The Trust has just embarked on an exciting new project, which is being trialled across the south-west by Plymouth University. The Natural Connections Demonstration Project is one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK.
As ‘hub leader’ for Somerset, the Forest of Avon Trust has recently recruited a new administrator – Bea Oliver – to work with Training Manager, Jon Attwood, to deliver the project. We will be supporting schools to forge links between each other, and with outdoor learning providers, to improve and extend learning in the natural environment.
We have now begun the process of recruiting up to five Beacon Schools in North Somerset(primary, secondary or special), which have experience of delivering Learning in the Natural Environment (LINE). Each Beacon School will receive support, training and investment through the project to become LINE specialists and will in turn support up to seven schools new to LINE – ‘cluster schools’ – to improve their offer of learning outside the classroom.
If you would like further information on this project, please email Jon Attwood: firstname.lastname@example.org and click here to read more about what’s on offer.
We are also seeking professional providers of outdoor learning to work with the schools taking part, and will be holding an information event for providers on Wed. 20th November at Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve. If you would like more details about getting involved, please email email@example.com.
For more information on learning outside the classroom, take a look at the Growing Schools website.
Some quiet time to reflect.
Children playing outdoors and groups being taken in to natural spaces is nothing new. Forest School in the UK has been developed over the last 15 years through influences from Scandinavia but also from a long history in the UK of groups playing and learning outside.
What is starting to develop now is a wealth of both informal and formal observations and case studies of the benefits of supporting groups of all ages to access nature. Anyone who has come across Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods will be more than convinced by the need to get children out in to green spaces. Over the last 10 years Forest Research, which is part of the Forestry Commission, has expanded its research to explore in detail the ways in which trees benefit wider society. The breadth of evidence presented by Forest Research of spending time in woodlands along with books such as Sara Knight’s Forest School for All helps to establish the importance of these experiences for all of us.
Common themes emerge from Richard Louv’s overview of global research and of the work of Sara Knight and researchers at Forest Research. Experiences in nature, particularly but not exclusively for children, have the potential to provide the following key benefits: Increased confidence; Increased social skills; Improved language and communication; Improved motivation and concentration; Improved physical fitness and ability and increased levels of interest in and concern for nature. An important point as highlighted by Richard Louv is that if society does value the benefits of spending time in the natural world then it is important that children develop a lasting and caring relationship for it as they will be its future stewards.
Locally the work of the Natural Connections project, at the Forest of Avon Trust, and Rowena Kenny, of Forest Foundations, have explored these themes through case study projects in the Bristol area.
Rowena’s in depth Exploratory Case Study of Forest School in the Early Years Foundation Stage and her wider work can be found online here.
Jon Attwood’s case study project in partnership with Twerton First Steps Nursery in B&NES can be downloaded here.