Awakening of Singapore’s Forest Schools

What is Forest School like in Singapore?

In Forest School there is minimal structural curriculum as the program is largely child led learning. We provide the environment and materials, but leave the selection of activities, space and group to the learners individual prerogative. We encourage and believe in keeping the program open minded.

The Forest School Education models picked up from various countries around the World, will be integrated with the Singapore physical and educational landscape to enable children to have fun and explore but not forgetting the environmental and social needs.

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How is Forest School like in Singapore?

Here are some of the best Forest School experience, observed and taken from the Forest School sessions with local Children.

20160422_101107In one situation, an 8 year old autistic boy, was trekking in a nature trail, he picked up the stones and rocks lying on the ground, and tried to put them into his bag, he was adamant about putting all the rocks in (He love rocks). The common action taken by facilitator or adults will be to tell him to put the rocks away, or for slightly better approach, tell him that it will be difficult to put all of them in.

But applying the Forest School approach, our teacher, stood there with him for 20 minutes, while the boy continue to explore different variation of ways to put the rocks into the bag. At the end of it all, he realize the weight of the rock, understood the shapes and size couldn’t fit into the bag, and considering that he has to carry what he wants, the young boy decided not to carry the rocks, and left all of them aside.

Now had we not allow him to explore, he wont understand the weight, shapes and size of the rocks. He would not be making his own decision, even though he could. Sometimes it is more about the time we give children to explore their own learning in the program.

IMG_5527In another situation, a group of children were playing with sticks while taking a short walk along a green corridor, they were having “sword playing”, the parents at the side were concerned. They wanted to step in, but the adult interventions were held back.

The teacher went forward to ask the boys, if they intend to hurt their friends during the sword play, all of them said shook their head and said “No”. They just wanted to play with the stick in like a sword.

After that they comprehended our concern,  and took initiative to be more careful with their play. The common approach was to stop them from playing because it is dangerous, but the Forest School way, will be to empower the learners to acknowledge the risk, and manage it by their own behavior and action.

If its all child-led, then where do we (adults) come in?

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For facilitator, trainer, teacher, parents, volunteers, we come in as a guardian for their physical safety and a guiding light to their learning, reflection and realisation.

We set boundaries for the Forest School learning and working area, and ensure the learners understand their physical boundaries and the culture of this environment.

We help to facilitate their learning and reflection, by firstly being patient, and secondly asking questions. We want to move them towards their own realisation at the end of the day.

We also come in to have fun and build relationship with them, through the sessions.

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