Forest Schools and outdoor adventure
There are many ways to approach outdoor learning, from learning bushcraft skills and food foraging at the weekends to developing your whole school experience outside. One thing is for sure: happy, healthy and successful young people need to be outside.
According to the Eden Project, research shows that access to outdoor learning and play has a positive impact on children’s health, learning and behaviour – improving focus and concentration, while enhancing cognitive skills, social skills, self-esteem, physical fitness and creativity. Whether it’s in the school playground, during lessons or having fun after school and at the weekend, learning outside the classroom pays off! Despite these benefits, today’s children spend, on average, just 9% of their time outside – a lot less than previous generations.
Want to get them outside? Here’s a cornucopia of inspiring nature providers: clubs & workshops, one-off events, summer camps, preschools and junior schools and even an Outsider Festival.
Newquay Forest School
offers children’s workshops, wild campouts, training and support at its picturesque 10-acre woodland near Porth Reservoir. There are adults’ & tots’ sessions on Mondays and after-school clubs on Thursdays. 07773 799755 www.newquayforestschool.co.uk.
Outdoor Learning, Barras Moor Farm, Perranarworthal, is a quirky special place where even the office was made by children from straw bales, whittled sticks and recycled materials and the greenhouse from old windows! They offer holiday clubs, kids parties, nature’s playground Saturday club 10am to 12.30pm and school visits. Relax, create, play, garden and enjoy Forest School activities; cook food in the cob pizza oven and on an open fire; chill in the yurt; learn to light fires naturally and create bird-hides and dens; go on foraging expeditions to gather materials; kite-flying, making baskets, flag-making, and woodwork around the fire pit. On cold or wet days, cosy activities range from sewing or leather work to printing and working with clay. Sessions end around the fire pit with hot drinks and snacks. Book on 07967 132919 or email@example.com www.bootup.org.uk
is a small Steiner orientated school at the Holifield Farm project, Gweek. Imagine being a child who goes to a school where there’s no electricity, computer or television. Where the classroom is either a yurt, or as Margaret McMillan once said, ‘roofed only by the sky’. The kindergarten is for 3 to 6 years, there is a larger yurt for 6 to 8 years and an open-sided barn so that lessons can continue outside when it rains. Some children like sitting at a table working, others find it near-on impossible to sit still and hold a pen for long but will happily write with a stick in mud for ages. Zelda School gives them both options. This year the next class has opened for 8 to 11 years, in a studio at the Potager garden near Falmouth. www.zeldaschool.co.uk
Zelda School is now embarking on a new initiative with parents in mid-Cornwall – a sister school at Woodland Valley Farm near Ladock. http://zeldasisterschool.org.uk/ for more information.
Longdowns, between Falmouth and Helston. Children’s Holiday Club: action-packed, exciting outdoor adventures with no parents required! For ages 7 to 11, each day has a different theme and each week makes a complete adventure package! 9.45am to 3.30pm (£25pp) or from 8am to 5pm (£35pp). Adrenalin-rush Birthday packages and Family adventure packages are a speciality, Zip wire, climbing, abseiling and water skills in the quarries, bushcraft or orienteering. 01326 340912 or book online www.bfadventure.org using discount code: blackbird
Highway Farm Activity Centre,
Four Lanes, is developed for the children, by the children. They help design, plan, build and create the adventurous wild and fun play space. The ethos is back to basics, good old fashioned outdoor play, learning and adventure. Little Explorers – Outdoor Pre-school for 3 & 4 yrs; Little Explorers Holiday Club for 3 to 7 yrs. Adrenaline fix Holiday Club 8-14yrs, and After-school club. 01209 211905 www.highwayfarm.com
Nature Workshops offer a range of workshops for children and adults from a carefully designed series of workshops to one off activities, sessions and quests for a fun family day out or a fab party. The sessions can be held all over Cornwall, in woods, on beaches, and they provide all the equipment and catering over an open fire. See more at: http://www.natureworkshops.co.uk/activitiesforchildren. I attended one of their excellent workshops in Idless Woods, Truro recently. It was a damp, cloudy and frankly miserable day, but the moment I stood under the soaring trees I felt calmer and lighter. My highlights? I enjoyed playing games, hiding under tarpaulins and listening through the birdsong and giggles for ‘I’m coming, can I hear you?’ I lit a fire without matches! We made beautiful group pictures dusting round our hands with flour and leaving hand-shaped patterns on the forest floor. Great for children, parents, teachers, grandparents etc. 01209 215211 www.natureworkshops.co.uk
The Forestry Commission
Cardinham Woods, near Bodmin are perfect for outdoor learning. The new Badger Forest School and Outdoor Learning run sessions including a range of activities from shelter-building to woodland art, survival skills and campfire cooking; run by Claire Whalley, an experienced primary school teacher and Level 3 Forest School Leader. There will be school and pre-school visits, parent toddler groups (Badger Cubs), family Saturdays, birthday parties, home-education sessions and Eco-therapy groups starting after Easter. Book on www.badgerforestschool.co.uk. Easter holiday activities include an Easter egg treasure hunt, walking trails for all abilities, exciting mountain bike trails and a self-led Superworm activity trail suitable for buggies and pushchairs. Special trail packs, which include a limited edition Superworm book (from the creators of The Gruffalo), can be purchased from the wonderful Woods Café. www.forestry.gov.uk/superworm
St Clement, Truro, is a pioneering off-grid outdoor education centre. The farm is an endless playground with two hundred acres of woodland, streams, lakes and organic farmland; a haven for wildlife. Forest School programmes for schools can be run at the centre, on your school grounds or at a woodland location local to you. Our cub reporter adores his Camp Kernow Woodland Wild after-school club and comes out beaming whatever the weather. Environmental adventure, 6-day camps this summer will be packed with activities like den-building, animal tracking, green woodworking, campfire cooking, foraging, kayaking, wave power device-making, bat detecting, bushcraft and climbing. Provision for sleeping is in low impact timber/canvas structures including yurts, tipis, geo-domes, bell tents and even an upturned boat hull! They pick, prepare and serve food, carefully supervised by Charlie and his team in their well-equipped field kitchen. Our cub reporter is begging to go! http://campkernow.org.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 07979 644542/ 01872 885779
Tamar Lake Forest School,
Tamar Lake View, nr Thurdon, Forest Friends under 5s group, holiday adventure camps and 6-week school programmes, 01288 321474 http://www.tamarlakeforestschool.co.uk
nurseries, St Austell, Charlestown & Lostwithiel, also run Stay & Play, forest school sessions and holiday clubs http://www.naturallylearning.co.uk 07769342133
Saplings nature club,
Cornwall College Newquay,for 5 to 11 year olds, free, 3.30 to 5pm, Atlantic Centre, Newquay. 24 Mar: Easter Party with a visiting scientist. 28 Apr: the biology of mammals; book 01637 857 957
Cornwall Wildlife Trust,
Fox Club coordinate lots of wonderful outdoor events, see the BBP calendar and http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/
St Agnes Outsid’er Festival,
10 to 12 Apr: three days of outdoor fun, Wacky Races competition, Salt Roads Theatre, star gazing on the beacon, Pop Up orchestra, Cornish language heritage walk, surf cinema, den-building, skate ramps, bike tours and beast feast www.st-agnes.com/outsider
is a fantastic family activity – it gets everyone outdoors, using their senses and enjoying fresh, nutritious and local food under the guise of adventure and doing something different and wild. Learning foraging with an expert means you can safely share this skill. For details of Rachel Lambert’s highly recommended courses, see www.wildwalks-southwest.co.uk 31 Mar: family foraging course with tasters, Perranuthnoe, between Helston & Penzance, 10.30am to 1pm; 7 Apr: Godrevy, near Hayle, 2.30 to 5pm; 19 Apr: seaweeds foraging course with tasters, Prussia Cove, West Cornwall, 10.30am to 1pm. Rachel’s new book ‘Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’ is available from www.wildwalks-southwest.co.uk or local bookshops.
Free Food Forever!
Are you on a low or no income and struggle to afford fresh food? Do you live in SE Cornwall? Learn how to feed your family for FREE using local wild ingredients in wild food foraging walks and cookery classes! Free Food Forever is a free 9-month course run by The Family Foraging Kitchen from 29 Mar to Nov. Lunch and wild food diary books are provided. Book for either one or all of the course dates. 01752 823424 or email us at email@example.com
21 Mar: Seashore forage and feast with the Lizard National Trust Rangers to forage around Poltesco. Find out what is good to eat and what is not and help prepare your lunch with the rangers over the fire. 10.30am to 2.30pm. £10/ £5. 31 Mar & 1 Apr: Family bushcraft at Poltesco, with the rangers; cook sausages over the fire, 10am to 2pm, £5, book 01326 291174. 18 Apr: Beachside bushcraft. Join the Wild Lizard Education Ranger at Manaccan for foraging, tasting and learning a few basic bushcraft skills, 10am to 2pm, 01326 340961
Training courses for parents, teachers etc
Newquay Forest School
offers training and support at their 10-acre woodland near Porth Reservoir. 07773 799755 www.newquayforestschool.co.uk.
Barras Moor Farm, Perranarworthal. 07967 132919 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.bootup.org.uk
offer AptAward accredited Levels 1, 2, 3 Forest School Practitioner Training and RLSS Water Safety courses. www.natureworkshops.co.uk 01209 215211
Gweek, has started offering teacher-training sessions so teachers can experience outdoor learning in action and get ideas to take back to their schools.
I asked how you can deliver a full curriculum with less time spent in the classroom. Here’s an example from Zelda … Sticks and Stones: outdoor Maths. Gather a pile of sticks and a pile of stones. What mathematics can be done with these ‘resources’? Counting, addition, subtraction, shapes, measuring, grouping, sorting and classifying, leading to multiplication and division, fractions, symmetry; there is more! Treasure hunts to find and identify different shape; area and perimeter work; mapping and scale. You can pretty much cover the whole of KS1 and KS2 maths curriculum with sticks, stones and some tape measures!
The Eden Project
offers a range of inspirational training opportunities to enable teachers to become outstanding practitioners of outdoor learning. http://www.edenproject.com/learn-with-us
On their website is an excellent collection of free teaching resources, lesson plans and play activities for parents and teachers.