Want to defend nature? Let children play outdoors

Thursday 30th November 2017

Girls digging in the mud - Molly Toal

Our Forest School Project is helping to protect nature and reduce pollution far into the future. How? By letting children play outside. Assistant Communications Officer, Molly Toal, explains.

Earlier this year, a study was published by The University of British Columbia demonstrating that children who play outside are more likely to protect nature when they are young adults. However, there are lots of barriers preventing some children from playing outside, such as living in a busy, urban area with lots of traffic or not having access to a garden. With these problems, alongside the lure of video games and TV, it may seem more difficult than ever to get children outside.

Luckily, Forest School is helping to overcome these barriers. Thanks to the support of the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, our Forest School sessions in Liverpool and Manchester are ensuring that children in two of the North West’s most built-up cities have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors and play in safe, natural environments.

Playing outside offers many benefits to children, including building confidence, improving team work skills, physical exercise and reducing stress. Our Forest School sessions run over a six-week period and consist of a mixture of structured activities, such as team games and how to safely use tools, and free play, where the children are encouraged to play how they like. For some children, this might be using the hand drill to make wooden jewellery, while for others it might be picking up a magnifying glass and searching for insects. As well as improving children’s self-esteem and promoting curiosity, allowing children to pursue their own interests at Forest School is a great way of introducing a desire in younger generations to protect the environment in which they live.

Sean Banks has been attending Forest School in Everton Park Nature Garden with his nursery class from Beacon Church of England Primary School. His grandmother, Ursula Atkins, has been acting as an adult helper at the sessions. She said:

“Sean is an inquisitive child who likes to learn and explore. Coming to Forest School, he’s learning about fire, about how to play with others and what he is capable of. He’s becoming very interested in nature – especially birds!

"He’s realising that he can do things he wouldn’t have thought he would be able to. The children were learning how to use fire strikers to light cotton wool.

"Sean was struggling for a while and was close to giving up, but he kept trying and, eventually, he managed to light the cotton wool. He goes home and is really excited to tell his mum what he’s been doing.”

Since 2015, our Forest School Project has worked with over 1800 children, across sixteen schools, and trained fifty teachers to be level 3 Forest School leaders. That’s 1800 more children who will hopefully protect nature when they grow up, and by training school staff to deliver their own Forest School sessions we are ensuring that schools get children playing outdoors for generations to come!

If you'd like to know more about our Forest School project you can visit their webpage HERE or contact Molly at mtoal@lancswt.org.uk