Forest School flourishes thanks to funding boost

Children in Leicester can continue to enjoy the great outdoors with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, thanks to a funding boost from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Following the Wild Forest School project’s success last year, the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust has received the backing required to continue its good work across the city. The initiative allows youngsters to explore outdoor spaces and take part in a range of fun activities designed to stimulate imagination, creativity and investigation. From fire-lighting to cooking, woodwork to bushcraft and natural art, children can learn about the natural world in a safe environment.

This year, plans are in place for the creation of a further ‘Wild Tots’ group, which will run weekly imaginative sessions for pre-school children. The team will run a series of Wild Play sessions for children and their families during the school holidays, as well as a larger scale family event in the summer. The Trust will also be conducting a survey to help establish how primary school staff could be better supported to make the most of their school’s outdoor space.

The funding will help the Trust to run Forest School sessions with children at eight Leicester primary schools, as well as its existing sessions for pre-school and home-educated children. The team will also be building more wildlife areas in the grounds of city primary schools to help encourage pupils to spend more time during the week outside having fun and learning new skills.

Simon Bentley, Director of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, commented: “Thanks to the continued support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we will now be able to provide even more opportunities for the children and young people in our urban areas. Children today are spending half as much time outdoors as they were a generation ago, so it’s great to see more children exploring and enjoying nature again. We’re very excited for the year ahead.”

Developed from the Scandinavian model of learning through play outdoors, Forest School sessions give children the freedom to learn and explore nature in their own way and at their own pace. Activities are run by leaders who are trained to watch the children closely, appreciate different learning styles and personalities, and provide the right support for the individuals they care for.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, commented: “It’s in children’s DNA to be fascinated by nature but it can be stifling for a child to consistently hear what they can and can’t do. Children who experience Forest Schools are given more freedom and responsibility to explore their interests and initiate and direct their own learning. This enables them to connect with nature, experience the seasons and see how the Forest School areas change over time.”