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How can more children get closer to nature?

posted on November 14, 2018

Three of England’s leading environmental education charities have joined forces to explore how more children could be better connected with nature. Our interest is in outdoor education in wooded areas and forests, particularly Forest School practice, and we welcome a wide range of views from all outdoor educators and woodland owners.

Survey partners Sylva Foundation, Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust are running this survey as part of the Forest Schools for All project funded by The Ernest Cook Trust. The project is focussed on delivery in England, while for this survey the researchers are interested in receiving responses from the whole of the UK. This will allow comparison between countries, and provide valuable data for use by others in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Bringing Children Closer to Nature national survey

Bringing Children Closer to Nature national survey

Enabling children to be closer to nature, especially by learning and exploring in wooded areas and forests, was recognised as a key action in the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, published earlier this year. Yet despite the well-proven benefits of children spending regular time outdoors—including health and wellbeing, attitudes to learning, and environmental awareness—there is poor understanding about the current level of outdoor activities for young people across England, particularly in wooded areas and forests.

The Bringing Children Closer to Nature survey aims to explore barriers and opportunities to activities in wooded areas and forests, including the practice of Forest School, and it will quantify any issues preventing development and growth. Its three main aims are to:

  1. acquire basic information, including the number and distribution of schools and other organisations who do forest education activities including Forest School, and the levels of training and skills among practitioners;
  2. understand more about barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining forest education, including Forest School, among host organisations (e.g. schools, early years nurseries) and practitioners, and explore how these could be overcome;
  3. explore potential interest among woodland owners in providing greater access to woodland sites to support forest education, including Forest School.

This national survey forms part of the Forest Schools for All project, a partnership between Sylva Foundation, The Ernest Cook Trust (funder) and The Forest School Association

Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said:

“Efforts to enable, increase, and sustain activities for young people in our woodlands and other outdoor areas across England have been held back by a poor evidence base. This important survey will provide a powerful voice for those with an interest and expertise in bringing children closer to nature. The survey outcomes will help inform delivery, funding opportunities, and policy development and will be freely available.”

Chief Executive of The Ernest Cook Trust, Dr Victoria Edwards, said:

“It’s been invaluable to work alongside experienced professionals at Sylva Foundation and Forest School Association to produce such a targeted research survey. The outcomes will influence decisions on how we work at The Ernest Cook Trust in broadening our reach to inspire young people to learn from the land.

The survey was launched in November 2018 and will remain open until the end of the year. Research outcomes will summarised in a freely-accessible report in early 2019. Those people interested in taking the survey can read more and follow a link to it here: www.sylva.org.uk/survey

click here to take part in the British Woodlands 2012 survey

click here to take part in the survey

Download the press release

ENDS


Notes for Editors

Contacts:

For media enquiries and to arrange interviews please contact Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation.  jen@sylva.org.uk or 01865 408018

Images:

Images are available to download (reproduction free). Please contact us for further information. All images © Sylva Foundation.

About the partners:

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity helping trees and people grow together. From its base at the Sylva Wood Centre in Oxfordshire, it works across the UK supporting sustainable forest management with thousands of woodland owners. It works widely in partnership with other organisations in delivering environmental and educational projects, under the themes of science, education, forestry, and wood. www.sylva.org.uk

The Ernest Cook Trust, based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside. It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its own estates, through partnerships with other organisations, and through its grant-giving programme. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m in dedicated grants to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members. www.forestschoolassociation.org


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Forest Schools for All

posted on June 15, 2018

Forest Schools for All is a bold new education project for Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Celebrating the launch of FSFA 11June2018

Celebrating the announcement of ‘Forest Schools for All’ during a Forest School session at the Sylva Wood Centre: Simon Gould (Director of Learning, Ernest Cook Trust), Jen Hurst (Education Manager, Sylva Foundation) and Sarah Lawfull (Director, Forest School Association).

For the next two years we will develop and test new approaches across three English countries—Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire—with a view to rolling these out at national scale across England (and perhaps the UK) with more partners, support, and funding.

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive, Gabriel Hemery, said “This project builds on the past ten years of Sylva Foundation’s innovative forest education projects, in particular work to support woodland management in Forest Schools thanks to funding from the Patsy Wood Trust.” He continued “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Forest School Association, and especially grateful to The Ernest Cook Trust for agreeing, not only to fund the project, but to act as a main partner.”

The Ernest Cook Trust Chief Executive, Victoria Edwards, said: “Sylva Foundation is a natural fit for The Ernest Cook Trust as we collaborate more and build partnerships with like-minded organisations and estates. Forest Schools for All will both support a more strategic approach to the type of demographic we reach in our education work, and give our outdoor learning team a great opportunity to pilot and refine Forest School programmes across our estates and beyond.“

Project highlights

  • The project will start in summer 2018 with the first national online survey of Forest Schools. We aim to provide much-needed evidence about the barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools. The survey outcomes will also help us measure project progress.
  • In the first two years of this project, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire will be focus counties. Supported by national survey results, we will develop pilot projects in these counties, aiming to overcome barriers to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools.
  • The three counties will aim to become national examples of Forest School excellence by having a high quantity and a high quality of Forest Schools through the FSA-recognised provider scheme.
  • The Ernest Cook Trust will create England’s first ever dedicated grants programme for Forest Schools and Woodland Owners. These small grants will be critical drivers of the project by providing much needed contributions towards the costs of Forest School Leader training, and also the costs of Forest School site development in school grounds or private woodlands.
  • To achieve and sustain the national strategic ambitions of the Forest Schools for All project we will invite public, private and charitable organisations, and individual stakeholders, to share in this exciting vision.

Further Information

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a unique approach that gives young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world, and a powerful process that enables the holistic personal development of young people.

Since 1993, regular Forest School sessions have become part of the mainstream timetable in thousands of schools across the UK: they are very popular with parents, teachers, children and Ofsted. More details about the six Forest School principles of good practice can be found at: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice.

Partner organisations

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside.  It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its estates, and by giving grants. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk 

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members.  www.forestschoolassociation.org

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity offering UK-wide support for forest schools via the myForest for Education website (more than 1,000 registered users). It owns a small estate in Oxfordshire, where it runs the Sylva Wood Centre fostering innovation and enterprise in wood. It has strong links with the woodland owner community across the UK (4,000 owners managing 70,000ha).  www.sylva.org.uk


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