Forest School sessions should be child-led and free-flowing. Using traditional lesson plan templates to plan out your sessions will likely be self-defeating and leave you feeling frustrated.
Designed to reduce the time and unnecessary paperwork of traditional lesson plan templates the 5 Minute Forest School Lesson Plan supports you in planning your Forest School sessions quickly and effectively.
Unlike traditional lesson plans that often have every minute mapped out in detail our session plan is a fluid, working document. Take it into the woods with you and change it as you go along and your session evolves. The idea is to make notes to help you structure your session and encourage you to think about what you are planning to do, what experiences it will offer your learners and the impact it may have. As the name implies it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to complete.
What does the 5 Minute Forest School Lesson Plan cover?
The 5 Minute Forest School Lesson Plan reduces the burden when planning forest school sessions but keeps the focus children’s development. Each section of our forest school lesson plan is listed below, along with simple instructions on how to complete it.
What is the theme?
Themes allow a focus for our sessions. There are obvious theme such as the seasons, building with natural materials, woodland art, animal habitats and so on.
I like to introduce learners to new woodland areas by running a series of sessions on exploring the woodland by using the different senses so that is the theme for many of my initial sessions.
There doesn’t need to be a connection between the themes but look for ways that the sessions you are planning could link to and support your next focus.
How does it fit into previous or future sessions?
Some sessions may seem like they are standalone and do not link to anything you have before done or are planning for the future. Look though for ways that your session might build on what learners have previously experienced or the skills they are developing that may help them access different activities in the future.
The topic or theme of your sessions may change but they may be connected in different ways. You may be focussing on encouraging self-reflection by providing different opportunities for reflection each session. You may be supporting development of motor skills by offering a range of physical movement based activities.
What are your goals for this session? What do you want to achieve and what do you hope your learners will achieve?
Your objectives may be linked to your theme, for example you may want all learners to have engaged in activities that involved exploring the woodland using the sense of smell. Objectives can be completely unrelated to your theme, such as a learner or group behaving in a safe manner in the woodland environment.
When setting your objectives think about how you will measure them. How will you know which objectives you met?
How will you differentiate these activities?
Every group you work with will have a range of learners. Some will be more physically able than others. Some will be able to communicate their needs better than others. Some will be able to manage their emotions and respond appropriately in a range of situations.
Whatever you are planning there will be some learners who may find it easy, possibly even too easy, and some learners who may find it too challenging. What strategies could you use to make sure all learners have the opportunity to take part in the activity? How could you demonstrate or model the activity in different stages or in different ways? What size and combination or groups could support each other the best?
Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t always go to plan. The longer you work with an individual or group the better you will get to know them and the better you will be able to pitch the level of challenge to meet their needs.
Four spaces allow you to outline the activities you are planning for the session. Consider what sequence the activities could take place in but remember that you will need to be flexible and that the order of the activities or the time they take will likely differ from group to group.
Health and Safety Issues
For most sessions you wont need to fill anything out in this section. Your school or organisation should have a Forest School policy or handbook that covers typical health and safety issues such as weather, insect bits, use of tools or fire along with any site specific hazards.
This area is for you to note down any potential issues that are unique to this session. You may be doing a different activity such as felling trees or refilling a pond or there may be other users on the site during that session. Make sure you’ve completed any additional risk assessments if necessary.
What tools or equipment might you need?
Like the health and safety section your Forest School policy or handbook should have details of what gets taken with you to the woods each session. This is where you note down what you might need for the activities you are running this session. Is the focus on the theme of smell? Then we need cinnamon, coffee, mint and some other smelly things listed here.
Opportunity for reflection?
Reflection doesn’t have to take place at the end of the session and doesn’t have to be focussed on something creative such as the common ‘picture frame’ activity.
Offering different types of reflective activities will engage more learners and encourage wider development of self-reflection. Some learners will connect with creative activities and others will disengage from them. I run a number of sessions with older children and teenagers with social, emotional and mental health problems. Some of the best opportunities for reflection with these learners have arisen during casual conversation.
Encourage supporting adults to look for opportunities for reflection too and don’t wait until the end of the session, reflection is everywhere!
How do I get started?
Download the 5 minute Forest School Lesson Plan, print and scribble away! We’d love to hear how you get on with the plan.
The 5 Minute Forest School Lesson Plan was inspired by the original 5 minute lesson plan. If you also work in a traditional educational setting you may want to check it out over at Teacher Toolkit.