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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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Tree Tools for Schools

posted on June 21, 2018

We were pleased to have been approached by the Woodland Trust for help in developing a new national resource for schools to be called Tree Tools for Schools. The resources are now live on the Woodland Trust website.

Tree Tools for Schools

Tree Tools for Schools

Our team adapted some existing Sylva Foundation education resources to develop the ‘Working with Wood’ activities. The activity worksheets and teachers notes cover five topic areas all linked to subjects areas in the Key Stage 2 Primary School Curriculum:

  • What does wood mean to you? Learn how wood has been used throughout history and how it is used today.
  • Different trees for different needs! Discover the many reasons for planting trees. And find out how a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak!
  • The story of wood: from tree to table! Follow the journey of a tree from the forest to the sawmill and see how it’s transformed into a table.
  • What are broadleaf and conifer trees? Learn about hardwoods and softwoods, and how they are different.
  • The power of planting trees! Find out why we need to plant millions more trees in the UK. And start your own campaign to inspire others!

Visit the Woodland Trust website

 


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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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Putting the Forestry into Forest Education

posted on March 31, 2017

Last week eighty forest educators came together at Bishops Wood Centre to increase their skills and knowledge in forestry at a conference run by England’s Forest Education Network (FEN). Sylva Foundation played a key role in developing the forestry theme of the conference and helping deliver the conference in its role as one of six national organisations on the FEN steering group.

Jen Hurst delivers the woodland management workshop

Jen Hurst delivers the woodland management workshop

In partnership with Royal Forestry Society and Bishops Wood, Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst ran a workshop “Wonderful ways with woodland management that accommodates education”. Participants in the workshop were introduced to woodland management through games, group activities and lively discussions on the complexities of sustainably managing a woodland for multiple objectives. A Forest School Leader trainer commented:

“We are looking forward to passing on the woodland management tips to our Forest School trainees.”

During the workshop Sylva’s myForest for Education was introduced as a free online tool to support educators in developing their own woodland management plans for their sites. Some participants commented:

“It’s a really useful tool” and “Sylva Foundation was very inspiring.”

Participants also took part in two other workshops on the day including: Seeing the wood for the trees – the importance of identification and tree health awareness for woodland management, run by Forestry Commission and Field Studies Council; and Resilient Woodlands for the future, making the right tree planting choices run by the Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission.

Learning in the woods

Learning in the woods

Conference feedback showed that FEN had successfully put the forestry back into forest education!

If you would like to be involved in future FEN events, have access to free education resources, keep up to date with national forest education organisations and join this growing network of forest educators join FEN!

 


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Hundreds of young people to help plant the Future Forest

posted on January 20, 2017
Sylva's Tree Team Educators Jen Hurst and Pieternel Overweel teach the Sylva Plant a Tree! song to Robins Reception class at St Francis Church of England Primary School.

Sylva’s Tree Team Educators Jen Hurst and Pieternel Overweel teach the Sylva Plant a Tree! song to Robins Reception class at St Francis Church of England Primary School.

We have welcomed in the New Year in the best way possible: inviting hundreds of young people to plant trees in the Future Forest.

Sylva’s staff, Education Manager Jen Hurst and volunteer Pieternel Overweel, have been working closely with 20 primary school classes (500 children) thanks to funding from Tesco Bags of Help and the Ernest Cook Trust.

Sylva Tree Team

Sylva Tree Team

During January we have been visiting the schools to talk about trees, forestry and tree planting. All the children will be visiting the site of the Future Forest to plant their trees during February. These young students are excited to be joining the Sylva Tree Team.

 

School students planting the Future Forest

School students planting the Future Forest

In addition to preparing the primary schools we’ve been welcoming secondary school students and special needs groups, thanks to collaboration with Earth Trust who have long-established links with local schools.

The 600+ children helping us plant the new woodland will be a long way forward in a journey learning about and taking responsibility for the environment, after all:

“All human beings should plant one tree for every year that they live on Earth.”
Gabriel Hemery & Sarah Simblet, The New Sylva (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014)

 

 


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The Sylva Tree Team has landed

posted on January 13, 2017
Sylva Tree Team

The Sylva Tree Team

Hundreds of schoolchildren are poised to visit the Future Forest to help plant trees. Luckily they will be assisted by the Sylva Tree Team.

Name: Sylva Tree Team

Members:  Captain Chainsaw, Bark the Wonder Dog, Professor Nuts, and Sally the Psychic Squirrel

Base:  Tree Team Zone in the Sylva Future Forest

Mission:  caring for trees and forests

Powers:  silviculture

Gear:  super saws, tree gun, book of knowledge

Captain Chainsaw is strong and fearless. She helps trees grow better by pruning their branches. Sometimes she cuts trees down so their timber can be used to build houses or make furniture. Her work in the forest lets sunlight reach the trees, and helps make homes and food for wildlife. In the spring she likes to help Professor Nuts with planting more trees. She loves her steel-capped boots and super saws. Her favourite tree is the cedar.

Bark the Wonder Dog is always busy helping the Sylva Tree Team. His favourite job is digging holes to help Professor Nuts plant more trees. He often carries sticks in his mouth for Captain Chainsaw. When he thinks no one is looking, he sometimes chases Sally Squirrel!

Professor Nuts is a genius. He writes books to help everyone learn about trees and how to look after them. He knows everything about how trees grow, which trees to plant where, and how to protect them from pests and diseases. He invented a tree gun which can plant one thousand trees every hour. He sometimes forgets things, but Bark is always nearby to remind him. His favourite tree is the walnut and he really likes wearing wellington boots.

Sally the Psychic Squirrel is very sparky and lively but often invisible in the treetops. She has special powers and gives the Sylva Tree Team clues to help them see what might happen to forests in the future. This is important because trees take a long time to grow. Her archenemy is Grey Squirrel who threatens her home planet.

Sylva Tree Team poster - click to download

Sylva Tree Team poster – click to download

Resources

Download the Sylva Tree Team poster

Visit the Sylva Tree Team webpage

 

All images copyright © 2017 Mark Hawkins

Category: EDUCATION
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Hot-bench spaces available at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on December 8, 2016
Hot bench user at the Sylva Wood Centre

Hot bench user at the Sylva Wood Centre

As part of the continuing development at the Sylva Wood Centre we have opened a new facility to allow wood-based craftpersons to rent bench space by the week.

Called Start-Up, this flexible ‘hot-benching’ system is aimed at people of all ages who would like to try their hand at setting up a wood business without the burden of taking on a long-term lease.

Hot-benchers have access to a shared machinery workshop which means they don’t have to spend large amounts of capital to get started. Machinery includes a state-of-art Martin panel saw, plus planer, thicknesser, and bandsaw.

 

Sylva Machinery Workshop

Machinery Workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre

Users will join a vibrant and friendly community of wood craftspeople and benefit from companionship, informal advice, inspiration over shared cake and coffee, and opportunities to take part in our growing programme of public exhibitions.

There are currently five benches available to rent by the week.  If you want to find out more and to discuss terms and booking, please email paul@sylva.org.uk or call 01865 408018.


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Wood Week captivates primary school

posted on November 16, 2016

An innovative week-long programme of outdoor and indoor education about trees, forestry and wood — Wood Week — was developed and tested with one lucky primary school.

Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager Jen Hurst teamed up with Forester Paul Williams, Carpenter Julian Angus and staff at Combe Church of England Primary School to provide children with a week-long programme of activities on the topic of British trees, forestry and wood. This was supported by head teacher Charlie Marshall as part of the school’s new Curiosity, Creativity and Challenge curriculum.


The week kicked off with an assembly on the OneOak Project  which provided the school with inspiration and ideas for their own tree; a Norway Spruce to be felled in the school grounds. On Day Two Paul Williams of Trees and Gardens came into school and ran forestry workshops for the children explaining his work and equipment. Jen worked with children to learn more about Norway Spruce, its biology and value and to estimate the height and age of the tree before its felling. Once felled the children re-measured the tree and watched Paul cross cut the trunk 122 rounds so that each child took one home.

Julian Angus runs his own carpentry business from the Sylva Wood Centre but also works with schools to make wood products.  On Day Three of Wood Week Julian set up a ‘pop up’ wood workshop in the school grounds and gave the Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11 years) the task of making two benches out of Douglas-fir timber. The children were completely hands-on measuring, sawing, hammering, bolting and working as a team. The benches are needed by the school to increase the seating area for outdoor learning. Key Stage 1 children (aged 4-7 years) also enjoyed using tools making tree cookies with hand drills at their Forest School sessions on the same day.

Jen Hurst led classes outside on Day Four with engaging tree identification activities. Learning the names and uses of the trees will enable staff and pupils to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning. On the same day Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) learned how wood was used in the past by building a wattle and daub wall out of hazel and willow as part of their Anglo-Saxon history lesson. In classrooms teachers taught lessons related to Wood Week, including literacy by comparing Norway Spruce and Oak, debated the of felling trees, and produced artwork using materials from trees. These lesson plans, resources, photos, films and activities will be uploaded onto TIMBER! website.

The finale of the week was the branding of 10 logs of Lawson Cypress donated by Blenheim Estate. Julian Angus set up a ‘pop up’ Black Smith forge complete with bellows. Key Stage two children selected the individual iron letters and branded the log poles to spell out the school’s values. Key Stage one children helped shave the bark off the logs with a spokeshave. A final school assembly was held outdoors and the offspring of the OneOak tree, a young oak sapling, was planted to replace the Norway Spruce.

There has been lots of positive feedback from parents and children, one 8 year old said:

“it was the best week of my life!” and many children have expressed an interest in careers in forestry and woodwork.

Charlie Marshall Head Teacher said:

“Schools can focus on the negatives of deforestation so we decided to look at the positive…and learn about the journey of a tree through its life…”

 

Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst explained the many outcomes from Wood Week:

  • educating young people, teachers and their families about British trees, forestry and wood
  • training and enabling school teachers to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning
  • improving school grounds with benches and sculptures to enable outdoor learning
  • giving young people a genuine hands on experience making products out of wood
  • providing young people with the opportunity to meet professional foresters and carpenters
  • developing new resources for teaching and learning on British trees, forestry and wood that will be available nationally on Sylva’s TIMBER! website. “

 

If your school is interested in a Wood Week or Julian Angus workshops please contact Jen Hurst

 


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Local school children gear up for the Future Forest

posted on October 5, 2016
Willowcroft children at the Future Forest September 2016

Children from Willowcroft Community School at the Future Forest, September 2016

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

We announced two weeks ago the fabulous news that we will receive a grant from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme – read more. Voting by members of the public in Tesco stores near us in south Oxfordshire could help us attract even more funding and help us support more work with young children from local schools. Voting opens 31st October to 13th November.

This week the local paper visited to cover the story and we were lucky to have the support of children from one of the primary schools taking part in planting the Future Forest. Seven children from Willowcroft Community School came to see the bare arable field, where they will return after Christmas and help plant 7,500 trees.


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Bags of Help for Future Forest Education

posted on September 13, 2016
Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco Bags of Help

Sylva Foundation calls for votes to bag a share of £12.5million carrier bag charge fund. The charity is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

The supermarket has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative, which sees grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to environmental and greenspace projects.

Three groups in each of Tesco’s 416 regions have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and this month shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant. Sylva Foundation has been shortlisted for its local region.

Big Future Forest Plot Project

Big Future Forest Plot Project

The Big Future Forest Plot Project will see over 300 children from 10 primary schools local to the Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham choose and plant trees on 10 plots this winter. As the Future Forest grows schools will be offered the opportunity to use it to Forest School sessions and children and their families can visit ‘their’ school plot to see its progress and enjoy the new green space.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO of Sylva Foundation explains:

“We’re so delighted to be chosen as one of the region’s projects to be funded by TESCO Bags of Help. The grant means hundreds of local children can get involved in creating and learning from this wonderful new sustainable woodland. On planting days they’ll get their hands dirty, out in the fresh air, choosing and planting many different species of new trees. And they can come back with their schools and their families for many years to come to see how the Forest grows. This is a project with a long legacy.”

Shoppers visiting Abingdon Extra, Didcot Superstore and Faringdon Metro will be able to vote for Sylva’s project: voting is open from 31st October to 13th November. Customers can cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

This is the second round of the initiative: the first round saw approximately eight million shoppers vote in stores up and down the country earlier this year.

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“The first round of the Bags of Help initiative was a fantastic success.

“In total 1,170 community groups were awarded £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000 – that’s a massive £11.7 million being invested into local projects.

“We are already seeing some great results from groups transforming their own environmental and greenspace areas.

“We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for round two. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s national Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“Bags of Help is giving our communities both the funding and the support to create better, healthier and greener places for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between. They’re all fantastic projects that make a real difference in our neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”


Read the full Press Release

 

 


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