Guide to the Growing World of Nature Based Learning

Updated: Jun 24

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach us more than we can ever learn from books.”

Nature based learning, also known as Forest Schools, operate under a philosophy that aims to help children develop confidence, independence, creativity, and self-esteem through experiences in a natural environment. Nature based learning should stimulate the imagination and encourage connecting to the natural world. Unlike in brick and mortar schools, children are encouraged to free-play, collaborate, discover and be guided by their own curiosity.

For growing children, learning is not limited to the classroom. Learning is ongoing and extends beyond a curriculum, books and structure. Every moment your child interacts with the environment, important lessons are learned. Education that is limited to the classroom ignores essential hands on life-skills that can only be taught through interacting with their environment. Children learn independence, problem-solving skills, and resilience as they play in natural environments outside of a traditional school’s four walls.

Learning in nature - Lucky Beans Childcare West London

What is nature based learning?

Nature based learning, (also known under the umbrella term Forest School across the UK) is a learning approach that encourages children to have a hands-on approach with the great outdoors. The forest school approach is a holistic outdoor learning program that enhances children’s development and growth. Instead of spending all day inside sitting and focusing on indoor activities, learning extends outdoors and gives children the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the world around them. Nature based preschools offer both part-time or full-time learning with different age groups and across all seasons. Any kind of natural space is perfect for hands-on nature based learning!

A woman named Ella Flautau started the first Forest School in the early 1950s. She gathered children in a nearby forest, creating “walking kindergartens'' based on the Waldorf-Steiner approach to education. This approach favours child-led and play based models of learning. The trend continued to spread throughout Denmark in the 1950s, then later to the rest of Scandinavia before becoming Global. The movement made its way to the UK in the 1990s and has been growing rapidly since.

Baby playing in nature

What activities do Forest Schools prioritise and how does learning in nature benefit children?