At Parkside, we try to get outdoors as much as possible!  We are lucky to have a fantastic outside environment.  We have woods with a woodland trail – look out for the mini-beast hotel, the log pile house, our hand-made shelters and our fire circle.

We have a lovely pond where we enjoy pond dipping and can spot pond-skaters, dragonflieslilies and even frogs and newts in the summer.  We have a large field, an adventure trail, hut, a sun shelter, two play grounds and an allotment for each class to grow fruits and vegetables.   Reception class also have their very own outdoor area and hedgehog house.  
We are excited that we are now able to offer each child in KS2 a block of 9 Forest School sessions each academic year as part of our Friday Carousel of activities. Each year group has their sessions at a different time of the year so, as the children progress from Year 3 to Year 6, they will have experienced a 9 week block of sessions in each season. The classes are split in half so that the maximum group size is 15; this significantly changes and improves the dynamic of the session and therefore the quality of the nature experience each child has.

All pupils in KS1 and EYFS also take part in Forest School sessions; this year from Term 4 onward. These sessions are also split so that the group size remains small. Our aim is to get every child at Parkside out into nature 


 What is Forest School?

"Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees." 

We have invested in training our staff to understand the ethos and skills beyond Forest School. At Forest School, children are given memorable learning experiences through play and exploration; children learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and to use their initiative to solve problems and cooperate with others. We hope that the children will develop a respect for their environment which they will take with them into adult life.

In 2011, Forest School practitioners from across the UK agreed on six principles that form the ethos behind each Forest School session:

Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.

Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.

Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners

Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.

Principle 5. Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

Principle 6. Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning.

Parkside's Forest School documents

Parkside's Forest School Handbook - background information and ethos behind Forest School, common queries, our policies and procedures, risk assessments and insurance documents.

Safety Guide and Practical Skills Handbook - this includes what to wear to keep safe, how to safely use tools and instructions for making various crafts, lighting a fire, cooking, tying knots and making different shelters.

Woodland Handbook - information about the Parkside woods, keeping our woods sustainable and questions for extending children's play in the woods.

Parkside's Ecological Impact Matrix

Parkside's Woodland Management Plan

Site Assessment 1
Site Assessment 2
Site Assessment 3

Where does Forest School take place?

Forest School take place within our school woods, but we are fortunate that the extensive Heathfield Park Estate has offered to open up their grounds for us to walk to for some of our sessions in the future. 
In KS2, Forest School sessions take place for either a whole morning or afternoon, every week for a 9 week block.

Pupils in EYFS and KS1 spend a whole afternoon, every week for a 6 week block.


What happens at a typical Forest School session? 


The opportunities to learn at Forest School are endless, but a typical session may involve the following: 

A Typical Forest School Session


Travel to site - may be woods in school grounds or at an off-site location.


Fire circle - all children take a seat at the fire circle, which is central to all that happens at forest school


Health and Safety - Forest School leader to share any specific hazards from daily risk assessment; practise certain procedures e.g behaviour around fire circle.


Idea 'seeds' - Leader gives an introduction to the session around fire circle, such as a story, game or activity, based on observations from previous sessions e.g. An excerpt from Harry Potter.


Free Choice - Children choose which activities they would like to engage in, adults may model certain ideas and skills to support learning e.g. how to whittle an elder wand with tools.  Common Forest School activities include, but are not exclusive to:

  • Lighting a campfire.
  • Shelter building.
  • Cooking food.
  • Discovering wildlife/habitats.
  • Woodwork skills (sawing, drilling, whittling and splitting using potato peelers, palm screws, hammers and, when confident, bow saws and fixed blade knives).
  • Woodland art.
  • Child-led play.


Circle time - time at the end of a session around the fire circle to reflect and share hot chocolate!


Closing Ceremony - a song, story or activity to signify the end of the session.  The fire is put out.


As the children feel more comfortable in the woods, the sessions become increasingly child-led and as such, Forest School is not about a set programme of planned activities. Children are given encouragement to direct their own learning. The role of our trained staff is therefore to stimulate, scaffold and extend the child's learning.



What do you wear at Forest School?

We ask that all children at Parkside have wellies or old trainers in school at all times, so that we can maximise our learning outside, whatever the weather!
On days when children are undertaking Forest School sessions, they will need to come into school wearing the following old clothing:

Winter Clothing

Summer Clothing


Long sleeved t-shirt/shirt


Coat or all-in-one

Warm hat

Gloves NB not mittens

Wellies with warm socks

Waterproof trousers are provided

Sun hat

Sun cream applied before school

Lightweight long sleeved top

Lightweight long trousers


Waterproof trousers are provided

High Weald Hero School

We are  also a High Weald Hero school.  In partnership with High Weald Heroes, we mapped out Welly Walks for our Infant and Junior classes.  These walks are great fun and help us to learn about our local environment, such as how pigs have had such ainfluence on the way our countryside looks today!  Click here to read and watch a video about this.


Bird Cam

We love looking at our bird nest camera, and you can see our family of blue tits online in the spring and summer here.

What do you want to learn outdoors at Parkside?

On this wallwisher, tell the teachers what else you would like to learn about or what activities you really enjoyed:
Write about outdoors learning on our school wallwisher.

Why is outdoor learning important?

Outdoor learning allows children to have a greater appreciation for the natural world, to take risks, to problem solve alone or as a team and to understand how living things grow and interrelate. Physical activity in the fresh air is also great for our well-being and fitness.  

Being outdoors offers a great 'classroom' for inspiring literacy, science, art and undertaking maths activities.  For instance, the pond and its organisms lend themselves to lots of counting, pattern seeking, measuring and recording.  We even use the pond in literacy to think of fantasy characters living underneath the surface!  

How else can I learn outdoors?

Go on a leaf hunt with this spotter sheet

Go on a twig hunt with this spotter sheet.

Hunt for animal tracks with this spotter sheet.

Go on a woodland wildlife hunt.

Make a bird cake.

Make a bird feeder.

Read tips on becoming wildlife photographer.