More and more local children are re-connecting with nature and receiving an enriched education thanks to the success of the Forest School programme run by The Mersey Forest which is inspiring schools across Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington.
Forest Schools is an approach which has been practiced in Scandinavia since the 1950s and involves regular outdoor lessons in woodland environments. It has been shown to improve children's confidence and self-esteem as well as rebuilding youngsters' affinity with the natural environment.
The Mersey Forest has been encouraging Forest Schools to be set up in the local area through the creation of a new Cheshire-wide Forest School cluster group (which includes Halton and Warrington) supported by the Forest Education Initiative.
In Halton, The Mersey Forest Team has met with six Runcorn schools to propose the benefits of using their school sites for Forest School, and soon a number of the schools will have trained Forest School Leaders to help establish Forest Schools.
With funding from Natural England, we have also been working with schools, including Westfield and Windmill Hill Primarys and Cavendish Special School, to enhance their sites through wildflower seed sowing, tree planting and use and manage natural materials.
Forest School sessions are also taking place at a number of Cheshire schools including Kingsmead Primary and Hartford Manor Community Primary in Northwich and Christchurch Primary in Ellesmere Port.
In February, Halton's elected member for The Mersey Forest, Cllr Steff Nelson, and MP Derek Twigg visited Westfield to see the Forest School project, and Natural England visited Windmill Hill with MP Mike Hall to see their newly developed woodland area. The school has won a People's Millions award of £50,000 to develop the area further and link it to the neighbouring Woodland Trust site.
With funding from Natural England another three independent Forest School Leaders have been trained to spread the message and get delivering the curriculum outdoors.
The Mersey Forest Team has also met with Cheshire West and Chester's Ranger Service to propose the benefits of using green Council sites for Forest School. Soon the rangers will have a trained Forest School Leader to help groups establish Forest Schools.