Thanks to the amazing support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Leicestershire and Wildlife Trust has been able to run its Wild Forest School project since 2015. A major part of the project is delivering Forest School sessions with groups of children from Leicester city schools. To date, the Trust has worked with 385 children from 15 primary schools.
One of the schools that the Trust has been working with this year is Hazel Community Primary School. Due to its Victorian heritage and its inner city location, the school has very little green outside space. Since the start of September, a group of 12 children and teaching staff from the school have been visiting Knighton Park in Leicester to attend weekly Forest School sessions. The sessions have clearly been of enormous benefit to the children taking part. Teachers reported improved behaviour, raised attendance and better social interaction amongst formerly isolated pupils.
Teaching Assistant Adam Cleaver, who was recently given the award of Forest School Champion for supporting the sessions, confirms: “We are an inner city school in a deprived area with 90% of pupils having English as their second language. Many of the children we take to Forest School are considered vulnerable and do not have access to these opportunities in their home life”.
“I would definitely recommend Forest School to other schools in the area without any reservations, it has been brilliant and the leader Sophie is so enthusiastic - she is professional, knowledgeable, and really believes in what she’s doing. All of the children absolutely love it; two girls who were new to the school struggled to make friends and were isolated during playtimes, but quite amazingly they have become best friends through the sessions. They spend all of their school time together - it’s a real success story. Plus, three children with attendance issues all have considerably raised their attendance, one from 47% to 63% in just eight weeks.”
Also enthusiastic about Forest School, eight year old Grace, said: “At Forest School we get to be free and be adventurous, and I always feel happy afterwards. In school we’re taught topics like maths, but at Forest School we get to learn about nature. Being outside is sometimes cold, but it’s so much fun and the leader Sophie always helps us if we’re stuck on something.”
Forest School provides opportunities for children to experience new challenges, take risks, develop resilience and independence, and be creative, all whilst developing a sense of wonder about the natural world. The activities that Forest School Leader, Sophie van den Bergh, offer during the sessions support this. She commented:
“As Forest School occurs over a prolonged period of time and the group is small, children are able to find their voices. Each individual understands that they are an important member of the group, which fosters the confidence required to get involved. The children enjoy the new challenges I set, such as using tools and fire lighting, they aren’t afraid to rise to the challenge. Being outside allows Forest School attendees to explore their surroundings, discover nature, and it encourages them to work things out for themselves.”
The Wild Forest School project provides fun, engaging opportunities for children in Leicester - some of whom have never had the chance to explore the outdoors – to experience the natural world and discover nature through a range of wild activities. As part of the project, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust also runs 3 Wild Tots groups for pre-schoolers, 4 Forest School groups for home educated children, develops school grounds and runs teacher training sessions on its Wild About Learning teachers’ pack.
The names of the child/ren have been changed