Forest School and Risk Taking

“It would be better for the occasional child to fall out of a tree and break their wrist than develop repetitive strain injury from playing computer and tabletop games”

– Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 2007

Forest School actively develops children’s awareness of risk as well as their confidence in managing risk. One of the first activities children do at Forest School is to take an adult around the boundary of the site showing them all the things we need to be careful of. This exercise uses all their senses to think, see, feel, and share their perceptions of risk.

Therefore risk is not an abstract concept that children are being asked to understand, rather it is something they approach with their whole being and can consider as a direct experience before deciding what action to take. This is a very holistic approach to learning about risk that is applied throughout Forest School. As much of Forest School is child led this method of risk management is continually developed. Initially as children stay close to the adults tentatively exploring and seeking reassurance the adults are able to sensitively encourage consideration of the hazards, to facilitate opportunities for children to engage with and experience risk. As the children’s confidence and ability to manage risk grows they are able to explore more independently and put into practice their own judgements, trying the consequences out for themselves. Often the best learning happens and we are most acutely alive in situations where we are at the edge of our comfort zones but retain the power of choice whether to step forward or back.

Within certain boundaries Forest School encourages and facilitates such situations.