Forest Schools flourish thanks to funding boost

Friday 15th January 2016

Inner city children benefit from regular access to natural world

Children in inner cities, where chances to explore nature may be limited, are set to benefit from regular outdoor opportunities designed to stimulate creativity, imagination and investigation, thanks to a £500,000 cash boost from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Following the success of three (People’s Postcode Lottery player supported) Forest School projects across Lancashire, Leicestershire and Birmingham, many more children will now enjoy regular Forest School sessions in London, Nottinghamshire and Bristol throughout 2016.

Developed from the Scandinavian model of learning through play outdoors, Forest Schools get children outside and exploring nature in their own way and at their own pace. From fire-lighting to cooking, woodwork to bushcraft and Natural Art, they learn about the natural world in a safe environment.

Forest school sessions are run by leaders who give children the freedom to learn and explore. They are trained to watch the children closely, appreciate different learning styles and personalities, and provide the right support for the individuals they care for.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “We are delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are continuing to support us in our mission to make nature an every day part of our children’s lives. With children spending half as much time outdoors as they were a generation ago, connecting children with nature is more important now than ever before - for their mental and physical wellbeing and also for their personal development, as well as for the future relationship of society with the natural world on which we ultimately depend.”

The Forest School programme is part of a wider strategy for The Wildlife Trusts: to foster a love and appreciation of the environment in the people who will grow up to be its guardians. It adds something vital to every child’s life which cannot be gained inside the classroom or on a sports pitch.

Critically Forest School sessions last for a period of at least six weeks. Each session takes place at the same location. Children are encouraged to explore and learn in their own way within a woodland setting, allowing them to build relationships with the environment, the leaders and their classmates. Extensive research shows that Forest School sessions increase confidence, self-esteem, language skills, and social and emotional development, as well as improving attainment in formal education and exams.

Stephanie Hilborne adds: “It’s in children’s DNA to be fascinated by nature but it can be stifling for a child to consistently hear what they can and can’t do. Children who experience Forest Schools are given more freedom and responsibility to explore their interests and initiate and direct their own learning. This enables them to connect with nature, experience the seasons and see how the Forest School areas change over time.

“The Wildlife Trusts are giving children the space and encouragement they need to discover the world they live in. No-one can ‘fail’ at Forest School and extensive research has shown that children’s self esteem and confidence increase as a result of their experiences.”

The Wildlife Trusts are one of the leading providers of outdoor environmental education, along with the Field Studies Council. Find out more about The Wildlife Trusts’ work with schools here and outdoor learning here, and how players of People's Postcode Lottery enable vital funds to be raised for charities, including The Wildlife Trusts here.