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School swaps city centre for forest as children plant their own woodland classroom

03 March 2016

Children at St Vincent De Paul Catholic Primary School have created a bit of the Mersey Forest in their city centre school grounds by planting an entire new woodland in just two days.

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.


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