Teachers pass on outdoor skills
IF you go down to the woods today – you are likely to find teachers and children in outdoor classrooms.
Of course it depends which woods you go to. I was in Blackley Forest when I met a group of teachers learning Forest School skills from our brilliant Lancashire Wildlife Trust education officers Kathryn Phillips and Katie Dearden.
At Forest Schools teachers are learning some great woodland skills, creating outdoor classrooms and getting the kids outdoors where it is much healthier.
The plan is that we teach them about the outdoors and then they learn to love the wildlife that is all around them. And, who knows, some of them might turn out to be naturalists themselves in years to come.
Wouldn’t that be great if we had a future David Attenborough, Simon King, Ellie Harrison or Charlotte Uhlenbroek getting a taste for nature in one of our local schools? Whatever happened to Charlotte Uhlenbroek?
We are lucky to have received funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery for our Forest Schools over the past two years.
I attended an event last year to meet some of the winners and they were delighted to hear that the money they had invested in playing People’s Postcode Lottery was going to an amazing programme not only to teach the first batch of children, but also creating a legacy where teachers would gain accreditation to continue teaching Forest Schools. They were also delighted because they had won quite a lot of money.
When I arrived in the woods Kathryn and Katie were teaching the teachers how to safely light a fire and cook some glorious creations involving halloumi, pasta and marshmallows, but not all in the same pot.
The idea is that children will light fires and use tools on their own but we can teach them the safe and responsible way to do it. We can also teach them what is safe to eat and to respect wildlife.
It is great to see children holding slugs and bugs, pond-dipping, identifying birdsong and looking out for mammal tracks.
One of the ‘trainees’ told me: “If I had my way, we would be teaching children outdoors all the time.”
Teachers come from many levels of outdoor teaching. Some have done it before but for others it was a real baptism of fire.
All the teachers involved were enthusiastic even after being on the course for a week with the weather not being brilliant all the time. Schools involved were Lily Lane, Moston; St. Dunstan’s, Moston; St. Willibrord’s, Clayton; St. Malachy’s, Collyhurst; and Bowker Vale, Crumpsall.
The training week was held at Bowker Vale and the woodland next to it. What an amazing place that school is. Schools were not like this when I was a pupil, 100 years ago!
And how I needed the lessons. I am often scolded by the education officers for picking things up when I shouldn’t and not using tools properly.
Well let me tell you, I fitted a toilet seat over the weekend so I’m not completely useless.
A number of organisations are involved in Forest Schools but the Wildlife Trusts are hoping to roll our more and more opportunities to work with schools in the region. If any school is interested they can go to our website (www.lancswt.org.uk/ forest-schoolsmanchester) to learn more about this wonderful programme.
Personally I am still dreaming about the marshmallows, they were lovely. To become a member of the Wildlife Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org. uk.
●● Safety first with fires at the Forest School