Most of us when we hear the word forest think of the natural environment, a range of greens and other hues but a world that is outdoors, full of experiences and a sense of wonder. It also conveys a sense of wilderness but that is not what we, at TEMS, mean by a forest school; we mean a school that has as one of its guiding questions “How can we take this learning outside?” That same question led to the design of the wonderful outdoor environments our children have access to in Discovery House and trust me when I say , the new site will have those same opportunities but on a much larger scale. I have interspersed my notes and descriptions with some design principles form the new site so you can get a greater feel for what I mean.
As a Montessori school, our entire pedagogy is designed to place the child at the centre of all we do and the very definition of the forest school ethos; an outdoor learning environment with a child-centred learning process that focuses on play, exploration and supported risk-taking, chimes perfectly with our own.
If we delve a little deeper into the description of a Forest School, we can see many more synergies with our educational etho:
Turning first to problem-solving and self-discovery:
From the very moment our pupils join TEMS at age 3, the Montessori materials with their in built error encourage them to solve problems and find a solution, we encourage this too in our extensive emotional education programme; our students know and understand their emotions and begin to discover for themselves how to approach challenging situations.
Next let’s consider:
Learn through hands-on experiential learning in a natural setting.
The words of Maria Montessori herself, if I may paraphrase encourage us not to do for the child what they can do for themselves and many if not all of our lessons across the school are planned with this in mind; we see this in the teaching of Science through practical application and so it will be an absolute delight to have labs designed by our own science team, fitted to the highest standards , but also to find copses and groves around the site where we may take small groups outside to explore further what we have seen in class. This worked very well for us in COVID times and we have witnessed the progress children made when the learning was outside.
Our further desire remains to develop their confidence and self-esteem.
Children in today’s highly pressured world will need more than ever to be able to flourish in the face of constant change; by allowing them to work outside solving challenges and growing in confidence will enable them to thrive once they leave TEMS. Having extensive outdoor spaces will also encourage physical movement, known to promote healthier outcomes in young people whether physical or emotional.
So, the pedagogical approach sits right alongside our approach to Montessori but what of the materials and the internal spaces? it is here we will seek to replicate the natural world in the use of calm and nurturing colours drawing on a palette of greens and matching hues, as many wooden and natural surfaces as we can to reflect light and give a feeling of space, which mirrors the natural world and its importance to our wellbeing.
I encourage you to stay tuned to our blog to discover posts on different topics.
This post was written by Sarah Ebery, executive director of TEMS.