A celebration of our Forest Schools!

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside have had another fantastic year getting inner city children and teachers outdoors and having fun in nature. Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the Trust has been able to deliver free Forest School sessions to schools in Manchester and Liverpool and train up three staff from each school to become qualified Forest School leaders. Molly Toal tells us all about it...

It hardly seems 5 minutes ago that we were setting up our Forest School Project and now we are coming to the end of the Project’s 4th year in Manchester and 2nd in Liverpool.

Forest School provides unique outdoor learning opportunities through play and practical activities in a woodland environment. It’s about developing self-esteem and confidence, getting active and healthy, and learning respect for each other and wildlife. The key benefits include access to learning opportunities that children otherwise would not get in the classroom, in particular experiential learning, child-led activities, and improved communication skills.

This year, approximately 900 children across eight schools have experienced regular Forest School sessions with the Trust and we’ve had all sorts of fun. We’ve climbed trees, built snowmen, used tools, cooked pancakes, shared stories, unearthed animal bones, planted wildflowers, made wormeries, and of course we’ve got very muddy. Every week the children have new experiences that boost their confidence and their connection with the outdoors becomes stronger.

No child has come away from the project worse off but we’ve seen Forest School really benefit certain children. One such child is Ruby. Ruby recently joined a school in Manchester and found it difficult to make new friends, which had a negative impact on her self-esteem and confidence. Over the past 3 months, though, our Forest School Officer Trisha and the teachers training as Forest School leaders have all noticed an incredible change in Ruby. Forest School has given this little girl the opportunity to shine and demonstrate to her classmates her appreciation and knowledge of the great outdoors. Week after week she overcomes challenges and builds a variety of shelters using only natural resources. Her experimental learning style encourages fellow classmates to join her and work collaboratively on various activities. Ruby’s time within the outdoor environment has enabled her to develop a deep connection with nature and improve her social skills. This has helped Ruby both personally and emotionally and she now enjoys a positive mind-set when coming to school.

Another child who has benefitted greatly is 6-year-old Tommy in Liverpool. Tommy struggles in a classroom setting, lashing out at staff physically and verbally, and in the past he has caused damage to school property. Yet at Forest School Tommy is like a completely different child. He is enthusiastic about the activities, praises others’ successes (including the teachers) and has made firm friends with children from other classes. He is very trustworthy and eager to help the teachers and Forest School Officer Molly, whether by handing out snacks, collecting cups, tidying up or fetching toys and blankets for the children in the group who have mobility issues. Forest School has really brought out the best in Tommy and his behaviour is improving back in class too.

The players of the People’s Postcode Lottery have generously given Lancashire Wildlife Trust £116,000 to continue this project for another year. This means that in January, the Trust will be working with new schools. We’ve been incredibly fortunate this year to work with teachers, teaching assistants and entire schools who have incorporated the Forest School ethos into their everyday life. They will continue the Trust’s legacy, bringing Forest School’s benefits to pupils for years to come and connecting thousands more children with the natural world.

To find out more about the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Forest School Project, visit their website: https://www.lancswt.org.uk/forest-school