A new project by the Woodland Trust sets out to remind schools of the value of the learning opportunities outdoor environments can offer. We spoke to Karen Letten, families engagement manager at the Trust to find out more.
If you – and your class – go down to the woods today, you may be in for a big surprise. From exploring the natural habitats of plants and animals, to orienteering and building campfires, the range of outdoor activities available is enormous.
And if you go down to the woods today, it's just possible that you might not believe your eyes, either. The combination of fresh air and natural daylight creates a stimulating environment that naturally engages children and gets apathetic students excited about learning.
It may seem a risk to take children away from the tried-and-tested confines of a classroom, but the rewards more than justify it. Outdoor learning encourages children to better understand and appreciate the natural environment, and helps them develop practical and social skills that will nurture self-esteem and confidence.
In an attempt to help schools take the leap into the great outdoors, beyond what can be uninspiring tarmacked playgrounds, the Woodland Trust is working directly with schools to encourage them to use local woodland for lessons.
As part of their latest project, Schools into Woods, they have identified 4,000 schools across the UK that have an accessible wood within walking distance, and are aiming to help schools identify and overcome barriers preventing them from using them. These may be practical barriers such as access, or a lack of curriculum linked ideas to support outdoor learning, or perhaps fears over health and safety.
By working closely with teachers to assess their needs and concerns, the Trust will put together a tailored programme for each school offering practical help and advice on making the most of local woodland as a free resource to teach the curriculum.
Outwoods Edge Primary School in Loughborough is the first school to take part in the project. Their headteacher, Mark Maksymiw, said: “Using our local wood to bring the curriculum to life for our children is something we as a school feel is really important. We already make the most of our school grounds and we’re looking forward to finding ways to make the most of The Outwoods which is just a short walk away."
Get started with free downloadable resources for outdoor learning on the TES website
Find out more about the Woodland Trust Project