The Walhampton News
Walhampton is a busy pre-prep and prep school within Hampshire. Our news archive features all of our current and old news, announcements and celebrations dating back to 2013.
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Forest School at Walhampton
by Claire Holly, Head of Pre Prep
Think of a school classroom and you’ll probably picture four walls, chairs and desks, a few bookcases, whiteboards and all the other things we’re so familiar with. But what if a classroom had none of that? Just trees and foliage, lakes and fields, open sky for a ceiling, and learning materials strewn around on the woodland floor. Now imagine how much fun that would be for any enquiring young mind.
That sort of experience is just one of the benefits that Walhampton brings to the world of your child’s education. And it can be found, of course, at our Forest School.
Forest schools were first pioneered in Scandinavia, back in the 1950s - and they have been producing impressive educational results ever since. Our happy little version may be a lot newer - but is just as wonderful.
Given the spectacular grounds and wooded areas at Walhampton, offering pupils a Forest School experience was an obvious and natural step to take. It also dovetails perfectly with the school’s broader ethos and our long-held belief in fresh air, a love of nature and a respect for the environment.
We embrace the benefits of outdoor learning right across the school, but it all starts in our Pre-Prep. Our outdoor classroom, and the change of environment that it offers, generates new ways to engage and inspire every boy and girl. It positively shifts the dynamic of a lesson as well as supporting healthy child development.
Perhaps it’s nature, perhaps it’s nurture, but the vast majority of Walhampton pupils seem to be ‘outdoor’ children. We are blessed by being set within the New Forest and our pupils are naturally integrated into their environment: sea to the south, forest to the north.
So why do we believe that occasional periods of outdoor learning are essential for their development? Forest School encourages our pupils to learn at their own pace, setting goals and targets tailored to their individual needs, so they never feel under pressure. The benefits are fantastic to see.
Children are natural-born adventurers and want to learn anything and everything about the world around them, so it is important that we help them do this. They develop early approaches to problem-solving and year on year we see a significant boost in self-awareness, independence, motor skills and confidence. Our outdoor curriculum also ensures that children develop their communication abilities through collaborative-working and pupils start to easily identify common risks in the ‘real’ world.
And while imaginations can run wild, the children do not. Safety is paramount. All of their play takes place in a risk-assessed environment. This means youngsters can explore and learn in a controlled environment, while under constant supervision from a fully trained member of staff.
Our children learn how to build dens, ‘hunt’ through the woods and bird watch. Every child is on an equal playing field. There are no winners or losers, just children working together, usually in teams, to have fun and learn in their own way.
Only the other day a member of staff was telling me with great pride about how well our children engage with the motivating and achievable tasks we set them. They expand their knowledge past the curriculum-based topics learnt in the classroom, increase their confidence and find new hobbies to be passionate about. Learning to take on the risks around us helps children build invaluable life skills, like critical problem solving, empathy and teamwork.
All this, in turn, lends itself to improved classroom learning as they apply and acquire new skills like resilience, creativity and leadership to their daily studies – all qualities vital to later life.
We often see a change in children’s behaviour once you take away the physical walls of the classroom. Most go home feeling inspired, often encouraging their parents to help gather materials for their next lesson and sharing their experiences with them.
As adults, we often say of the world: ‘it’s a jungle out there’. Well, if it is, what better place to prepare yourself than Walhampton’s forest of ideas.