A Leicester primary school has been giving its pupils all the benefits of outdoor learning in a safe, socially-distanced environment thanks to the return of sessions run by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.
Under normal circumstances the charity offers Leicester youngsters a full outdoor learning experience through its Wild Forest School programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The face-to-face Wild Forest School sessions in green spaces around the city have been temporarily put on hold due to the pandemic, but as some primary pupils returned to the classroom the trust’s education team restarted its work with children at Merrydale Junior School in Northfields.
The Wild Forest School sessions at Merrydale Junior School allowed Year 5 and 6 pupils to spend time outdoors within the grounds of their school, learning about nature in a low-risk, socially-distanced environment. Research gathered by The Wildlife Trusts, the national parent organisation for regional charities including Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, provides evidence that first-hand contact with nature helps to make children healthier, happier and more creative.
Children around Leicester can also access Wild Forest School virtually, thanks to new online sessions provided by the team via video-calling programme Zoom.
Martha Rose, Senior Education Officer at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, said: “We know that it’s a tough time for schools at the moment, and we also know about the many benefits that outdoor learning brings to children.
"We worked with Merrydale Junior School before the lockdown and it’s been great for our team to be able to go back there and give pupils a chance to experience nature and enjoy themselves, whilst also helping teachers by offering activities that can be done with social distancing measures in place.
“Our focus is on exciting activities that are educational but also great fun, such as building a campfire and learning about safety around flames, as well as whittling sticks that can then be used to roast marshmallows. The children who have taken part so far have loved being able to get outside for an afternoon and spend time with their friends safely, and we are thrilled to have given Year 6 pupils some special memories during their last few weeks of primary school.
“It’s also been lovely to work with children via our virtual Wild Forest School, and we hope to increase the number of sessions that we provide in the coming weeks."
Clair Munton, teacher at Merrydale Junior School, said: "After the lockdown the children have embraced and benefited from the freedom of learning outside. It has brought fun, focus and an eagerness to learn back into their lives. I spoke to each group after they had been to Wild Forest School, and their faces lit up when recounting their experiences. It was lovely to see."
Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust has also been running a series of activities for families to do together during lockdown. The programme, known as Go Wild at Home, is designed to show how the natural world remains in easy reach even during the restrictions of the Covid-19 crisis.
The weekly Go Wild at Home videos are available on the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust YouTube channel.
The Trust’s Wild About Learning teachers' pack is also available to download, now separated by year group and subject for easy use by parents and teachers. The pack provides lots of outdoor numeracy and literacy activities that can be easily adapted to use with one or a few children rather than a whole class.
Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.