Creating a Forest for Learning

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Bringing young people and the Forest together.

The National Forest has been transforming lives, the landscape and the economy for the last quarter of a century. With our communities and partners, we’ve planted over 8.7 million trees throughout the Forest’s 200 square miles, and created more than 400 woodlands. Now, we’re bringing our young people and our young Forest together, with the vision that every child living in the National Forest has the opportunity to enjoy outdoor learning as part of their education. For this, we need your help.

What we know.

Across the country, there is a growing interest in outdoor learning and the benefits it offers children, but the uptake with primary schools is variable. Curriculum pressures as well as barriers, such as transport, cost, perceived risk or specialist expertise, all mean that outdoor learning is the exception rather than the rule. Trends in the health of young people are worrying. A recent study from Public Health England found that 28% of children aged between 2 to 15 are overweight or obese, and the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition Survey found that 1 in 10 have a mental health problem. Our recent YouGov survey to UK parents about their perception of their children's relationship with the outdoors and the impacts of outdoor learning was also insightful; 69% of parents say that the increasing use of technology is driving a disconnect to nature. We know that learning outside the classroom and contact with nature can help address these issues and improve the wellbeing of children.

What are we doing about it.

To help address these issues we've developed our Creating a Forest for Learning initiative. This aims to give every schoolchild in the Forest the chance to regularly spend some of their school day learning outdoors in a woodland setting. Whether it's maths, English or science; bug-hunting, den-building or fire-lighting; research shows that all learning in the outdoors can bring massive benefits to a child’s confidence, understanding and engagement. So far, we’ve doubled the number of schools taking their children outdoors from fewer than 20% to 40%. The next step is to have every primary school in the National Forest engaged in outdoor learning, encouraging them to adopt our five point plan:

The outdoor learning five point plan

1. A monthly programme of outdoor learning sessions all year roImage of front pageund 

2. At least one Forest School trained teacher/ teaching assistant

3. An outdoor wooded learning space within the school grounds or within walking distance

4. Outdoor learning included as a key part of the school improvement plan

5. Access to a supported network of outdoor learning professionals and high quality off-site outdoor learning provision

You can read and download our full 'A Forest for Learning' report for more information on our plans and ambition for the Forest below:

Story: Woodstone Community Primary School.

Watch this video of a local school which, with the help of the National Forest, has developed its woodland on site and has incorporated outdoor learning into its curriculum. All the children have regular lessons outside, improving the learning experience and wellbeing of its pupils and staff.

What can you do to help.

We want the National Forest to be the first place in the country where every child can enjoy regular outdoor learning. For this, we need passionate people like you to help. By donating, you become part of the story. Supporting us to create woodlands close to where people live, work and go to school. Your donation will support our community and access programmes to ensure woodlands are accessible to everyone. It will help to train community groups and teachers in outdoor learning and woodland management skills, so that they have the confidence to lead their own sessions in their local woodland. With your support, we can remove the barriers that prevent children from experiencing outdoor learning. So that things like access to woodland, transport, costs, perceived risk and expertise no longer stop schools from making outdoor learning a regular part of their teaching.