Learning Westonbirt

Using outdoor space to support your class’s emotional wellbeing

After a tough couple of years, mental health has never been higher on the agenda. 

Forest bathing is the perfect whole-class activity to help children de-stress and boost their emotional wellbeing in a natural way. 

This blog is your step-by-step guide to introducing forest bathing to your class’s weekly routine, in any outdoor space. 

The basics 

Forest bathing is the Japanese process of relaxation, known in Japan as shinrin yoku. It’s the simple method of being calm and quiet among the trees, observing nature around you while breathing deeply.  

Forests provide the perfect environment to reconnect with nature. But forest bathing is also suitable for outdoor spaces like gardens, parks and school playgrounds. 

These exercises support the teaching of concentration and mindfulness. They also provide an excellent opportunity for children to learn from each other.

#AutumnLeafWatch winner 2018 - unfeignedphoto
#AutumnLeafWatch 2018 winner - unfeignedphoto
Holding acorns

Getting started

Find a quiet spot that makes your class feel safe. You might like to try different outdoor areas over the course of a term to decide on the place your group prefers.

Ask your class to move slowly so they can see and feel more, while taking long breaths deep into the abdomen.

Slowing the exhalation of air to twice the length of the inhalation sends a message to the body that it can relax. 

For more tips on encouraging mindfulness in children, download our KS2 and KS3 forest bathing activity sheet. 

We had a great time. It was lovely for the pupils to be outside, learning new skills and re-connecting with each other away from the classroom. We followed up with some writing and it’s clear how much the children valued the opportunity.
Mr Kennedy, Cherry Willingham Primary at College Wood

A full sensory experience

Next, ask your class to stop and sit, if possible. Encourage children to take in their surroundings using all five senses. 

Ask them to focus on what they can see, hear, touch, smell and taste in the moment, rather than what else they are going to do that day. If their mind wanders off, gently bring focus back to their surroundings.  

For this activity, it can help if everyone keeps their eyes open. Colours associated with nature, like greens and blues, are widely believed to be calming and healing.

Ask the group to think about: five things they can see, four things they can hear, three things they can touch, two things they can smell, one thing they can taste. Then ask them to think about one emotion or feeling they’re aware of.

Ladybird on leaf
Young girl in yellow coat playing with pine needles on the forest floor

A mindful imagination 

Now lead your class in sitting quietly using mindful observation and their imaginations.

Talk to your class about going on a magical forest adventure. Support them to let their mind wander through the forest of their imagination. Ask the children to keep their eyes closed and share: what colours can you see? What animals live in your imaginary forest? What sounds echo through the trees?

When everyone is ready, take three slow breaths and open your eyes.

Extend this activity by trying our forest yoga for kids video or listening to our forest meditation for teachers

The wellbeing benefits of a forest visit   

Teachers have been asking for help re-socialising their classes during visits to the woodlands we care for.  

Wild Woodcraft, one of our learning providers in Lincolnshire, understand the importance of using outdoor space for wellbeing, strengthening bonds and mental health.

They've created a new programme called ‘Wild thrive and survive’ to help meet young people’s needs after lockdown. 

If your class enjoyed the activities in this blog, consider booking a visit to your local forest. Our learning providers can support you to learn more about practising mindfulness during curriculum-linked sessions.

The time in the forest has made the year group gel and has been really good for their mental health as well as the primitive bushcraft skills that we always learn. Fabulous to be back!
Jeanette, Tealby Primary School at College Wood

We want to support the next generation to connect with nature in the nation’s forests.

We welcome trips to forests from educational groups, either self-led or supported by our learning partners.

Find your closest forest and pre-book your trip.

Keep exploring...

Child looking at bug through magnifying glass, near pink flowers
Find free resources to download, or look for a school trip in a forest.
Learning Westonbirt

We are delighted to be able to welcome back school and group visits to the nation's forests. 

You will need to book in advance, before visiting the forest. Please contact the local learning team for more information.

Please note: group sizes may be limited. Our sites are busy and access to car parks, play equipment and other facilities may be reduced.

Forest learning and painting activities

Subscribe to our learning newsletter to receive more information and free resources on how the forest can be used as a classroom without walls for students of all ages. 

So what can you expect?

Termly updates from the forest Lesson plans for early years through to KS4 Downloadable resources Tips for your school visit

 

Please note that you will be unable to submit a generic group email address, such as admin@.

Children holding acorns
Blog
27 September 2021
Everything you need to know to organise a successful teacher-led forest visit. Help overcoming potential barriers to visiting the nation's forests.