Forest School Singapore approach are guided by 3 pillars of leadership, Nature-Led, Child-Led and Context-Led. These are 3 pillars that we realised and document as approach after more than 5 years of experience doing Forest School in Singapore. The approach takes into consideration the environment, culture and flavour of the Singapore-Malayan region. It is with humble pride and rooted love that we would like to share with you the approach of Forest School Singapore.
First Pillar : Nature-Led
Mother Nature and the Environment is the main teacher of Forest School. She provides an infinite amount of curriculum, activities and learning. The environment of Nature changes every second (from leaf fall to a squirrel scuffling by), giving us a different environment in the same location every moment of the Forest School session in the woods. It is important to trust her when we do our sessions in the Forest and Parks. We pay attention to her clues and rhythm as we dwell amongst the forest. Our relationship with the land enhances and deepens as we follow the leadership of Nature, building that connection with Mother Nature and the habitat of the Heart.
In Nature-led, children gain an awareness of self and others
In Nature-led, adults gain a deeper trust for others and self.
Second Pillar : Child-Led
The child in Forest School, is trusted as an individual who has the ability to be in touch with their true inner self. Children come with their own knowledge and we can mutually learn from one another in the space of child-led practices. Children in Forest School lead their own Curriculum and Learning /Play Objective. There will be no need for our adult-driven agenda or structure (except “Safety due to Urban Structures and Designs”). Children decides on everything, from when to eat, when tto rest, what to learn, where to go and what they want to do for the day.
In Child-led, children gain a sense of ownership for self and others.
In Child-led, adults gain a sense of empowerment, that they do have a choice in life.
Third Pillar : Context-Led
Every community and land is unique. Each of them have their own cultures, rules-of-engagement (ROE) and stories. In doing Forest School, it is important to flow with the context that is given to us, from the land and community that we interact and engage with so closely. There will be ones that we follow, and ones that we seek to challenge and understand more. Forest Schooling is Community Work as well.
Example : For a land like Singapore, where Compulsory Education (in public school) is mandatory for every 7 years old Singaporean child (except Homeschooling), it is important that while runnning Forest School session, we have to be sensitive to the Primary Schooling rhythm and energy of our community.
In Context-led, children gain resilience towards facing the changing conditions of our society
In Context-led, adults gain a balance in understanding the world and life we live.
Our Foundational Learning Theories
Forest School cultivates a space that empowers children. Within this space, children will grow competent in all areas, in different stages and customised timeline in accordance with their own pace and time.
Our Primary Foundational learning theory is Vygotsky’s Zonal of Proximal Development. It serves as the guiding principle behind how we support our children and communities’ growth in Forest School
Primary Foundation (Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development)
Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
ZPD refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help (current level of development) and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner (potential level of development).
Scaffolding is the support mechanism that helps a learner successfully perform a task within his or her ZPD. It refers to the support or guidance from an adult or more competent peer to allow learners to gain new understanding or skills. These support can come in the form of demonstration, questioning, etc.
In the development of ZPD, there are 3 zones. (1) What the learner can do independently (2) What the learner can achieve with the assistance of a more knowledgeable other. (3) What the learner cannot do even with assistance.
ZPD represents the area (2), whereby children require scaffolding to achieve the task. He/she has to be assisted by breaking down the process of the task and gradually building to the complete task/activity.
This process then leads to internalization and automation, where the child will adopt learning via experience. They will apply those learning, and reinforce or adapt the experience to further learning.
From there, they will arrive at de-automation, where they will re-examine new situations to apply the learning, which will broaden and deepen their ability, making it more adaptable to new situations.
In the Forest School Programme setting, being able to understand ZPD, will give the leader the opportunity and right moment to step in and assist the child to gain the competency. These will also allow the leader to recognise when to step away to allow the child to carry out the task independently so as to reinforce their own learning.
Our Secondary Foundational learning theory is Burch’s Competence Model. It serves as the overview of how we understand our learning & growth in Forest School.
Secondary Foundation (Burch’s Competency Model)
Burch’s Competence Model
One of the Science of Learning Which We Strongly Believe In
Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence
This stage is described as “blissful ignorance” where learners are unaware of a skill or knowledge gap. Learners don’t actually see the need for a particular skill and if they do think about it at all, they assume it’s either way beyond them or too easy for them to bother with. To move past this stage, learners need to first find themselves in situations where they struggle and realize that there is something that they need to learn. An example of unconscious competence could be when a person may not want to learn how to drive, until they are faced with a situation where they need to drive and they realize that they have to learn how to drive.
Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence
Most people view this stage as the most uncomfortable phase as most people are used to feeling a certain level of competence in other spheres of their life. However, at this stage, learners start to recognize that they are not very good at certain skills or activities, which could lead to feelings of humiliation and embarrassment. However, acknowledgment of one’s incompetence prods one to improve, train and eventually become competent. It is very tempting for learners to give up when they are at this stage. Hence, learners at this stage need constant encouragement, support, and examples of people who have successfully mastered the skill. Feedback on performance should be given frequently to facilitate improvements in the process.
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
At this stage, the learner begins the adventure towards utmost competency. A consciously competent individual dedicates himself to the improvement of his skill by undertaking repeated practice, participation, and formal training of the skill. The skill can be practiced but only under conscious effort and attention. One useful technique to move on to the next stage is to teach the skill to another individual.
Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence
As learners build experience and expertise, they reach the stage of unconscious competence where they do not have to think about the activity they’re engaged in. When learners are at this level, engagement in skills looks effortless. The unconsciously competent person can often engage in other activities while engaging in the skill that they are unconsciously competent in. However, this could make it difficult for trainers to identify if their learners are still undergoing stage 1 or 2. Hence, it is important for the trainers to consciously remember to assume the role of learners. One way to do so is by attending a training course and watching other trainers at work.
Stage 5 – Beyond Conscious Competence
While it is not included in Burch’s Competence Model, many are campaigning for the inclusion of the fifth stage. In this fifth stage of competence, not only can learners practice the skills with grace and ease, but they can also step outside of themselves to see what they have done and identify the steps and underlying thought processes. Essentially, they become observers of their own skills.
If you’re keen to learn more about how this approach is conceived, yo