forest School?

Learners exploring the wood

Forest School is essentially about getting children and young people outside. It is about helping people to re-engage with nature and to form positive relationships with their surroundings and the environment.

See also: Forest School Association

Ironwood is a Forest School with a deep respect for nature and the environment at the core of its ethos. We design sessions to have minimum impact on the woodland, and where a negative impact is unavoidable, we strive to minimize or mitigate this by balancing the negative impact with a positive one. In the long term, the future survival of our woodlands is more likely if the next generation develops a stronger connection and love for these special places.

Ironwood Forest School sessions are not only about nature and the environment. Participants have countless opportunities to develop their social skills by learning to work together, collaborate on projects, share tools and resources, and listen to each other and trust one another. Emotional literacy is built through small achievable tasks which enhance self-esteem, and build resilience, determination and realistic expectations- not everything in the Forest is easy!

Ironwood Forest School also emphasises creative exploration and while there are plenty of opportunities to make and learn craft using natural materials, there are always further opportunities for independent creative exploration and play. The forest provides us with a rich, diverse and stimulating environment with endless possibilities.

A typical day at an Ironwood Forest School holiday camp may look like this:

  • 10.00: meeting the group, introductions and safety talk
  • 10.30: arrive at Base Camp, play a game to learn where the boundaries are, safety expectations explained
  • 11.00: learn how to prepare a campfire, collect fire wood, learn about fire-lighting methods, fire safety
  • 11.30: games or craft activity
  • 12.00: free play and exploration
  • 12.15: lunch (healthy packed lunches please) and free play
  • 13.00: craft activity, cooking, woodland games
  • 14.00: hot drink and snack, closing ceremony
  • 14.30: pack up the site and return to the Meeting Point.
  • 15.00: hometime

Craft ideas and activities tend to be seasonal and we try to use the natural resources that are available to us. Where possible and practical, we attempt to include ideas that the children may have, which is why it is especially exciting if a child returns again and again, as he or she may see their idea turn into a reality. Some examples of activities are: weaving a willow or hazel platter, making woodland furniture, cooking damper bread, making charcoal, natural art, nest building, shelter building, making simple rafts, obstacle courses, tracking games, species identification, foraging, using natural clay.


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