Forest School & Urban Orchard

What happens in Forest School?

Groups of children visit the school site at least once a week for the morning or afternoon. They wear waterproofs and wellies which also helps children remember where they are going. Everyone meets at base camp and the rules are shared. The children will then take part in a short activity that has been planned together with the class teacher (so that activities can be repeated in class after or before so that the children are not learning skills in isolation). The children return to base camp and share what they have done. After this formal structured session, children are able to explore on their own. They are provided with resources from previous sessions so that they can practice their skills.

When the session finishes we come together at base camp and have hot chocolate and a biscuit.

Some of the activities we offer children in Forest School include:

  • Reading stories with an outdoor theme
  • Building shelters
  • Digging
  • Collecting natural things
  • Experiencing seasons
  • Feeling trees, listening to the wind in the branches, rolling on natural surfaces
  • Hide and seek in and out of trees
  • Observing things grow and change

Forest School allows our children:

  • The time and space to explore and learn at their own pace
  • To develop a relationship with their outdoor environment through frequent and regular experiences throughout the year, not just a one off
  • To use their own inherent individual style of learning

Forest School offers our children:

  • Opportunities to make their own assessments of risk
  • Opportunities to develop thinking, speaking and listening and problem solving skills
  • Opportunities to build on their innate motivation and positive attitude to learning
  • Opportunities to help them understand, appreciate and care for the natural environment
  • Opportunities to support and enhance all areas of learning


The Orchard

On 3rd of March 2016 we planted our school orchard with thanks to the Urban Orchard Project who helped make this possible. We planted 12 different varieties of fruit trees. Every child at Willow Dene helped to plant a tree in the orchard and either watered, dug or planted.  Our orchard is going to take 3 years before we harvest our first crop and although the trees look small they will produce lots of fruit in the years to come. Many of the classes in Willow Dene made a range of apple, pear and plum based desserts and shared them with their friends. We hope to continue to develop the space and include new plants and resources for both children and adults to enjoy.

Did you know… Apple trees need 20 litres of water a week when they are in bloom to help them grow? That is a lot of watering and children who have sensory diets and need movement breaks may be visiting the orchard to water our trees.

The orchard would not have been possible without our Orchard Leaders who chose the trees and know lots about apple, pears and plums. They will be helping to make sure the trees are well looked after for the foreseeable future.

 Lewis Mcneill of the Urban Orchard Project has supported the development of the site and in conjunction with their project we won the ‘tree and learning’ award from the ‘tree council’ We attended a special event in the town hall and met lots of like-minded people all celebrating our city and trees!

We will be continuing to work with Lewis and the Urban Orchard Project when they support us with the on-going upkeep of our space. Next time we see them some of us will be having a lesson in Pruning!