4.1 – Explain the role of the Forest School programme leader in promoting learning and development

People are always learning (check out Learn Nothing day). Children learn to walk, talk, run, jump and myriad other skills without direct instruction. They learn these skills through being exposed to others performing those actions and being given the opportunity to practise and experiment in their own time.

The role of the forest school leader should embrace this practice. The role is not be one of ‘teacher’ but facilitator. A forest school leader should not teach or direct but rather provide children opportunities for, and support, their development. Activities can and should be planned for sessions but I firmly believe children should be given the freedom to choose whether and how to participate in them. Forest school leaders should present activities and experiences for children’s observation and possible interest with no expectations. Provide children with a stimulating and rich environment where those around them are , being, observing, and learning and they will do the same.

Those observing and judging from the outside sometimes refer to this idea as being an easy way out for lazy teachers. This is far from the truth. Forest school leaders will be observing the children, as a group and individuals, in order to identify patterns in behaviour and learning and to assist them planning future activities that will support development. Forest school leaders will also need to react and respond to children’s emerging needs and interests as they display them throughout the session adapting activities as necessary.

The ‘lazy’ accusation is not unique to forest school. None of my own children have ever been to school and our approach to their education is entirely child led. This approach is often referred to as radical unschoolingUnschooling is essentially the forest school equivalent of parenting. Unschooling proposes the rejection of any distinction between educational and non-educational activities. Unschooling is a non-coercive and cooperative practice that seeks to promote those values in all areas of life. Unschooling also emphasises the integration of learning into the everyday life of the family and wider community. In a similar vein to ‘lazy teachers’ those unfamiliar with the practice often accuse it of being ‘lazy parenting’.