Green Light Trust: Taking learning outside

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Do you remember long days spent outdoors in your childhood, curled over a tree branch? Or endless hours watching ants at work?

Do you remember your parents pointing to the door and saying ‘Go outside!’?

In the past learning, through unstructured play outdoors was a natural part of childhood but our current lifestyle means that many children spend less and less time outside.

Young people today face significant challenges and it is vital that they acquire the necessary life skills and confidence to meet those challenges. A wide-ranging education is essential for us all to survive as adults and for our young ones to really thrive in today’s world they need to be resourceful, self-aware, creative and able to collaborate with others.

Based on a highly successful Scandinavian model, Forest School lets young people, from early years through to the end of education, spend time outdoors each week and learn by doing. Children who struggle in the classroom often have a very different experience when given the space and time that a Forest School session offers. Sessions are tailored for all abilities and pupils take part in child-centred and child-led activities. They learn new practical skills safely and develop an understanding and love of the natural world.

There is a lot of fun and laughter in a Forest School session alongside a flow of natural free play – balancing on logs, climbing trees (with supervision, of course) building dens or looking for bugs.

Crucially, children develop their sensory awareness of the environment they are in and learn how to keep an eye out for hazards. Experience shows that children taking part in Forest School sessions develop better communication skills, are able to concentrate for longer on what they are doing and work effectively in a team.

As an environmental education charity, Green Light Trust engages, inspires and empowers young people to be fully aware of themselves and to develop the gifts that they each have to offer society. Through its Forest School programmes Green Light trains teachers, classroom assistants and others who work with young people in the outdoors. Over the last 10 years, hundreds have taken part in these training programmes which are accredited by the National Open College Network. Many schools in Suffolk now run Forest School sessions for their own pupils throughout the year.