The Muddy Puddle Teacher

Forest Schools

Is Forest School or Outdoor Learning what you need?

Is Forest School or Outdoor Learning what you need?

Before we start to compare the differences between Forest School and Outdoor Learning, let’s define them first. I will not reference the Forest School Association or any other body that tries to regulate the Forest School or ensure its pure form. At The Muddy Puddle Teacher, we respect, and rightfully so, the name Forest Schools and its authenticity must keep to its proper Scandinavian form. However, as a teacher and Level 3 Forest School Trained practitioner, here is what I see is Forest School on the ground running.

Firstly, Forest School is an approach, not a brand. Therefore, it is open to interpretation. It originated in Scandinavia and is still used today as the educational approach for children up to the age of 7. They are entirely outdoors, focusing on self-esteem and confidence levels. The children experience making fire, cooking outside, using tools to make things, and playing with little to nothing.

Educators who visited Finland brought this approach to England in the 80s, and it has slowly been gaining momentum since then. In the 2000s, Forest School started to find its way into school, mainly at the infant level, in 2010, moving across school into KS2.

However, teachers found fitting Forest Schools into their everyday complex. Over in Finland, their curriculum up to the age of 7 and beyond is no more than one sheet of A4 paper. Even at the secondary level, their curriculum expectations are one piece of paper. Teachers are highly respected professionals in the Scandinavian countries and one of the most highly paid public sector workers and all must have masters level qualifications. They are trusted and guided by their pupils as to the learning content. Because of this learning experience, the children in these countries enjoy school. They enjoy learning and have all the attributes required to be good scholars and learners. Additionally, class sizes are small, so teachers can tailor and support when needed.

In comparison, even the English curriculum alone is seven pages long. With a class size of 30 and in KS2 beyond, Forest School ended up becoming another ‘add on’ and burden to their already massive workload. We, I, loved Forest Schools and if we had the chance, the teachers would have done Forest Schools every day, but Ofsted and the requirements to teach the curriculum were there. So, it never truly worked in schools and it was never taught in the pure form or as Scandinavian countries did it because of the cultural differences.

Let’s now address what outdoor learning is and its differences from Forest Schools. Outdoor learning is a general term used for taking lessons outside. Those that are linked to the curriculum you are using. However, there needs to be more research and guidance in outdoor learning, lack of resources and school-designed training.

So, how does The Muddy Puddle Teacher Approach fit into all of that? So I saw that Forest Schools was impactful and had I not been bound to a very full (dare I say it controlling) curriculum and a class full to the brim at 30, I would have been doing just this. I also loved to teach my lessons, typically inside, outside. So I merged the two, forming The Muddy Puddle Teacher Approach.

We are a structured Outdoor Learning Approach with an ethos to help with the practicalities and the sustainability of the learning conducted outside, with the values of Forest Schools to keep the quality and purpose of why we are out there.

For us, our approach is so successful because we made it fit. Forest Schools would be amazing to have here in the UK, but I can not see it being our only form of nurturing and educating our little ones anytime soon. But this, our approach works. It merges the two successfully while teaching the curriculum and still getting our kids outside and muddy, without any added or extra work on the teachers. It saves them time because there is less work to mark. We are a paper-free approach; we encourage only active and creative methods. More so, we only use natural and upcycled materials, which makes us more inclusive for neurodivergent children and greener too!

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Forest School Books

Forest Schools Training Providers


Forest Schools Resources


See our training packages. 

Book a chat with us.

See face-to-face options. 

For more details on Forest School and training packages, head to the FSA.

Links to: 

  • PSHE – working collaboratively  

What other resources are like this?

Why do I need to teach outside more? 

Sadly, children play much less than they used to; according to Save the Children, only one in four children play out regularly on their street. It is believed that the pandemic has also made this worse as children choose to play more alone.  It is also thought that children who play less are more likely to have mental health issues.  Check out our maths blog for more idea. 

How can I gain more confidence in this area? 

We are teachers who support educators to teach their curriculum outside. 

Outdoor learning is an effective teaching tool that can help children of all learner types access their curriculum in a fun and practical way. 

Outdoor Schemes of Work

Outdoor Learning Lesson Plans

Outdoor learning teacher training

Outdoor learning training 

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INSET Day Outdoor Learning Teacher Training

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