Woodland Words

wood cookiesCreating a synthesis between play and learning in a woodland space is our craft as outdoor educators at The Wood School.  Play allows children and adults to cut corners in the learning process:

“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain- unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions” – Dr Karyn Purvis

Recently we’ve been playfully exploring reading and writing skills with both Owls and Robins, using our creativity to inspire and motivate the children we work with.  What does learning to read look like in our setting?

Stories are the cornerstone of our work.  We use stories to inspire children’s play and to bring the group together.  From tales that are told aloud orally to chapter books which develop over time- we have found stories to be key to engaging children with the activities we bring and opening up important discussions. However, generating a love of stories and books right from the start is deemed by many modern educational theorists to be the most essential part of a child’s reading education and this will give them the motivation they need to learn.  In the Owls over the past term, children have been working together to invent their own stories, which unfold over time and the children illustrate.

Learning to read can also be treated much more subtly – for many children in the early stages of reading, understanding the sound patterns of the language and differentiating between different sounds and making them rhyme can be fundamental to the learning process.  If we are able to recognize sound patterns we will eventually see those patterns in written words too.  Using the “Silly Soup” rhyme we can find ridiculous objects that rhyme to put into a silly soup.  Objects and words that rhyme can also be hidden throughout the wood to get children moving around as they learn, satisfying their need for physical activity.

Reading isn’t just about words.  Helping children to understand that the marks that we make can have meaning and to decipher that meaning also underpins the learning to read process.  It doesn’t get more fun than reading a map to find a pretend archaeological site for the children to uncover.

And why limit writing to pen and paper when we can write with play dough or wood cookies with letters on?  Climbing trees and whittling swords is our forte at The Wood School but it’s up those trees and through those swords that stories are found and a lifelong love of reading and writing can be uncovered.

Easter Holiday Club Bookings Are Open!

Bookings are open now for the Easter holiday club 2019 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9th, 10th, 11th and 16th, 17th, 18th April  between 9am and 4pm and you can make a booking directly through our website and find out more information right here.  There will always be a campfire for cooking, the tool area up ready for making things, group games, tree climbing, play, foraging, bushcraft activities or just a chance to get muddy.  Please pass on the word to those who might want their child to have a little bit of ‘wood school’ in their lives!



Keeping Warm in the Winter Woods

m_o_11009_n05qydgh952p4nx62v8andzrjttzmrf6The Scandinavian proverb goes that “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.  It can be hard to believe this on a wet, grey day in the woods, frantically trying to put up a shelter that will keep us dry or as we usher fourteen energetic Robins into a tiny cabin- heaving off boots and hanging up sodden clothing by the fire.

Yet children always find little ways to enjoy themselves – we have stood back in torrential downpours whilst children have rallied together to empty a puddle underneath a swing, build dams to create pools, constructed bridges across boggy patches or even collected rainwater from the edge of shelters  drip by drip and perhaps used it to observe their own reflections.  Obviously not having to take responsibility for the washing basket can bolster your creativity in wet weather!

We have also watched children fling off coats in the freezing cold as they move their bodies so much they generate some sort of mystical warmth which as adults we struggle to replicate.

At Wood School, for all the plans that we make, our days are determined by the weather.  Low light on grey days can make some craft projects impossible and when temperatures approach zero any skill involving fine motor skill is a write off.  However, as

wet day 2

well as an obstacle, it provides an opportunity for the children to be spontaneous and for us to be creative as educators in finding new ways to spark curiosity.

Rallying together to empty a puddle or build a dam provides massive learning opportunities for developing social and communication skills and when disagreements inevitably arise, for conflict resolution skills.  Children can also learn about physics as they try to figure out how to build their dam or bridge and as they work out how to channel the water in the direction they want.  Collecting water can provide an opportunity for us to present children with the language of measurement and capacity.

Knowing how to dress when it’s cold and where to put your belongings when you no longer want to wear them can be a really long and repetitive lesson, but if we persist over time it furnishes children with skills to take responsibility for their self-care.

Hence, our task as educators sometimes in the wet, wintry woods is to develop a better perception of when to simply abandon our well-laid plans and use the natural environment and it’s unpredictability as a learning resource which the children themselves know best how to access.

Booking on our Compassionate Communication course in January


We’ve tweaked our bookings page and (fingers crossed) it now works! There are 10 places available – and we have had lots of interest – so get booking now if you are keen. Here’s the link to book:


We are looking to put on other courses like this – as its so important to our approach. So let us know if you wanted to book, but couldn’t get a place this time.


Compassionate Communication Training

An invitation to a two day training event for Wood School families on Compassionate Communication (sometimes known as Non Violent Communication). To be held on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th of January 2018.

may and isla

Led by trainer Sarah Ludford (http://www.connectwithcompassion.com/) this is a core introductory course for this approach.

Together we will learn the key components of Compassionate Communion. We will share examples of the kinds of behaviour we find challenging in children. We will seek to understand the causes of this behaviour – to see what children are deeply needing when they behave in these ways. We will look at our own patterned responses to this behaviour and see how separating out ‘observations’, ‘feelings’ and ‘needs’, offers a skillful alternative approach. Responding not from ‘right and wrong’ thinking or rewards and punishment, but from an empathetic place that values connection, leading to a more nourishing engagement with the difficulties we face as parents and carers of children.

The cost of the course is £150 per person – which covers the cost of the venue and the trainer. Two members of the Wood School team will be attending. We have ten places for Wood School families – so please book now to avoid disappointment.

Use the link below to book.



Would you like to work at Wood School?

We have an exciting opportunity to join our team at Wood School as an Outdoor Educator.


Wood School was born out of a dream to create a tiny school in a wood: a small, creative and nature based learning environment for urban children. We are now in our seventh year are open five days a week. We have up to 25 children (aged between four and eleven years old) and four staff a day. Some children have been with us since we opened, whilst others are just starting – they come for between one and five days a week. We are registered with Oftsed and have just been assessed as ‘good with outstanding features’.

We now have a range of opportunities for people to join our team. Please see the ‘Working with us’ page for more information. :

In all our team members, we look for creative individuals, who love to work outside with children, have a compassionate and democratic approach to their work and who can inspire curiosity and a love of learning.

Wood School is growing up!


We have always aspired to be a small school in a wood. A place that enables children to thrive and learn.

Six years after we first set up, we are now ready to offer an entire primary education – should you wish your child to be with us for five days a week from September. Each day will be themed around a different aspect of learning. You can choose how many days your child attends.

We’ll be offering children the chance to learn in a creative, playful way – following their curiosity, problem solving, working individually and in small groups, creating their own projects and learning through being outside. Above all we will seek to stimulate a love of learning and to support children to grow into compassionate adults – able to contribute to their communities in ways that are both fulfilling and meaningful.

For children aged seven and under, Wood School will feel very much like it is now. Our emphasis on child led play will remain central to our approach.  Adults will help with creating a sense of community and building relationships.

For the older children, we will be putting in more structure – tailored for different age groups and aiming to offer challenge and opportunities for growth. Half the day will still be given over to play, building friendship and working on children’s own projects.  There’ll also still be a ‘play in the woods’ day on our Forest School Fridays.

Come and find out more at our meetings on Thursday 9th June in the woods.

There’s a 2:00 – 3:30pm meeting aimed at existing Wood School families and a 5:00 – 6:30pm meeting aimed at those families new to Wood School – but you are welcome to attend either!

We’ll have staff on hand in the woods to look after children whilst you’re at the meeting if that helps.  Let us know using the Eventbrite links below if you’d like to book a place at one of the meetings.

Eventbrite - Becoming a small school in the woods

Eventbrite - Introducing a small school in the woods

Learning at Wood School

The Wood School was born out of a dream to create a tiny school in a wood: a small, creative and nature based learning environment for urban children. We are now in our fifth year – building on our experiences and deepening our practice.

Wood School is currently open three days a week: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We are based at Paupers Wood in West Didsbury – a small privately owned woodland. The School has places for 24 children a day and our normal staffing level is to have four staff a day, plus termly volunteers. We have a sliding daily fee structure that is linked to family income and in the main we follow the Manchester City Council term dates. Families commit to coming to Wood School a term at a time – though some children have been with us since we started!

Children at Wood School come from a mixture of learning backgrounds: some home-schooled, others going to ‘normal’ school when they are not with us. The Wood School has a teaching team of seven core staff coming from a variety of backgrounds and bringing with them a range of passions and skills.

At Wood School we see learning as a process not an outcome. Critically we hope to foster the children’s intrinsic desire to learn. We want to harness their creativity and develop their skills. In order to do this, we feel five things are vital: being outside lots; play and inspiration; self directed learning; creating a thriving community and knowing that everyone has intrinsic worth and that everybody’s needs matter.

making things

Learning by being outside

Being outside and in nature

A defining feature of Wood School is that we are primarily an outdoor learning environment in a wood. A woodland is a constantly changing environment and so is inherently stimulating. It provides a richness of resources for children to use in their play and investigations – sticks, seeds, the weather, things growing and decomposing.

Being in a wild, natural environment is shown to reduce stress and promote well-being and health. At Wood School we see how being in a woodland environment develops resilience, creativity and independence in the children and fostering life skills – such as sewing, tool work and cooking. We value the deep connection to the natural world that we can see Wood School making in our children.

snow arrives