Story-telling, dance and pond dipping are not usually on the agenda for grand openings but that was what the gathered VIP audience were treated to when they attended the recent opening of the University of Bedfordshire’s Forest School.
Following a tree planting ceremony, the invited school, college, and local authority guests got to experience a typical morning in the life of a Forest School. The activities were even finished off with hot soup and a roll, similar to the type of lunch the children would get after a hard day of play and learning outside.
The Forest School is part of the University of Bedfordshire’s Education and Sport Faculty and is located at its Bedford campus. It will provide a resource for the University’s trainee teachers as well as opportunities to the local community for teachers to be trained in outdoor learning and for their classes to experience the long term educational benefits of outdoor play.
Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor of the University, who opened the Forest School said: “The Forest School is an exciting development for the University of Bedfordshire. Our aim is to embed Forest School learning within our teaching programme.”
He added: “It will be fun, exciting and support learning in a completely new way.”
Forest School is an educational approach to playing and learning outdoors. Denmark established Forest Schools in the 1980s based on providing children with a nursery education that would encourage them to appreciate and learn about the natural world.
Children who attend Forest Schools have been shown to develop strong social skills, high self-esteem and to have confidence in their own abilities.
The University of Bedfordshire’s Forest School has been developed with a particular focus on children’s sensory development. The planting is highly scented and there is a textured trail with a story and therapy circle all centered on children with special educational needs.
The Forest School will also have other benefits for the University as the Vice Chancellor explained: “It will help us to identify research opportunities in ecological, environmental and sustainable education, including sensory development in young children.’