As well as being out in the woods, we think it’s important to know what’s there in the forest with us!
And that’s where this tree identification guide with pictures comes in.
How to use the tree identification guide
Simply enter your email below to access the printable. Then download it, print it out and use it in your setting.
There are two pages, and nine trees, plus space to make notes if you need to. It’s a tree leaf guide really, as it has photographs of the different leaves so you can spot the characteristic traits of the trees.
It’s designed in colour, but I know many people will only have access to black and white printing. It prints fine in black and white too, and if you print it double-sided it will fit on one sheet of paper.
Here’s how I use it.
Tree identification game
This is a game to help children learn about trees. Before you start the game, make sure you do actually have the trees in your wood! See below for a list of the UK trees covered by this guide.
Split the children into three teams.
Give each team a tree identification guide. They will be finding three trees per team. You can cut the tree ID sheet into sections and give each team a section with only their trees on if that is easier for you (and them).
Each team has to find the three trees on their sheet.
When a team finds a tree they think is one of theirs, I get them to explain what features they used to ID the tree. They can talk about leaf shape, twigs, buds, bark and so on, linking the ‘real’ tree to the tree ID notes on their guide sheet.
If they get it right, they can read out a ‘fascinating fact’ about the tree from their sheet (and I learned something putting that guide together!).
The winning team is the team that finds their trees first.
You don’t have to offer a prize – we typically don’t – but you could if there was a reason to, or you were using the game as part of an outdoor birthday party activity or something similar.
A British Tree ID Guide
Note that as we are in the UK, this is a British tree identification guide, covering the following trees:
These trees may also be present in your location, but check before you send children off looking for them!
Share the trees!
We couldn’t find a guide to tree identification that we wanted to use in our setting, or one that would be suitable for sharing as part of a Forest School Level 3 portfolio. This leaf identification programme is OK, but hard to use when you are outside.
So I made one and frankly I think it’s the best tree identification guide out there, if I do say so myself!
Grab a copy and see what you think! Enter your email in the box below to download the PDF and share the trees with your community.
There are three types of risk assessment
you should do for your Forest School: site, activity and daily.
You’ll need to create a document for each
(or you could just use our template documents – the ones we use for our setting).
Enter your email address below to grab the risk
assessment templates in Word format. There are 3 pages, one for each of the
risk assessments you’ll need.
Forest School Site Risk Assessment
This type of risk assessment looks at the
environment where you are carrying out your Forest School activities.
You record the details about the site, and
the hazards they present to people using the site for activities. Then you note
the level of possible harm and the mitigating actions you can do to prevent or reduce
Record the level of harm presented by the hazard
on site when the actions have been carried out. Hopefully that will be ‘low’. If
any hazards cannot be mitigated and managed to a level you feel is acceptable,
think about what other actions you can take to make the site or activities
safer, or whether it is possible to remove the risk totally by doing something in
a different way.
The site risk assessment will cover things
Dipping pond/dipping platform on
pond or stream
Flora with berries or prickles
e.g. nettles and brambles
Tree roots and stumps/uneven ground
Dog poo/other faeces
Rubbish and debris (from
humans, e.g. litter)
Fire circle/Kelly kettle
Stinging insects e.g. bees,
Animals e.g. snakes
Boundaries and safety of fences
and perimeter gates
For each identified site hazard, log what you can do about it. Then note who will take those actions and when. In some cases, you’ll have to make an assessment and take action on the day e.g. assessing the water height in a stream. In other cases, you’ll be able to take action before the session e.g. clearing stray nettles away from the fire circle zone.
Here’s an example of snippet of our risk assessment template filled in for some of the risks in our environment:
Activity Risk Assessments
As well as an overall risk assessment for
the whole site, you need to do risk assessments for each activity including
tool use. Here are some activities where you’ll need to do risk assessments.
Collecting materials e.g. leaves
Using a bit and brace
Making a rope swing or a crane
Using a knife
Using a folding saw
Using loppers or secateurs
Lighting fires/being around
Taking part in organised games.
You’ll also want to create risk assessments for leader-led activities like weaving, crafts, although they are likely to be lower risk than child-led forest exploration and tool use.
Here’s an example of what our template looks like once it’s filled in for an activity, in this case: organised games.
This video is a good example of children themselves working out a suitable approach to risk during an activity. While we do risk assessments as a very formal activity, in “real life” we’re assessing risk every time we take a step. The forest gives children the opportunity to test out their risk taking abilities and to uncover their limits.
Want a ready-made activity risk assessment
template? Grab our free editable Word document below.
Daily Risk Assessments
Child-led activities can be spontaneous,
and that’s what makes them fun, if sometimes unpredictable! It does mean you’ll
be doing a lot of dynamic risk assessing on the day. You’ll use your knowledge
and experience – and common sense – to assess the benefits and risk of
activities the children are doing, enabling you to keep them safe.
The daily risk assessment is your way to
check that today you can lead a safe session. You’ll be checking for:
Changes in the setting e.g. new
things that have materialised since your last visit – this happens a lot on
Water height in streams –
sometimes it will be too high to allow children to play in the water
Bee and wasp nests
Changes in the weather
Anything else seasonal or
specific to the day.
Use a daily risk assessment as a reminder of the things to look for so that you can make dynamic decisions based on the environment today.
The risk assessments should be a practical guide for you – part of your handbook for running your Forest School. They can also be included as evidence for your Level 3 portfolio.
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What is a Forest School Portfolio?
Anyone going for Level 3 Forest School training needs to submit a portfolio. The exact requirements for submission will depend on your awarding body, but the contents will be broadly the same.
Your portfolio is a collection of evidence
that demonstrates you understand what’s been covered on your training. It’s
your chance to showcase your skills and experience, and show that you can
reflect on them to improve your practice.
What goes into a Forest School Level 3 portfolio
You’ll get a list of requirements from your
trainer, and each course provider will have slightly different requirements. However,
the basics are going to be the same. There are some common good practices for
submitting your portfolio.
Your Forest School portfolio should
A title page
An index. This helps your assessor understand and quickly find the information in the portfolio.
Your evidence. This is the majority of the portfolio. You will organise it by unit, dividing the sections in a logical way. If you have been provided with tracking sheets to show assessors where your answers are in your evidence sections. Your evidence needs to be “real” examples, such as your risk assessments for your setting.
Additional attachments or appendices, if you want to include them. This could be a link to videos, for example, which you can store on Dropbox and point to from your portfolio.
References. If you use quotes or material from other sources, give clear references, on the same page as where you have cited the material.
Your declaration. This is a statement that says your portfolio is all your own work. Plagiarism isn’t permitted (obviously) and won’t help you in the long term anyway. You need to be able to do the doing, facilitate your group and support the children in your setting.
If you are lucky enough to be able to make videos about your Forest School, like this one about Charlotte’s Wood, then include links to those too!
The contents of your portfolio
Your Forest School portfolio is mainly
about your reflections on how you are creating and applying Forest School
principles to your own environment. By that, I mean that there are many sections
of the portfolio that require you to talk about your own programme.
The portfolio contents should be practical.
You want to be able to explain your setting, your programme, the way your group
Feel free to talk about your experiences,
and what works and what doesn’t work. In fact, your assessor and verifiers will
be looking for that. They want to know that you have reflected on your experiences
and learned from them. You can show that you’ve changed your practice and
deepened your knowledge of how to make Forest School a success for your
Talk about the challenges. Talk about your
successes. Your portfolio isn’t public. It’s between you and your assessor, although
you can choose to share it (or elements of it) with people from your course. So
Over 1000 educators & woodland owners made their voices heard in the ‘Bringing Children Closer to Nature survey on Forest School & outdoor learning in England’, published today by Sylva Foundation, The Ernest Cook Trust & Forest School Association https://t.co/t8j8RDWWRO Pls RT pic.twitter.com/yQXYZBcC25
The Level 3 Forest School Leader course provides
training across 5 units, and your portfolio has to align to and evidence all of
them. Within each unit there are sub-sections. Essentially, all you have to do
to complete your portfolio is go through the learning outcomes and for each of
the assessment criteria, provide evidence that you meet the criteria.
I say “all you have to do” but actually
gathering the evidence can be quite time consuming! Your evidence will be a
mixture of personal reflection, book/journal led study (such as the assignment
to evaluate Forest School research) and the capture of experience, for example
photos of activities you have carried out in your programme, copies of risk
assessments and so on.
The units are:
Learning and development
Planning and preparation
Using children in your portfolio
Forest School is all about the children. As
their own teachers, they are front and centre of your Forest School. It’s
child-led. So how can you evidence what you do while still complying with safe
You should be very careful about any
evidence that you submit that references children. The easiest thing to do is
to not identify any children by name in your observations, evaluations or in
photos. Just don’t. Obscure faces from photos, or even better, don’t include children
in the pictures at all. You can take photos of crafts and shelters, your fire
pit, tools and so on without having to include children in the images.
Having said all that, along with your
portfolio you will probably have to submit a signed letter on headed paper from
the school or manager of the setting, that states you have explicit permission
to use the programme as part of your professional development studies. That was
certainly expected as part of Jon’s coursework.
How to submit your portfolio
Given the nature of the portfolio, you’ll
probably submit it in paper form i.e. a hard copy. That was certainly the
requirement for Jon’s portfolio.
The easiest way to do this is to create your
evidence pages on the computer, print it all out and then pop it into a ring binder.
Don’t use plastic wallets for filing your pages – just hole punch the sheets
and put them in the binder.
If you can, hand your portfolio to an assessor in person. This avoids having to put it in the post. It should go without saying that you’ll want to keep a back up of your evidence and files just in case they go missing either with the assessor (it must happen from time to time, although we don’t know of any cases – you’d want to be safe though, right?) or in the post.
Your awarding body assessor (you should have a trainer endorsed by the Forest School Association) will look through your portfolio… and you’ll get feedback on whether you meet the requirements, or whether there is still more work for you to do before you are qualified.