Chil­dren learn to love out­doors

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

WE’VE all been guilty of look­ing up at the sky, see­ing that its over­cast and rain­ing and mak­ing some sort of ex­cuse to not spend any lengthy pe­riod of time out­side.

How­ever, Lan­cashire Wildlife Trust is try­ing to break the chain for some chil­dren across Manch­ester, who are scared of play­ing out­side, scared of get­ting their hands dirty or fear­ful of play­ing in the rain.

I was a some­what for­tu­nate child, hav­ing a good-sized back gar­den that was kept wild in many ways, bring­ing lots of dif­fer­ent wildlife for me to watch and ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up.

How­ever, not ev­ery child has this op­por­tu­nity, and, in turn, lacks the in­ter­est, skills and ex­pe­ri­ence that makes play­ing out­side en­joy­able to them.

I have been work­ing for the trust for three months and have at­tended weekly for­est school ses­sions led by in­cred­i­bly cre­ative and pas­sion­ate for­est school prac­ti­tion­ers.

I’ve wit­nessed young boys with be­havioural prob­lems be­come stars at for­est schools, us­ing their al­ready bril­liant prac­ti­cal skills and ap­ply­ing them to projects at for­est school.

Things like con­struct­ing dens, cre­at­ing wooden mal­lets, mak­ing fires and toast­ing marsh­mal­lows.

We try to in­stil a re­spect for na­ture and wildlife that they will hope­fully take for­ward into life as they de­velop into young teens with po­ten­tially con­flict­ing pri­or­i­ties.

I’m hop­ing that they re­mem­ber the wormery week, where we learned the dif­fer­ence be­tween or­ganic and plas­tic ma­te­ri­als.

And also the hedge­hog home week, where they were taught how with­out ap­pro­pri­ate shel­ter, food and wa­ter, the species will con­tinue to de­cline – and most im­por­tantly how their ac­tions can im­pact wildlife.

One thing I have re­ally en­joyed is that ev­ery sin­gle group is dif­fer­ent, with a mo­saic of char­ac­ters, faces, en­ergy and in­ter­ests.

Grow­ing up in Manch­ester, it is dif­fi­cult to get out of the con­crete jun­gle of the ur­ban city cen­tre, es­pe­cially if your par­ents don’t have the time or the ca­pac­ity to take you out into the coun­try.

What we try to do is cre­ate for­est school ar­eas across both Manch­ester City Coun­cil owned parks and within school grounds to fa­cil­i­tate green spa­ces for all chil­dren.

For­est school is an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time and the re­search is clear that it pro­vides a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence to all who re­ceive it, whether that’s pupils with trou­ble at home, that need a lit­tle bit of ad­ven­ture, es­capism or friend­ship, or whether it’s a young girl who strug­gles an­swer­ing math­e­mat­i­cal ques­tions in class that needs her con­fi­dence build­ing.

For­est school pro­vides a dif­fer­ent learn­ing op­por­tu­nity for all chil­dren, help­ing to fos­ter life re­silience, risk-tak­ing, con­fi­dence, team work­ing and in­ter­est in na­ture.

The big­gest thing I come away with each week is, I re­ally wish I could have gone to for­est schools when I was younger, but for me I’ve been given a sec­ond chance at pri­mary school and now at 24, I get to go to for­est school.

All of our For­est School work is sup­ported by play­ers of Peo­ple’s Post­code Lot­tery.

To date, play­ers have raised over £205m for good causes, as 30pc of the lot­tery is put to­wards char­i­ta­ble funds and good causes.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see our ded­i­cated web­page www.lanc­swt. org.uk/for­est-schools or con­tact Emma Ack­er­ley at eack­er­ley@lanc­swt.org. uk.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

Schoolchildren take part in wildlife study

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