Woodland learning course for children to branch out

Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) Forest Kindergarten training has received full SQA accreditation, meaning it could be rolled out to educational institutions across Scotland as early as August.

The Forest Kindergarten programme was developed by FCS in 2009 and is designed to equip early years teachers with the knowledge, understanding and skills to support children in learning through play in local woodlands and green spaces.

The course includes activities such as exploring for bugs, tracking animals, arts and crafts, den building, and learning about the dangers and risks to look out for in a woodland setting.

Research has shown that play and learning in woodland and greenspaces leads to a range of benefits for children’s development, including better concentration, better communication skills, greater stamina, improved balance and coordination, increased confidence and appreciation of the outdoors.

Sally York, education policy adviser at Forestry Commission Scotland, said: “FCS’s partnership with the SQA has been invaluable for accrediting the Forest Kindergarten course. With it becoming a nationally recognised qualification, this will add value to the course for early years practitioners. It will benefit them and the children they work with, in that the practitioner will have a more in depth understanding and appreciation of early years pedagogy and play outdoors.”

FCS is seeking colleges and educational institutions from around Scotland to deliver the newly accredited Forest Kindergarten course as part of their early years curriculum. The programme is currently being delivered by West College and has been completed by almost 200 students.

Geraldine Miller, curriculum quality leader childhood practice at West College, said: “We have been embedding the three-day Forest Kindergarten programme in our course delivery since 2014 and are very fortunate to have the support of FCS in its roll out for early years students. The Kindergarten programme thus far has engaged students and staff in practical hands-on learning, designed to equip them with the skills needed to make the most of the outdoor space available. This allows children the freedom to play, explore and learn without limits.

“With the Scottish Government 1140 hours expansion programme underway it is important for early years practitioners to embrace the possibilities within the boundaries of their settings. As a college we are delighted that SQA and FCS have this new National Work-based Award, which recognises the value of on and off site outdoor space as an integral part of the learning processes for pre-school children.”

Colleges, educational institutions and early years practitioners interested in finding out more about the Forest Kindergarten programme, please contact Marian Cairns at marian.cairns@forestry.gsi.gov.uk