We are a group of like-minded, motivated teachers and parents who desire a more personal and holistic approach to our children’s education. With that collective goal in mind we’ve come together to form Alma Forest, a not for profit association offering early years provision to children aged 3 to 6 years old.
Nestled between the surrounding hills and the city of San Roque, Alma Forest is situated within the natural beauty of Pinar Del Rey nature park in Andalucía.
At Alma Forest we apply the Forest School approach, an educational method which has been adopted throughout Europe, America, Australia and beyond. This educational method reflects current research on how children learn.
In support of that aim, we utilise all the benefits of living in southern Spain such as the weather, rich culture and diverse natural environment allowing children to pursue their learning interests in a healthy, natural way.
Alma Forest is a response to the growing desire of parents, employers, entrepreneurs and society-at-large to create better opportunities for future generations through holistic learning in a natural environment.
“The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out – and an interest in the natural world doesn’t grow as it should. Nobody is going to protect the natural world unless they understand it.”
Sir David Attenborough
That each child will thrive in their discovery of self-knowledge, of nature and of modern ingenuity, applying their creativity and imagination as architects of a more resilient, collaborative and interconnected future.
Our mission is to develop innovative, dynamic and natural environments in which children are free to play, learn and reflect.
To observe, guide and support children in coming to know themselves and nurturing their connection to nature and the world. Like nature, we recognise that our resilience depends upon the diverse skills and unique qualities of our community.
We offer an education founded upon the principle of reciprocity whereby the entire community; teachers, students, parents and the environment, are understood to be both teachers and learners.
We will provide a strong foundation of academic skills, but also recognise and support the development and value of feeling, sensing and imagining as ways of knowing. In doing so we can sow the seeds of wisdom whilst promoting wellbeing, happiness and virtuosity.
“Forest School is an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.”
Forest School Association
Forest Schools are long-term programmes within a natural space, lead by a qualified practitioner. They focus on developing personal, social and emotional life skills through child-led, nature-based learning.
The practice of immersing children in nature from an early age has long been popular in Scandinavian countries, where pre-school children spend most of their day outside, every day, regardless of the weather. Unlike most other pre-schools, the focus of this type of early education is not to teach academic facts, but to give kids the opportunity to play and learn freely in nature.
Forest Schools offer an opportunity to build important physical, social, cognitive and life skills, whilst integrating academic knowledge and experiential application.
In Finland, the comprehensive school system has sat at the top of Europe’s rankings for the past 16 years. Official guidance emphasises the importance in pre-school of the ‘joy of learning’, language enrichment, communication and physical activity. Carefully organised play helps develop qualities such as attention span, perseverance, self-motivation and problem solving. Strong predictors of academic success – children become powerful learners.
“In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself.”
“The better the quality of pre-school, the better the outcomes, both emotionally and socially and in terms of academic achievement” says David Whitebread, director of the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning at the University of Cambridge.
Children learn to assess, appreciate and take informed risks, making sensible, knowledgeable decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter.
They learn how to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
Through trial and error, they are able to deal with failure and develop the resilience to keep trying.
Children improve their team building skills, empathy and cooperation, and become empowered to use their own initiative to solve individual challenges.
“Outside, in real life, is where humans learn best,” writes Anders Szczepanski, a Swedish outdoor learning expert. “That’s where we make use of all of our senses by seeing, listening, feeling, smelling, tasting and discerning. It fosters curiosity, creativity and cooperation, engages our emotions and makes us care about our environment, as well as our natural and cultural history.”
Letting children learn primarily in a natural environment makes perfect sense when you consider the many benefits of outdoor play that are backed by science. Specifically, studies have found that children who are enrolled in Forest Schools:
“Again and again, studies are suggesting that being in nature exercises a powerful effect on the way that brains and bodies develop, and that Forest Schools create the conditions for the free, creative, autonomous play that fosters naturally healthy, motivated and confident children.”
Sarah Blackwell, Founder and CEO of Forest Schools Education
At Alma Forest learning happens organically in an outdoor classroom setting where the natural environment encourages enquiring minds.
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
With consideration to the learning objectives of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, children are given the opportunity to discover their talents and flourish in their personal and holistic development at a pace unique to them.
Throughout the day, we encourage reflection. Reflection, or the process of critically thinking about behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and values, is an integral part of the learning cycle. Alma Forest teachers support children in developing this key skill which will serve them in all areas of life. Although there is never an obligation to share their reflections, by giving them the opportunity to truly get to understand themselves; children are motivated to improve, correct, and understand why they behave and respond in certain ways.
High Teacher-to-Child Ratio
Alma Forest adheres to a high teacher-to-child ratio making the personal observation and guidance of each child possible.
Influenced by various themes throughout the term, children are encouraged to bring to life a variety of experiences and learning opportunities with support and guidance in a child-led environment. Each day’s structure follows a familiar rhythm where children feel safe to explore, investigate and undertake activities that celebrate their strengths and teach perseverance.
We recognise the importance of the security and familiarity that comes with routine and so the rhythm of each day remains consistent. However, every day offers a new opportunity for magical exploration and adventure in which children take on new learning experiences.