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teach your child about endangered animals

Teach your child about endangered animals

By Education, environment, Forest School, Nature, Relationships

The topic of endangered animals can be a difficult one for adults, let alone children. How do you explain, in simple and sensitive terms, that human action is destroying the planet and subsequently wiping out entire species of animals?

It’s the younger generations that are going to suffer the most from the impact of climate change, so it’s in their best interest to learn the hows and whys as early as possible. Knowledge is power, after all.

Here, My Oceans has put together their top tips for teaching children about endangered animals.

Use sensitive and simple language
There’s a fine line between being realistic and just plain terrifying. Children must understand the severity of the situation, but you should try to avoid harsh words and confusing terms that they’ll likely not understand.

Don’t: “Human ignorance is killing innocent animals; when the population of a species has declined at least 70% for reasons unknown, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declares it as endangered.”

Do: “Endangered animals are animals that have become so rare that they’re at risk of disappearing forever! This is why everyone must come together to take necessary the steps to protect them before it’s too late.”

Get the whole family involved
Make this a family activity by getting the whole crew together! If your children have older siblings who perhaps already know about endangered species, it still might be a good idea to get them involved.

Most little ones subconsciously mimic their older siblings, so they’re far more likely to take an interest in the topic if their brothers and sisters do too. Plus, helping save the world is a fantastic family bonding activity.

Find children-friendly books
If you’re not the best at wording things, or if your children need a little more clarification, look for children-friendly books that address the topic.

Fortunately, there are hundreds out there which are ideal for children aged three to 11.

You can find books that explore specific at-risk animals, such as ‘A Polar Bear in the Snow’ or ‘Give Bees a Chance’. This might be good if your child has a favourite animal that they want to learn more about.

There are also books that explain the subject of endangered animals in a general sense. Recommended reads might include works such as ‘My First Pop-Up Endangered Animal’s by Owen Davey and ‘A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals’ by author Millie Marotta.

Books are a fantastic way to enrich a child’s learning, especially for topics that might be a little upsetting or confusing. Set aside some time to go through each book together.

Let them ask as many questions as they need to
Children are incredibly curious – sometimes too much so. However, it’s important you let them ask as many follow-up questions as they need to.

If you want them to get their head around a totally bewildering subject, you should expect and prepare for an interrogation.

Some questions might be outrageous (hey, children are children) but do your best to give clear, honest answers to help them further grasp the topic.

Think of ways to help
Now that your little ones have a better understanding of what endangered animals are, you must plan all the ways that you can try to help the cause together.

As an adult, you’ll probably know the obvious solutions (more on those below), but this brainstorming session should be about encouraging your children to the discussion.

Nudge them in the right direction but let them feel like they’re the ones contributing awesome, life-saving ideas. This will make the children feel much more motivated to carry out the ideas in the next stage.

Support
This is perhaps the most important part of teaching your children about endangered animals: putting those plans into action.

Once you have your list of solutions, research each one until you have a good idea of your ‘who, what, when, where and why.’

Types of activities you could consider include:
Adopt an animal
Expose your children to endangered animals in a fun way that promotes responsibility. Your small monthly donation can help fund crucial work, plus, in exchange, you’ll typically receive a cuddly toy, regular updates, and a certificate.

Make eco-friendly lifestyle changes
Many adults have adopted bad environmental lifestyle habits, and bad habits are hard to shake. From early on, before these negative routines cement themselves in your children’s life, teach them:
• How to recycle, and why it’s crucial we do so
• The importance of eco-friendly products (such as plastic-free toilet paper and reusable shopping bags)
• How to reduce energy usage
• To avoid single-use plastic
• To eat less meat.

Raise funds together
There are plenty of UK charities for protecting endangered animals and their habitats, such as People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and WWF.

A possible ocean-specific charity you could support is the Marine Conservation Society, an organisation working to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment. Think of exciting ways to raise money for these charities, such as bakes sale or walking fundraiser.

Visit an animal shelter or wildlife centre – a super educational way to support a fantastic cause while helping your children to comprehend the topic in greater detail. Find your local animal shelter or wildlife centre and volunteer your time feeding the animals, cleaning and tidying habitats, or just being a companion.

Incorporate fun activities – children love to play! Playing is crucial for their development as it benefits a variety of skills, including cognitive and social. As you embark on this journey of better understanding endangered animals, look for fun activities that’ll help and engage them:
• Arts and crafts
• Roleplay
• Puppeteering
• Painting and drawing
• Singing and dancing.

They have the power to change the world
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re raising your children with the right beliefs, attitudes and knowledge. Theirs is the generation that will be hurt the most by the impacts of climate change, so it’s only right we give them the necessary tools to fight back – as early as possible.

Support them in grasping the severity of the situation in a way that motivates them to help the cause. No one is expecting a six year old to single-handedly change the world, but soon that six year old will be a fully-fledged adult that has a much better chance of doing so.

For further information please visit www.myoceans.co.uk

 

Garden birds are counting on you!

By environment, Forest School, Nature

Big Garden Birdwatch 2024.  Together, let’s make it count!

The world’s largest garden wildlife survey returns, with hundreds of thousands of people watching and counting the UK’s garden birds over the last weekend in January for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Over half a million people took part in 2023, counting more than 9 million birds.

This year’s event takes place on 26th, 27th and 28th January 2024. People across the UK are asked to spend an hour watching and counting the birds in their garden, balcony or local park, then send their results to the RSPB.

This year’s event marks 45 years since the first Big Garden Birdwatch. Starting in 1979, it has since become a much-loved annual citizen science event, that gives the RSPB a valuable snapshot of how our garden birds are doing in the UK. Over that time, 185 million birds have been counted and nearly 11.5 million hours spent watching and counting garden birds.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “By taking part in the Birdwatch you are joining hundreds of thousands of people from across the UK, united in a love of nature, to play an important role in helping us understand how our UK birds are doing. Big Garden Birdwatch demonstrates the power that people have when they come together for nature. Join us for Big Garden Birdwatch 2024 and together let’s take action to help birds and other wildlife thrive for generations to come.”

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2024, watch the birds on your balcony, in your garden or in your local green space for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

Registration for Big Garden Birdwatch 2024 opens 13 December 2023.

To receive your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch, RSPB shop voucher, plus advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 82727 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

The parallel event RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term, 8 January – 19 February 2024. For more than 20 years, the Birdwatch has helped to connect children and their teachers with nature in their school grounds. Registration for Big Schools’ Birdwatch is now live. Further information can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

ball pit at Godstone Farm

Maximising a family day out

By Education, environment, Family Farms, Green, Mental health, Nature
by Nicola Henderson
Godstone Farm

Getting the best value for your money

In today’s world, with the rising cost-of-living and financial pressures on families, planning a day out that offers the best value for money is essential. Fortunately, with careful planning and consideration, families can still enjoy memorable experiences without breaking the bank. In particular, farm parks present an excellent option, combining a diverse range of activities with reasonable pricing, ensuring a fun-filled day out for all ages.

Here are some helpful tips from an insider!

1. Plan ahead and look for offers and discounts
The key to a budget-friendly family day out starts with thorough planning. Research local farm parks or attractions that offer a wide range of activities suitable for all family members. Before visiting, check their website or social media for special offers, discounts, or family packages. Many attractions provide reduced prices for early bookings or for buying tickets online in advance. Utilise membership cards, loyalty schemes, or annual passes that can grant access to multiple visits at a discounted rate.

2. Make the most of farm park offerings
Farm parks often combine various activities, making them an excellent value for money option. With a mix of animal encounters, indoor play areas, and outdoor spaces, there really is something for everyone. The diversity of activities caters to children of all ages, keeping them occupied and entertained throughout the day. Moreover, farm parks are generally more affordable than city centre attractions or tourist hotspots, making them a budget-friendly choice for families.

3. Utilise meal deals and picnic facilities
Food expenses during family days out can add up quickly. Consider looking for attractions that offer meal deals or have affordable food options on-site. Alternatively, pack a picnic lunch and take advantage of dedicated picnic areas and covered barns available at many farm parks. Enjoying a homemade lunch amidst the beautiful surroundings not only saves money but also allows for a relaxing and enjoyable break.

4. Smart shopping at gift shops
Children often desire a souvenir to remember their day out. Instead of splurging on expensive items, look for attractions with a well-stocked gift shop that offers pocket-friendly options. A section with low-cost items such as postcards, pencils, or small toys will delight young ones without straining the budget. Encourage children to make thoughtful purchases within a pre-determined budget, helping to teach them the value of money.

5. Consider memberships and multi-visit passes
For families living nearby or who plan to visit regularly, memberships or multi-visit passes can be a cost-effective option. Such offerings often come with perks like discounted admission for friends or reduced prices on additional activities within the park. It’s worth calculating how many visits are required to make the pass worthwhile and consider the added benefits it provides.

6. Time your visit wisely
To maximize the experience at farm parks, consider arriving early in the day to avoid crowds and make the most of the attractions. Alternatively, some parks may offer reduced rates for late afternoon visits, which can be beneficial if you have older children who can stay engaged until closing time. Many attractions run off-peak pricing too so if you don’t need to visit in the middle of a school holiday perhaps defer your trip to a weekend during term-time and opt for the local play park when the children are off school.

Creating lasting memories during a family day out does not have to come at a high cost. By planning ahead, taking advantage of offers and discounts and making smart choices during the visit, families can enjoy a fantastic day filled with fun and excitement without breaking the bank. Farm parks offer a great balance of activities at a reasonable price, making them an ideal choice for families looking for the best value for their hard-earned money. So, gather your loved ones, pack a picnic and head to the farm park for a day of endless enjoyment!

Godstone Farm in Surrey offers a wider range of animal experiences allowing children (and adults) the chance to go behind the scenes and experience the many benefits of animal contact. www.godstonefarm.co.uk

forest girl

Benefits of outdoor, nature based play for children with autism

By Education, environment, Green, Mental health, Playing, Relationships, special educational needs, Special support needs
by Melanie Parr
Managing Director, Lymley Wood CIC

“My child has made a friend for the first time when he came to your Forest School, we are now planning a play date.”

Being a parent to a neurodiverse child can be a challenge and a struggle but also full of such joy. All parents want their children to make friends, have fun, learn and be able to explore new environments safely while knowing they will be respected and their individual needs will be accommodated and embraced.

Autism is not ‘one size fits all’ and every child with ASC (Autistic Spectrum Condition) has different presentations to others, but one thing we have found at Lymley Wood CIC is that being outside in a natural space provides children with ASC the chance to enjoy experiences just like other children do.

There isn’t currently a great deal of research into autism and nature activities but there is a growing body of evidence to prove a link between increased wellbeing, higher achievement and access to nature. There are many individual stories illustrating the positive influence which Forest School has had on autistic participants.

“This is the first holiday club my child has attended where I haven’t been called to take him home due to his behaviour.” One of our parents with a child aged eight with ASC.

Finding a provision that has a person-centred approach is essential for autistic children and with an autism-aware practitioner, ASD children have an opportunity to thrive. As well as physical activity benefits, outdoor sessions can help with motor skills, speech and language and aid emotional regulation.

So what can time spent in a natural space such as a Forest School offer:
1. A person-centred approach doesn’t only take into account any differences or difficulties someone may have, it looks at all children as unique individuals. Sit spots and favourite places for children to go to if they feel overwhelmed are easy in the woods.
2. Curiosity led play – special interests are welcome in the woods and are a great way to engage children.
3. Space to be safely sensorily stimulated – stimming, rocking, feeling the senses of nature all around is all OK in a natural space. Jumping in play nets or lying wrapped up in a blanket looking up through the trees allows for senses to be explored.
4. Encouraging an interest in nature – maybe our next Chris Packham, who openly talks about his own challenges with ASC and how nature has benefited him.
5. A chance to make new friends and connections with children and adults.
6. Physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors, leading to calmer children and a chance to overcome some triggers and decreasing sensitivities like windy weather.

“I loved everything but the mud was the best” boy aged 10.

Forest Schools are popping up all over Sussex as are holiday cubs in woodland spaces such as Lymley Wood near Crowborough (www.lymleywood.co.uk). They all offer a great place to trial a session for children with ASC or other SEND needs.

East Sussex Council also supports access to holiday clubs with funded places for SEND children as part of the HAF scheme, for further details see www.eastsussex.gov.uk/children-families/childcare/welcome-to-holiday-food-and-fun

Mel Parr runs Lymley Wood CIC based near Five Ashes, that has been challenging Nature Deficit Disorder in Children since 2019.
For upcoming events please visit www.eequ.org/experience/4795

free running in nature

Nurtured by nature

By Education, environment, Forest School, Green
by Caroline Fairs
A Little Dose of Nature

Growing up in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I have many happy memories of spending long afternoons playing outside with the other young children on my street. Day after day after day of the long summer holidays was spent playing endless games of hide-and-seek, going on ‘wild’ adventures through the overgrown scrub and meandering alleyways at the back of our houses, foraging for leaves, twigs and tiny creatures with which we could concoct potions or make mini imaginary worlds. Hours would melt away. Time itself ceased to exist until we were brought back to sharp reality by the nag from our mums to “please come in, tea’s on the table” to which we would plead “just five more minutes”, so desperate we were to stay in our nature-filled, make-believe world. Days like these were pure magic.

I’ll always be grateful that I grew up just before the advent of smartphones and social media. Life seemed simpler back then. In just a couple of decades, our lives and especially those of our children have drastically changed – everything seems busier, more stressful and with more pressure than ever to be doing, achieving, progressing – whatever happened to slowing down, finding joy in simplicity and noticing things? Despite the fact we have more ways of distracting and entertaining ourselves than ever before, our children seem unhappier than ever. The results of the most recent surveys show that 1 in 7 five to ten year olds suffer with a mental health problem, an increase from 1 in 10 in 2017.

There seems to be an epidemic of poor mental health affecting our children and while there are many factors that are contributing to this, our increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyles are clearly playing a role, with some going as far as saying that we are raising a generation of children suffering from ‘nature-deficit disorder’.

The American biologist, Edward Wilson set out his popular biophilia theory in 1984 in which he argued that as humans we are intrinsically drawn towards our natural surroundings with a desire to interact with other life forms. In other words, we are meant to be outside in nature – that’s where we thrive. As a mum of a young daughter, I’ve witnessed the seemingly magnetic pull of nature first-hand – she loves nothing more than playing outside, bounding from one muddy puddle to the next on our walks, giggling as she rolls down hills and collecting nature’s ‘artefacts’ with a look of such curiosity on her face, it makes my heart soar. This is where she’s happiest. And these are all simple things – no complicated toys or gadgets, just things that you can find right outside your door for free: nature’s gifts. Granted, my daughter is young enough still to be persuaded to turn off the TV but even older children, forever on their smartphones, still have it within them to find joy in nature – that innate pull to the natural world is still there, we just need to set it free.

So why is nature so good for our children? We can already see for ourselves that being outside in nature has an overwhelmingly positive effect but in her book, ‘A Little Dose of Nature’, psychologist Dr Alison Greenwood explains the benefits of nature’s five active ingredients: fractals (naturally occurring, repeating patterns), nature sounds, phytoncides (natural chemicals released by trees and plants), soil bacteria and sunlight. These intrinsic parts of nature not only help children feel happier and calmer, they can also improve focus, attention and sleep and boost their immune systems and even brain power! Engaging with the natural world can also improve confidence and inspire creativity and imagination as they explore new environments and find new ways of interacting with the world around them. Many studies have also shown that spending time outside can also help reduce ADHD symptoms. This is because being in natural green spaces engages children in such a way that requires little mental effort – many natural environments are highly fascinating to children and whet their inherent curiosity without them needing to think too hard. It is this fascination which has a restorative and calming effect.

There are many activities which you and your children can enjoy together in nature. Get them to use all five of their senses on a walk – can they spot any fractal patterns – clouds or leaf veins? Can they hear any nature sounds such as birds singing? Are their any flowers or plants they can smell? What can they touch – the rough bark on a tree or soft grass? Taste is a little trickier but maybe if you’re lucky you might come across some blackberries or even some wild garlic!

How about planning a forage or scavenger hunt and getting your child to make a collage or pretty mandala (a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism) using the natural objects they find? But you don’t even need to do this, simply encouraging your children to look more closely at the world around them is a great start. Children have an incredible ability to find joy in the small, simple things – they can often be found in awe of something like a tiny insect going about its business or by an unusual pattern on a leaf. Encouraging more of these “wow” moments as Dr Greenwood refers to them, will not only help your children to be happier and calmer, it might just help you too!

‘A Little Dose of Nature’ written by Dr Greenwood and published by Ivy Kids, is available now from all good book shops priced at £9.99

More than physical – Five added benefits of getting your children into sport

By environment, fun for children, Health, Sport

Many of our children already partake in some form of sports, with over 90% of children between five and 16 years old consistently being involved with sport, whether this be participating in the annual school sports day or an after-school activity. But did you know there are many other added benefits to your children doing sport?

Alongside improving fitness among the young, sport can also be beneficial for the mental wellbeing and growth of your children. Here, Suso explore five ways your child can benefit from taking part in sporting activities.

Sport helps to improve mental health
The physical benefits of sport are undisputed, but did you know that sport can actually help your children improve and manage their mental health better? Children who are active tend to have a better outlook on life. They are also better at managing mental health issues including anxiety and depression. This is due to the release of endorphins during exercise.

Team sport is recognised as being the best for your child’s mental wellbeing. While children with attention difficulties might find that individual sports are more helpful, on average, team sport is the best for improving your child’s mental health.

Children will become more resilient
Making sure your children are prepared for whatever they might face in the future is a large part of your role as a parent. Encouraging them to partake in sport can actually help build resilience within your children from a young age. Children who participate in sport are better equipped to handle obstacles in the future, with sport being identified as a key factor in young children’s resilience.

Whether it is finding a tactic when the other team has an advantage, or improving play when another player gets injured, the obstacles which can occur in team sports means that children can learn and better understand flexible ways of thinking. This will also give children the chance to handle disappointment better as they develop a good sportsmanship way of thinking.

Your children will develop their skills
In fact, there are a host of skills which your child can learn through taking part in sports activities. Not only will they be resilient, but their communication skills can also be developed through team sport. Sport encourages your children to speak on many levels – not only to their peers and teammates, but also to coaches and the opposition.

Other skills your child can develop through sport include:
• Leadership
• Responsibility
• Problem solving
• Teamwork
• Co-ordination

Improvements in behaviour
The benefits don’t just apply on the playing field – you might see an improvement in your child’s behaviour both at home and in the classroom too. By participating in sport, your child will likely learn respect for others, authority figures and their peers. It has also been shown that PE can help your child learn key skills such as self-discipline and concentration which can help in the classroom significantly.

There is a boost in confidence
Finally, your children can benefit from a boost in confidence due to being active in sport programmes. Physical activity can bring about a mindfulness in your children that allows them to be ‘in the zone’. This concentration means that intrusive thoughts, such as self-doubt, are forgotten – leading your child to be more confident in their decisions.

Children who have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem tend to do better in school, at home and with friends. Whereas a child with low self-esteem might repeatedly be unsure of themselves and doubt their abilities – halting progression.

The physical benefits of sport aren’t the only advantages your child can have from partaking in football, cross country, and other physical activities. In fact, UNICEF claims that children who participate in sport and play tend to do better academically as their development and learning are enhanced. The hidden benefits of physical activity can set your child up for success in the future as they develop key skills, have confidence in themselves, and learn to regulate emotions such as disappointment and joy.

For further information please visit www.susodrinks.co.uk

sun safety

Sun safety

By environment, family, Health, Playing, Safety, Summer, sun safety

Take extra care to protect babies and children in the sun. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.

Children aged under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.

From March to October in the UK, children should:
• Cover up with suitable clothing.
• Spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm.
• Wear at least SPF30 sunscreen.

Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands.

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, all children under five are advised to take vitamin D supplements.

When buying sunscreen, the label should have:
• A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB
• At least 4-star UVA protection
• UVA protection can also be indicated by the letters ‘UVA’ in a circle, which indicates that it meets the EU standard.

What are the SPF and star rating?
The sun protection factor, or SPF, is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection.

SPFs are rated on a scale of two to 50+ based on the level of protection they offer, with 50+ offering the strongest form of UVB protection.

The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a star rating of up to five stars on UK sunscreens. The higher the star rating, the better. Sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection are sometimes called broad spectrum.

How to apply sunscreen
Most people do not apply enough sunscreen. As a guide, adults should aim to apply around six to eight teaspoons of sunscreen if you’re covering your entire body.

If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives is reduced. If you’re worried you might not be applying enough SPF30, you could use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied at least twice:
• 30 minutes before going out.
• Just before going out.
• Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears, and head if you have thinning or no hair, but a wide-brimmed hat is better protection.

Sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally and frequently, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

This includes applying it straight after you have been in water, even if it’s ‘water resistant’, and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.

It’s also recommended to reapply sunscreen every two hours, as the sun can dry it off your skin.

Taken from www.nhs.uk

outdoor learning

Empowering our children to become change makers of the future

By Education, environment, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships
by Marcus Culverwell
Headmaster of Reigate St Mary’s School

The world is changing at a phenomenal rate and the education sector needs to respond effectively to this to make sure children are being properly prepared for their future. We need to equip young people with the right skills and knowledge to help them navigate a life where sustainability and protection of the planet are fundamental to the wellbeing of society as a whole. Schools must ask themselves – what will our children be doing in five years’ time? In 10 years’ time? Midway through their career – or, more likely, careers? How will they be changing the world for the better?

So, what can we do now to prepare them for the significant challenges ahead? It is important that children are encouraged to think ‘beyond the bubble’ of traditional schooling and we can help them do this by providing an education that includes:
• Giving back to society and the planet, more than they take – we live on a finite planet and we share our planet too.
• Taking sustainability seriously – practical application now and as future leaders in society.
• Recognising the personal value and economic importance of the natural environment – how eco-systems really work.
• Understanding how STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) can be applied, creatively, to tackle real world problems.
• Philosophy for children – to dig deep into why humanity has got into the ecological predicament we are in, and how we change the story.

At our school we have an Education for Social Responsibility programme (ESR) that encompasses all of the above and helps children to think about the core values that will lead to happy and fulfilled lives, within stable and caring communities while protecting the planet for the future. At the heart of it is a focus on the wellbeing of each of them individually, the wellbeing of teams they will work within and the wellbeing of the planet.

A community outreach programme provides children with opportunities to be part of helping and sharing with the wider community, whether locally or globally. We have a designated member of staff who oversees this and pupils run teatime concerts for the elderly, take part in a Make a Difference challenge in Year 5 and there is a whole-school sponsored walk to raise money to build water tanks in Southern Uganda as well as a dedicated charity day.

It is important that sustainability is taken seriously with issues such as climate change and caring for the planet being woven into all areas of learning. Becoming an Eco school is a good start to this and having dedicated pupil Green Leaders to discuss and implement ways to reduce the school’s carbon footprint is an excellent way to stimulate debate. We also use water butts for left over drinking water, we are careful about use of paper, recycle old pens, encourage walking to school and discourage motorists from leaving car engines idling. Children even build and code model systems such as solar panels which track the sun across the sky.

There is huge personal wellbeing value within the natural environment. To harness this, children should have the chance to take their learning outside as often as possible. Concepts can be taught in relevant and practical ways and often children can solve problems and grasp concepts outside that they have had difficulty with when in the classroom. Connecting with nature is important for wellbeing. Any outside space can be used as a nature reserve for the children to learn Forest School skills, build bug hotels, and generally feel the benefit of being closer to the natural world.

Philosophy for Children (P4C) offers a way to open up learning through enquiry and the exploration of ideas. Children learn that their ideas have value, and that the ideas of other children have value too. They realise that they don’t always have to be right, but they gain the confidence to ask questions and learn through discussion. Each lesson promotes dialogue whereby participants ask questions, sift statements and explore alternatives. Above all, children will generate a greater understanding of each other and appreciate that not everyone believes the same thing, or thinks in the same way – and that is alright. Philosophy calls on imagination and reasoning and puts these capacities to work exploring values, assumptions and vital concepts like justice, truth, and knowledge.

Ultimately, all educators need to support young people to be good citizens, with the confidence to make the right decisions and the skills needed to lead happy and successful lives – lives which are significant in a positive way. We want them to be ideas generators, good listeners, open-minded, considerate colleagues, positive influences, go-getters, self-starters, good neighbours, game changers and change makers of the future.

Reigate St Mary’s is a junior school of Reigate Grammar School (RGS), rated ‘excellent in all areas’ in an ISI Inspection in March 2023. Children enjoy busy days filled with imaginative teaching and exciting adventures focusing on teamwork, creativity, digital learning and communication. www.reigatestmarys.org

forest school fun

Learning beyond the classroom walls – why Forest School is essential in education

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green
by Stuart Lee
Copthorne Prep School Forest School Leader and Outdoor Activities Instructor

As the world becomes increasingly digital and technology-driven, it’s more important than ever to ensure our children are getting enough time outside in nature. Forest Schools have been gaining popularity around the globe as a way of providing an experience that is both educational and fun for young minds.

In this article, we’ll explore why Forest School is essential in education and how it opens up new avenues for learning beyond traditional classroom walls. So put on your wellies, grab a raincoat, and let’s delve into the wonderful world of Forest Schools!

Introduction to Forest School
When most people think of school, they envision a building with classrooms, a playground, and maybe a field for sports. But what if there was another way to learn? What if students could explore and discover in a natural setting? This is where Forest School comes in.

Forest School is an approach to learning that takes place in nature. It emphasises hands-on, experiential learning in a safe and supportive environment. Forest School can be used with students of all ages, but it is especially beneficial for young children.

The benefits of Forest School are numerous. Studies have shown that time spent in nature can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Being in nature can also improve concentration and focus. And because Forest School encourages hands-on learning, it can help promote problem-solving skills and creativity.

Outdoor learning enables us to instil a sense of responsibility in children for their environment and sustainability, discussing how we look after the natural world around us and discussing aspects like recycling, use of plastics, saving energy, collecting water and so on. The children will explore nature, learning about trees, follow the seasons, understand plant growth, explore minibeasts and find the biggest puddle to jump in (weather dependent of course)!

The six Forest School principles are:
• Sessions are delivered on a long-term basis: Forest School needs to be regular.
• Sessions are risk-aware, not risk-averse: Meaningful activities which nurture the instinctive human ability to learn through overcoming a risk, challenge or problem. Teaching the children how to safely use tools like knives and axes for whittling or chopping wood, and how to light and safely be around campfires.
• Forest School is invested in the holistic development (emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, physical, communication and language) of the participants.
• Forest School should take place in a natural wooded environment.
• Forest School should be run by a qualified Forest School practitioner.
• Forest School is learner-centred with learner-based outcomes.

Benefits of Forest School for primary school students
Children who spend time in nature have shown to have increased levels of physical activity, social and emotional wellbeing and brain development. Forest Schools provide an immersive environment for children to learn about and connect with the natural world. It offers a unique opportunity for children to learn in an outdoor setting and develop a lifelong love of learning.

Other positive outcomes include:
Improved concentration and focus
Studies have shown that being in nature can help improve focus and concentration. This is especially beneficial for students who struggle with attention deficit disorders or who have difficulty paying attention in a traditional classroom setting.

Lower stress levels
Nature has a way of calming people and helping to lower stress levels. This is important for students who are dealing with anxiety or who find the traditional school setting to be overwhelming. Being in nature can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Increased physical activity
Getting outdoors and being active is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for growing children and teens. Physical activity has been shown to improve brain function, mood, and overall health. Being outdoors gives students an opportunity to be active in a way that is fun and engaging.

Improved social skills
Outdoor learning provides opportunities for students to work together in small groups or teams. This can help them develop important social skills such as communication, co-operation, and teamwork. It can also help shy or introverted students feel more comfortable interacting with others.

Therefore, it is evident that by incorporating Forest School into primary education, children could not only improve academically but also holistically – and this is fundamental to education. It is more than classroom learning, it is a rounded enriched learning journey to develop children for modern life. With its unique curriculum based on free play and exploration, it is no surprise that Forest School has been gaining in popularity. As parents and educators become more aware of its benefits, it is likely that even more children will have access to this enriching educational experience.

Forest School is an integral part of a child’s education at Copthorne Prep – it helps them develop their social and emotional skills, increases outdoor awareness and encourages the development of knowledge that goes beyond the classroom walls. www.copthorneprep.co.uk

 

learning by making

An inspirational approach to nurturing curiosity for Early Years settings

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Toys
by Jovita Opio
Deputy Manager, Little Lancing Day Nursery & Forest School

It’s a fairly typical experience for many parents – you buy your small child a large toy – for example a sit on (or sit in!) car – and they are far more interested in playing with the box than with what was inside it. It’s something many of us have laughed about! It’s worth thinking about that a bit more though, why does a child do that? Is it that the box fires their imagination, it can be anything they want it to be, and that’s perhaps a more appealing object to explore at first sight than its brightly coloured contents? Another common observation we all have made is that children want to play with ‘real’ things, not just synthetic, child-sized reproductions. They see parents and other adults around them using ‘real’ things and they want to use them too. 

There is no doubt that we are all born curious; babies and small children reach out to explore the world around them and learn rapidly from those experiences. Their parents are their very first educators and babies learn so quickly, it’s no great surprise therefore that those practitioners passionate about Early Years education want to continue to nurture that natural curiosity, imagination and creative thinking in their nursery settings – for staff job satisfaction as well as for the wellbeing of all the children in their care!

There are many elements that come together to create an environment where children’s development can flourish – whether it’s the calm ambience created by a subdued colour scheme, authentic items made of organic materials, or natural objects to capture the imagination. These all play a part in creating the framework within which children’s imaginations can blossom – neutral colours allow the learning to shine through, rather than distract from it, the hands-on feel of wicker baskets, wooden objects, carvings and ornaments connects children to the natural world around them and metal pots, pans, kitchen accessories are durable and ‘real’ items to role-play with.

So-called ‘loose parts play’ is another intriguing factor – carefully supervised – children find seemingly endless joy in making things out of nuts, bolts, washers and screws. It’s amazing what can be found in charity shops, car boot sales and by turning out old cupboards at home that can be used to build a stock of such materials, and recycling these items is also a way of doing a small bit for the environment at the same time.

But it’s so much more than muted colours, wooden crates and metal household objects that are important to a nursery that seeks to embrace this approach. It’s also a mindset. A combination of mindfulness and the Danish concept of Hygge – a sense of warmth, cosiness and homeliness, that encourage the children to develop their sense of awe and wonder in the world around them. So a nursery that seems more like an extension of home helps to promote the comfort children feel in their own homes. Working in partnership with parents is hugely important and creates a virtuous circle between nursery, child and home, with of course the child very much at its centre.

Time spent outdoors contributes significantly to nurturing a child’s sense of wonder. Forest School is now well established as a buzz word for nurseries and parents – children begin to learn how to assess risks for themselves in a safe environment, connect with nature and if they get covered in mud while doing so, so much the better! The glow of joy and pride radiating from a child’s face when they have made their very own bug hotel (it might look like a mass of mud and twigs in a jar to the rest of us!) is a powerful testament to the value of outdoor learning to building self-confidence, a sense of achievement, resilience and perseverance. This is so much more of a rewarding experience for the child than merely picking up a mass-produced article from a retailer.

In our setting, this lies at the very heart of our ethos and we are now formally working towards our accreditation with The Curiosity ApproachTM – www.thecuriositapproach.com – a programme that in its own words offers “A modern approach to Early Years. taking parts from Reggio, Steiner, Te Whariki and a sprinkle of Montessori.” It seeks to inspire early years practitioners to be thoughtful, curious and passionate in their work with the eager little learners they care for. We’re looking forward to taking this magical learning journey ourselves and to creating curiosity-driven learning journeys with our Little Lancing families.

Jovita Opio is the Deputy Manager at Little Lancing Day Nursery & Forest School. For further details please call 01273 465900 or visit www.littlelancing.co.uk or email littlelancing@lancing.org.uk