We were introduced to Jungle School when G2 was in EYC. It was a new initiative championed by G2’s class teacher who had a very positive experience with the forest schools in the UK. I confess that I loved the idea right from the outset. There was no need to convince me why we needed to have Jungle School because I believe that Nature Immersion is vital for optimal child development. Outside of Jungle School, we make it a point to take regular trips to the great outdoors.
- strengthens the immune system
- increases focus, creativity, problem-solving skills
- helps children with ADD/ADHD
- enhances learning ability, productivity, and overall performance
- develops resistance to stress and depression, reduces aggression, and increases happiness
- builds self-esteem, self-discipline, and self-awareness
- elevates psychological and emotional well-being
See also: Parks and Other Green Environments: Essential Components of a Healthy Human Habitat – Kuo, 2010.
Jungle School is not just about getting kids back into nature. It goes one step further to extend their learning opportunities. The following was shared at a school workshop to explain a little more about what Jungle School is and what it offers our children.
What is Jungle School?
The Jungle School program is modelled after the Forest School – a concept made popular in the UK. The origins of Forest Schools date as far back as 1927, when Laona, Wisconsin started the world’s first Forest School.
Forest school is a type of outdoor education in which children visit forests/woodlands, learning personal, social and technical skills. It has been defined as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment”. Forest school is both a pedagogy and a physical entity, with the use often being interchanged.
Forest school uses the woods and forests as a means to build independence and self-esteem in children. Topics are cross-curriculum including the natural environment, for example, the role of trees in society, the complex ecosystem supported by a wilderness, and recognition of specific plants and animals. Personal skills are also highly valued, such as teamwork and problem solving. The woodland environment may be used to learn about more abstract concepts such as mathematics and communication. – Wikipedia
- a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
- takes place in a natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
- uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
- aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
- offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
- is run by qualified practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Benefits of Jungle School
- A lot of research has been published linking behaviour, learning, and well-being to the outdoors and the positive impact it has.
- Studies show that children who connect with the natural world at an early age are generally more self-confident, independent, and creative.
- Playing outdoors brings a sense of well-being to children and stimulates positive collaborative social interactions. These experiences leave children better prepared for real world situations and more adept at out of the box thinking.
An evaluation of Forest Schools in England and Wales, also report the following benefits:
- Confidence: children had the freedom, time and space to learn and demonstrate independence
- Social skills: children gained increased awareness of the consequences of their actions on peers through team activities such as sharing tools and participating in play
- Communication: language development was prompted by the children’s sensory experiences
- Motivation: the woodland tended to fascinate the children and they developed a keenness to participate and the ability to concentrate over longer periods of time
- Physical skills: these improvements were characterised by the development of physical stamina and gross and fine motor skills
- Knowledge and understanding: the children developed an interest in the natural surroundings and respect for the environment
Jungle School Learning
Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education. – David Polis
Jungle School allows children to get outside and learn, without realising they are learning, through unstructured play.
“At forest school, children learn to think, question and justify what they think and that’s a much better stepping stone to commerce or engineering. Clearly children will e what they are. We just give them the best equipment to do it.” – Emma Harwood, Dandelion forest school (The Guardian – Dec, 2009).
Jungle School provides children the opportunity to learn to take risks without being at risk. I believe that this is one of the most important aspects of Jungle School. In this modern age of parenting where we have bubble-wrapped so much of their growth and development, many children struggle with risk assessment. Jungle School encourages them to step out of their comfort zone on their own terms and establish their own limits.
“Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defence) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth). Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.” – Abraham Maslow