Senior Forest School Officer Katie Dearden says, “We are so pleased to be continuing our fantastic forest school work in our two cities. We’re extremely thankful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their support. Their generosity means we now have an amazing opportunity to bring this wonderful experience to more children, young people and teachers.”
The project, which has been running since 2015 in Manchester and 2017 in Liverpool, enables the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to work with selected schools, offering pupils free forest school sessions for a year, installing outdoor classrooms and training teachers to lead their own sessions.
In an age when there are concerns that spending too much time indoors, looking at screens and academic pressures are all affecting children’s health and development, forest school offers a safe and supportive environment in which children can develop skills, grow in confidence and cultivate an interest in nature. Building dens, searching for insects, climbing trees and splashing in mud can be interpreted as frivolous play but academic research shows that active play is the main way in which children learn. Plus as well as learning about nature, children who play outside develop better language skills, are fitter, and have fewer behavioural problems.
The funding for 2019 means that, not only can the Trust continue their work in schools, they can now take the project even further.
Katie says, “On top of working with partner schools for a whole calendar year, our plan for 2019 is to offer free forest school taster days to other education facilities which are interested. Any school in Liverpool or Manchester could potentially benefit from the project.
“We are also going to set up an outdoor play programme for pre-schoolers called Nature Tots that engages little ones with wildlife. We already run Nature Tots sessions on a handful of our sites in Lancashire and Bolton and, thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, families in Manchester and Liverpool can join in the fun too.”
Forest School Officer Louise Gaffing says, “Every child benefits from taking part in forest school. It’s a different dynamic to classroom-based learning and many children feel more comfortable being outside – they can explore their own interests and learn at their own pace rather than sticking to curriculum topics. It’s common for children who struggle in school or who are very quiet to find their voices and confidence when they’re out in the woods. The children are very respectful and supportive of each other, working together to make dens and play games. Teachers often comment that friendship groups become more fluid with children who don’t normally associate at school playing together.”
To date the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Forest School project has worked with twenty-two schools and two nurseries, trained sixty-eight teachers to be level three Forest School leaders and installed numerous outdoor learning facilities. They’ve engaged over 2000 children with the project so far and hope to reach thousands more in the future.