Forest School's out for summer

Using tools can be a daunting prospect for children and adults alike but the feeling of accomplishment can boost learner's confidence. (c) Molly Toal

With the summer holidays starting, our Forest School Project Officers are pausing their delivery until September, and it’s shaping up to be another successful year for the project, which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Since January, over 400 children from Liverpool and Manchester have taken part in the project, having fun, developing their self-esteem and connecting with nature through Forest School.

Forest School is a unique ethos that provides regular opportunities for children to succeed and grow in confidence, through hands-on learning in a natural setting. Over a number of weeks, children are given the chance to play and explore their own interests, allowing them to direct their own learning and develop a relationship with nature. Activities such as shelter-building, green woodworking, natural art and fire-lighting, offer many benefits to children’s development including stimulating creativity, building self-esteem, improving team work skills, increasing physical exercise and reducing stress.

Forest School follow the leader

Forest School Trainee, Colleen, and Project Officer Sooz play an icebreaker game with pupils at a Forest School in Manchester.

Elmwood Primary School in Middleton, Manchester, are one of eight education facilities involved in the project this year. Colleen Slater, a teacher in the school, has been joining Forest School Officer, Sooz, in the outdoor classroom every week, and has now started delivering her own sessions too.

Colleen says, “We are loving being part of the project. Children ranging from Nursery to Year 6 have taken part and every single child has genuinely enjoyed Forest School and has been so enthusiastic about their activities – even when the snow was 12 inches thick or when the sun was blazing down – it’s been a real adventure for them. Children who struggle within the confines of the classroom have had the opportunity to try new skills and ‘shine’ and this in turn has helped to develop their confidence. I strongly believe that Forest School helps children to learn in the way that they are meant to learn, that is, through play and adventure, naturally and without fear of failure.”

Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust are able to work with 4 education facilities in each city, bringing Forest School to the whole school by offering year-long sessions with a Forest School Project Officer, Forest School leadership training for 3 members of school staff and, if the grounds are appropriate, an outdoor classroom.

Colleen’s school chose her to embark on the level 3 Leadership training and she has taken to it like a duck to water. She says, “Our Forest School Officer, Sooz, has been an absolutely fantastic resource for training - she has modelled good practise, advised us how we can implement Forest School in our own setting and then enabled myself and the other two trainees to have the confidence to begin running Forest School sessions ourselves, while being on hand herself to encourage and advise us as necessary.

“Doing the leadership training, I can relate to how a child may feel anxious about trying some of the activities, like tying knots, using tools or making a fire, but then I also understand the sense of achievement and pride when you succeed at these tasks, both working as a team or individually. It is just such a natural way to learn and it creates such a sense of pride and a real ‘feel good factor’ working in a natural environment for a prolonged period of time.”

Forest School Liverpool

Using tools can be a daunting prospect for children and adults alike but the feeling of accomplishment can boost learner's confidence. (c) Molly Toal

Katie Dearden, Senior Forest School Officer, says, “We’re thrilled that we are able to work with urban schools and bring the benefits of Forest School to them. For us it isn’t just about getting the children outdoors once – Forest School should be a regular occurrence and we want to leave a legacy that the whole school community can benefit from. That’s why we will improve school grounds, where suitable, and train staff from each school to become Forest School leaders, so they can continue delivery far into the future.

“Our vision is for a growing movement of schools and nurseries across our region that are passionate about Forest School and the benefits it offers to learners.”

For more information about our Forest School project, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, visit our project pages: http://www.lancswt.org.uk/forest-schools-manchester and http://www.lancswt.org.uk/forest-schools-liverpool, or contact Forest School Communications Officer Molly Toal on mtoal@lancswt.org.uk.

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