Forest Schools in Hong Kong
In the bustling city of Hong Kong, a unique educational approach has taken root amidst the concrete jungle: Forest schools. These innovative learning environments bring nature into the heart of the urban landscape, providing children with immersive outdoor experiences that promote holistic development and a deep connection to the natural world.
What is a Forest School?
“Forest School” is an education model which teaches through the outdoors in the early years (around ages two-seven). Inspired by the Scandinavian education system, it aims to develop a lifelong relationship with the natural world through hands-on experiences in settings such as forests, woodlands, meadows and beaches. Children try things out for themselves in a safe, non-judgemental, nurturing environment where play, exploration and supported risk-taking are encouraged.
What are the Benefits?
The philosophy behind Forest Schools is the belief that children thrive when given the opportunity to connect with nature regularly. By fostering a sense of wonder, appreciation and respect for the environment they gain a deep and meaningful connection to the world and an understanding of how a learner fits within it. Children are inspired to explore and lead their own learning which develops children’s creativity, confidence, resilience, and self-esteem.This holistic approach fosters the development of the whole child including:
Physical Development: Outdoor activities in Forest Schools promote physical fitness and gross motor skills. Climbing trees, balancing on logs, and exploring uneven terrains help children develop strength, coordination, and spatial awareness.
Cognitive Development: The multi-sensory experiences provided by Forest Schools enhance cognitive development. Children engage in problem-solving activities, critical thinking, and mathematical concepts as they explore the natural world and engage with the elements of nature.
Social Skills: Forest Schools encourage collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Children engage in cooperative activities, such as building shelters or organising group games, fostering social skills, and developing positive relationships with their peers.
Emotional and Environmental wellbeing: Forest Schools promote calculated risk-taking, enabling children to develop resilience, self-confidence, and a sense of self-efficacy. The controlled exposure to challenges and risks helps children learn to assess their capabilities and make informed decisions. They also cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Children learn about ecosystems, biodiversity, and the importance of conservation.
In our increasingly digital and urbanised world, Forest Schools offer a valuable opportunity to reconnect children with the natural world while enhancing both their cognitive and physical abilities, cultivating social skills, and fostering resilience.
Options for Forest education in Hong Kong
Bloom KKCA Academy
In this child-centred programme, students are given the space, freedom and skills for self-discovery, learning through hands-on experience in a forest setting. Working on a different theme and problem each quarter, they’ll work together to solve it in a supportive environment.
Discovery Bay International School
DBIS offers a forest and beach school programme alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. The campus has purpose-built Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms and an engaging outside play area.
Forest House Waldorf School
At Forest House, children engage in hands-on activities such as woodwork and modelling, as well as learning traditional subjects through a curriculum that is appropriate to their stage of development. The non-profit organisation offers an inclusive environment in a natural setting which gives students the opportunity to play with natural materials, breathe fresh air, increase their powers of observation and work out their excess energy.
ICHK Hong Lok Yuen Kindergarten
ICHKHLY is the first accredited Forest Schools Leadership Centre outside of the UK and the first school in Hong Kong to earn the Forest Schools Leadership Centre certification. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, it has recently won various sustainability awards for its efforts helping children to take ownership for the natural world. Their programme focuses encouraging children to be resilient and to flourish academically, socially, emotionally and physically all in a spacious outdoor setting (including a mini forest and field) located close to nature in Tai Po.
Japanese International School
JIS complements the learning inside classrooms with a strong outdoor education programme to create an appreciation and empathy with the local environment. Students are given opportunities to understand the issues facing our planet and the role that we can take to make a positive difference. (see image below)
Leapfrog is set right out in nature in the Sai Kung Country Park, allowing them to provide a full Forest School program led by qualified FS practitioners. They follow the UK Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum with outdoor educational experiences and student and adult-led, hands-on activities.
Address: Leapfrog Kindergarten, 11 Pak Tam Chung Village, Sai Kung Country Park, Sai Kung, Hong Kong,
Contact: 2791 1540, www.leapfrogkindergarten.org
Malvern College Pre-School
This was one of the first schools in Hong Kong to introduce a forest-beach school programme, managed by Level 3 certified Forest School leaders. The outdoor programme encourages children to lead their learning and has a focus on developing all five senses.
Address: G/F and 1/F, Viking Court, 165-166 Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun
Contact: 3898 4670, [email protected]
Mulberry House International Kindergarten
The Forest School programme here takes place both on campus and in the great outdoors to give students the space, freedom, and practical skills for exploration and discovery. There are weekly field trips, from visits to organic farms to hikes to the Tai Po Kau Education Trail, and they also grow their own plants and vegetables at the organic farm.
Address: LG, Mayfair By the Sea I, 23 Fo Chun Road, Tai Po,
Contact: 2311 9008, [email protected]
Address: G/F, Ocean Court, 3 Aberdeen Praya Road, Aberdeen,
Contact: 5598 0555, [email protected]
Wilderness International Kindergarten
At Wilderness your child will have daily access to a large outdoor area equipped with a tree house, sensory gardens, and climbing frames. In this safe and nurturing environment they’ll learn through structured learning, discovery activities, and enriching play, which are planned and facilitated by world-class early childhood educators.
The Six Core Principles of Forest Schools
- Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits. The cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
- Forest School takes place in a natural or woodland environment to support the development of a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
- Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
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