Getting Started

As with any activity, preparation is the key to success. Spend some time planning out your School Forest visit and activities. Consider the following topics to get you started.

photo of a School forest mapKnow your school forest

Your School Forest is an outdoor classroom; use it as you would any other part of your school. Think of it as an extension of your school building. Get to know your School Forest by walking the areas you'll use for lessons. Identify potential safety concerns and consider the terrain and your students' abilities. If you know another adult who is familiar with the school Forest and/or outdoors, ask them to accompany you.

Ask for help

Photo of Teacher doing a tree rubbingDon't shy away from asking for help. The first few times you go outside with students, ask for help from an adult such as a parent or another teacher. Having other adults allows you to break the students into smaller groups for activities and provides extra eyes for supervision. Don't forget that adult volunteers will come with their own outdoor knowledge to share with students too!


Identify one or two teaching goals you wish to achieve and have appropriate activities ready to meet these goals.

Before you head out to your School Forest, lay out behavior and learning expectations for your students, just as you would for your indoor classroom. Also, tell students about the site—what it will look like, how long they will be walking, if there are bathrooms, etc.

Student rules

Photo of students in woodsStudents should know what's expected of them outside. Create rules or have your class create them together. (The recommendation is usually no fewer than 3 and no more than 6). Here are some things you might want to consider when developing them:

  • Handling garbage
  • Respecting living things
  • Being dressed appropriately
  • Collecting items

Think of your discipline measures if students do not adhere to the rules. Tell students (and adult volunteers) of the consequences before going outside. Discipline measures differ. Some teachers prefer that an adult volunteer take the student back to school, that the student sits in a time-out space in the forest, or the whole class goes back together.

Dress appropriately

Photo of teacher snowing shoeingStudents can learn in any environment if they are comfortable. Wearing appropriate clothing and shoes is crucial. Remind them the day before or send a letter home to their parents. If you plan to go outside often, consider asking parents to let the student store outdoor gear in the classroom/locker so it will always be on hand. For students who forget, borrow from the school's lost and found box or establish a bin of extra clothes in your classroom.


photo: Student opening field desk

Field desk:

Can be used to:

  • Store supplies,
  • Write on (the clipboard provides a hard writing surface), and
  • Sit on while outside

Plan to make

Trail backpack:

photo of a classroom backpack

Put together a trail backpack that you can easily grab on your way out the door. Here are some content suggestions:

  • Whistle—for getting attention
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Cell phone or walkie-talkie for emergency use
  • Small trash bag
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Magnifying lenses
  • Digital camera
  • Collection bags
  • Extra pencils and sharpeners
  • Tissues

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