The work is part of a project aiming to introduce Forest School to the most urban sites and schools of Liverpool.
The Forest School project offers a unique approach to teaching the curriculum, focusing on the exploration of the natural environment ensuring risk and challenge are at the heart of play experiences.
The Mersey Forest is working with children's centres and schools in inner city urban areas who have limited access to green space to help improve health and learning. It's funded by Smurfit Kappa and the Ernest Cook Trust.
Over the past few months, Garston Primary School Year 1 pupils have taken part in a total of 12 sessions of Forest School led by Forest School consultancy Branching Out Forest School. The school's own staff are now being trained to teach Forest School so that the lessons can continue for many years to come.
Hannah Kennedy, class teacher from Garston Primary said:
"I loved to see the children in a completely different environment, to see the way they solve problems and face challenges, to see their imaginations develop"
"I was also really struck by the change in one little boy who has English as a second language. He would say more to me in the walk to the woods than he does in the rest of the week put together. In the classroom he is very difficult to engage. But out here he is engrossed and engaged!"
The aim is to help to reconnect children (and adults) with the natural world, improving learning and health. The project provides a positive natural space for children to learn, instilling positive environmental values that they will carry through to later life.
Trudy Rush, from funders Smurfit Kappa, said:
"It was wonderful seeing the children learning in their woodland environment, the delight on their faces going into the woods and their keeness to get involved in all the challenges on site. Forest School clearly has a huge benefit and we are really keen to ensure this opportunity continues to be offered to more urban schools across Liverpool."
For Smurfit Kappa the real test of success is the sustainability of the project, leaving a lasting legacy of Forest School sites, trained teachers and a network of practitioners who can continue to spread Forest School to more schools and children.
Jo Sayers, Community Development Officer at The Mersey Forest, who leads the project and supports schools in the development of Forest School across Merseyside and North Cheshire said;
"In the next stage of the project, families will be trained to support their children to take part in natural play. We hope those families will support other families and we will encourage more children to be playing outside in natural spaces."
Recent research by The Mersey Forest with Liverpool John Moores University has shown that Forest School gets children active, to the same level as a PE lesson. This adds to the growing evidence to show that many children also learn better in the natural environment.
Dockside regeneration is hardly new: since Canary Wharf rose in the 1980s there can be barely a dock in the country that hasn't had a makeover as a waterside destination. But Wirral Waters plans include a surprising ingredient in its construction: trees, and lots of them...
We've teamed up to add these group rides to the range of activities being provided in the borough as part of the new Nature4Health scheme. Nature4Health supports local groups to provide high quality, evidence-based sessions utilising the assets of the local natural surroundings. It's about providing health-promoting, enjoyable group activities in a green, therapeutic space.
This is a fantastic opportunity to explore the amazing open spaces across the Borough, such as Colliers Moss Common, part of the Bold Forest Park. The bike rides will be based at the Cycle Hub at Bold Miners' Neighbourhood Centre, Fleet Lane. Developed in partnership with Sustrans North West, the Cycle Hub has a stock of bicycles, helmets and hi-vis gear available for public use. It's one of five in the borough and also offers cycle skills and maintenance training. The new rides are a great way to find out more about how you can benefit from the Hubs as well as the local green networks you can explore by bike.
The bike rides are now in the planning stage, and the organisers would love to hear the thoughts of local residents. If you have ideas for routes or want to get involved, please register your interest with Adam Molyneux, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01744 676174.
Nature4Health is a three-year project funded by The Big Lottery's Reaching Communities Programme, with a total of £419,597 awarded for work in targeted communities across The Mersey Forest including St Helens, Liverpool and Sefton.
If you would like to work in partnership with The Mersey Forest to develop Nature4Health activities in your community please call or email Suzanne on 01925 816217 or email@example.com
Woodland professionals from the Forestry Commission, Defra, the Woodland Trust, and Community Forests such as the Red Rose Forest, the Forest of Marston Vale and The Mersey Forest descended on Birmingham for a day of presentations and workshops.
Key themes of this year's conference included the urban forest with the launch of Vision for a Resilient Urban Forest by the Urban Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee by Jane Carlsen, chair.
We also looked at professionalism in community forestry, with Institute of Chartered Foresters' Chief Executive Shireen Chambers.
Speakers included Professor Rob MacKenzie from the University of Birmingham asking whether trees really help to clean the air in our towns and cities and Mike Norbury from Cheshire West and Chester Council on the role that trees play in Natural Flood Management.
Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of The Woodland Trust gave a lively presentation on the developing Charter for Trees, Woods and People which will help to unlock the potential of the UK's trees and woods, improve our lives and landscapes and celebrate the trees in our lives.
The presentations and workshops delivered at the conference reflected key issues for the forestry sector today as it adjusts to the opportunities and challenges facing our urban forests.
Parents, staff and children braved windy conditions to join a team from The Mersey Forest to plant 220 new trees – including 15 semi-mature trees – creating a wooded outdoor classroom where 'Forest School' lessons will take place. The woodland also includes new log seating created from felled trees donated by St Peter and St Paul Catholic Church, Kirkby.
The work is part of a project by The Mersey Forest, funded by Smurfit Kappa and the Ernest Cook Trust, which aims to introduce 'Forest School' to the most urban parts of Liverpool where children often have limited access to green space. Forest School lessons allow children to play, explore and learn about the natural environment and do activities like shelter-building, outdoor cooking, growing plants, using tools and bug-hunting.
In Spring, early years children will begin their Forest School lessons with The Mersey Forest team. Later in the year, school staff will be trained to lead their own sessions so the new woodland is used for outdoor learning for many years to come.
Jenny Bethel, class teacher from St Vincent's Primary School has visited Kingsley Primary School in neighbouring Toxteth to see how Forest School works. She said:
"It was inspiring seeing how the children had benefited from learning outdoors, developing social skills, confidence and being active at the same time. We are happy to have started adapting our grounds to run similar sessions."
The Forest School lessons offer a unique approach to teaching the curriculum through using the natural environment. Studies have shown that children spend less time playing in nature than in the past – Forest School is one way of addressing that, boosting health and wellbeing.
Deputy Head Lisa Salters comments:
"This is a very exciting time at St Vincent's! We are truly delighted to have been provided with a platform from Mersey Forest that will allow both our children and staff to harness the benefits of Forest School for themselves"
The new trees are part of The Mersey Forest initiative that has seen more than nine million new trees planted to date.