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Fresh Ideas For Educational Visits For The New Year in The National Forest

Friday, 25th November 2011

In addition to its successful environmental education and ranger programme, CONKERS, at the heart of The National Forest, will be offering a range of new and exciting education activities during 2012 focused on outdoor pursuits and adventure.  These include archery, go-karting, sailing, kayaking, bush crafts and bike riding.  These new activities run by a team of fully qualified outdoor instructors will build upon the existing education programmes linked to the National Curriculum.

This award-winning discovery centre is a fun place to learn more about the environment, The National Forest and life in a British Woodland.Since opening in 2001 CONKERS has welcomed over 300,000 education-based visitors from across the UK and is one of the few education providers to have been awarded the Learning Outside of the Classroom quality badge.

To celebrate National Science and Engineering Week (9–18 March 2012)Snibston Discovery Museum is holding interactive workshops for Key Stage 2 and 3 students to look at how science and engineering is paving the way to help sustainability and having a positive impact on the environment.  Snibston is also working with Loughborough University and the Further Mathematics Support Programme, to offer three practical and engaging events for year 10 and 11 students.  These afternoon workshops reveal the value of mathematics in the wider world.  On 21 February the workshop will focus on Maths and Design, 13 March looks at Maths and the Environment and on 27 March it will be Maths and Sport.  Schools interested in attending these should contact the Museum Learning Team on 0116 305 3451 or email muslearningteam@leics.gov.uk 

Like mining, pottery was once a major industry in the area and Sharpe’s Pottery Museum traces that heritage together with new displays on how The National Forest is transforming the landscape.  Its Victorian Potter Education Day is specifically aimed at Key Stage 2 children and incorporates a range of learning activities designed to be fun and educational while being grounded in the local industrial heritage.  Talks, tours and teacher-led activities within the museum are also available.

The National Forest Adventure Farm has launched a programme of new workshops focusing on Food and Farming.  This helps schoolchildren understand which foods come from the farm and what farm ingredients can be found on their breakfast tables. They can have a go at grinding corn or milking the model cow and watch a real cow being milked or a chick hatching out. In Spring, they may get to help bottle feed a lamb. Then it’s all aboard the tractor and trailer for a fun journey to see the animals and crops in the fields. There are lots of “add-ons” such as nature walks and craft activities.  For younger age groups the Adventure Farm has interactive learning equipment and links farming and food using popular stories such as The Little Red Hen.

YHA National Forest will be running ‘Learn for Real’ packages in 2012 which includes Cans, Compost and Paper in partnership with CONKERS as well as on-site PE activities.  Within walking distance of CONKERS, Moira Furnace and the Ashby Woulds Heritage Trails, YHA National Forest is great for school groups that want to have the residential experience without needing to have a minibus for the duration of the visit.

Erica Abbot from YHA National Forest said: “We find that schools don’t want to travel too far, which makes our location here, close to attractions and easily accessible in the middle of the country, absolutely perfect.”

Schools can combine their stay in this eco-friendly four-star YHAwith sno-tubing, tobogganing and skiing at Swadlincote Ski Centre. Staff can help schools build their own trip itinerary and the 74-bed hostelcan be booked by schools for sole use if group sizes are more than 60. 

For school groups that do not want to stay overnightSwadlincote Ski Centre offers half or full day packages and can provide structured weekly lessons to coincide with National Curriculum requirements for PE, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme or the Scouts Snowsports Awards Badge.

Bosworth Battlefield runs a wide range of events, guided tours and educational sessions which can include the new trail with audio and visual interpretation about the battle and surrounding area.  Bosworth Battlefield is one of the UK's leading historical attractions with an award-winning heritage centre which captures the essence of medieval England, the Wars of the Roses and the birth of the Tudor Dynasty. 

As well as its popular curriculum-linked environmental sessions, schools can get involved in a new set of activities for each age group at Rosliston Forestry Centre with its ‘Woodland Experience Programme’, piloted this autumn.  Starting with ‘Teddy Bushcraft’ for Early Years, Woodland Experiences also cover Forest School taster days and sessions involving campfire cooking and shelter building. It will link opportunities for schools to join the Woodland Trust’s More Trees More Good and Jubilee Woods projects which will offer free school visits to woodland sites.  Schools can also book any of thehour-long activity sessions including archery, laser combat, laser clay, team building, shelterbuilding, bushcraft, falconry and climbing.  All delivered on one site.

Students and teachers can now have a go at Bushcraft with Woodland Ways, a registered centre providing ASDAN accredited short courses for all ages. These can be used as stand-alone awards or as part of a progression route through to qualification such as CoPE or AoPE. It also provides training and assessment for teachers through the Institute for Outdoor Learning Foundational Bushcraft Competency Award.

The National Forest & Beyond Group Visits Guide highlights all venues in the area that offer school visit activities tailored to the National Curriculum, programmes supported by resource packs with pre and post-visit ideas, worksheets and ranger-led activities and is packed with ideas for anything from a single session to a five day residential course. It also has tips for wet-weather days, where to stay, mealstops and even space for teachers to write their own notes! 

For more information on both the guide and the educational packages available in the destination visit the school visits pages of the Group Visits guide or email schools@nationalforest.org

At the heart of all this is one of Britain’s boldest environmental initiatives to create a new Forest for the nation across 200 square miles and embracing parts of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Schools can get involved in its creation by planting trees – either in a new woodland or, if it is within the Forest boundary, within the school grounds.  For more information on tree planting days, Trees from Seed or Plant a Tree schemes, schools should contact the National Forest Company.