Sweden and Denmark.
In the 1950s the idea was created in Denmark and shortly after in Sweden. In Denmark it became an embedded part of the curriculum for pre-school children (under
seven years) stemming from their småbørnspædagogik, or 'Early childhood education'. Children attending Forest kindergartens were in most cases arriving at school with strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively, high
self-esteem, and confidence in their own capabilities.
In 1957, a Swedish man, Goesta Frohm, created the "Skogsmulle" concept to promote learning about nature, water, mountains
and pollution. With an increasing focus on measurable outcomes, forest schools have gained acceptance as an educational method in their own right. In Denmark, nature schools as well as forest
kindergartens are popular with both school teachers and children.
The biophilia hypothesis argues that a love of nature is instinctive.
The term nature deficit disorder, coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, recognises the erosion of this by the urbanisation
of human society. Attention restoration theory and related psychological work has proven health benefits in reduced stress, improved concentration
and improved medical outcomes from surgery. Scandinavian countries, rich in woodland, have maintained the human link more closely. Forest schools practice is based on up-to date pedagogy and andragogy.
This ethos was introduced to the UK during the 1990s from Denmark. The growth of forest school has been unprecedented throughout the UK developing
into a separate and distinct model called the UK Model. Bridgwater College in Somerset was the pioneer of the forest school concept in the UK in 1994 after
traveling to Denmark to observe the Danish/Nordic Model of Forest Kindergartens for a few days.
Various government and NGO agencies
propose the use of woodland as part of the school educational curriculum; for example the Forest Education Initiative and the Forestry Commission. By 2006,
there were approximately 140 forest schools in Britain.
The governmental agencies have in some cases been set targets for the use of their resources for education or health benefits, or are focused on the educational outcomes and see forestry as a step
Many businesses and non-profit organizations facilitate forest school long term programmes. In Wales, training and strategic oversight is provided by Forest Schools Wale
and government agencies such as the Forestry Commission who have supported research and the development of practical experience for forest school practitioners.
In England, support has been provided by the Forest Education Network (which has replaced the Forest Education Initiative) to those initiating forest school provision. Such provision
is provided within schools using their own trained staff or by external independent forest school providers.
Many organisations now offer training courses designed for the UK to enable practitioners to deliver forest school in their own settings and
ensure children and teachers work within rich natural experiences. The OCN Level 3 training course is most widely recognised within the UK.
Developing from the Institute of Outdoor Learning's (IOL) Forest School Special Interest Group, in June 2012
The Forest School Association was established as an independent UK body.
Inspired by international developments, the first Canadian forest school was created by Marlene Power
in 2007. It was named Carp Ridge Preschool and was located near Ottawa. In 2012, Power founded and became the executive director of Forest School Canada, an educational initiative of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Forest School Canada is focused
on being a "network for support, education, and accreditation for concepts associated with the FS movement in Canada."
The movement has spread into Canada's provinces and is primary associated with private schools. However, there is emerging support
from public schools such as the Nature Kindergarten pilot which is a partnership between the Sooke District School Board and the University of Victoria’s Centre for Early Childhood Research and Policy, Royal Roads University, and Camosun College’s
Early Learning and Care Program.