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Learning in a woodland setting can inspire children to be confident, connect with the natural world and learn how to deal with everyday risks.
With rising obesity levels being a major issue in Scotland, learning outside also has the benefits of getting pupils more active, even more so than in traditional PE lessons.
This was the message from Forestry Commission Scotland at the 7th European Forest Pedagogics Congress, being held for the first time in the UK at Dunkeld (2 - 5 October 2012).
Over 100 delegates are attending the conference from 16 countries including Australia, Canada, Slovakia, Germany and Finland.
Forestry Commission Scotland, Forest Education Initiative, Living Classrooms and the European Network of Forest Pedagogy have organised the conference.
Giving the keynote speech, David Howat, Deputy Director of Forestry Commission Scotland said:
“Over the past few years there has been a seismic shift in how education is approached in Scottish schools through the Curriculum for Excellence. Taking children into the great outdoors is a key component of this.
“With around 90 per cent of schools within 1kilometre of some woodland, Scottish schools, there are great opportunities to make use of green-spaces for education.
“Research tells us that when young people go outside to learn, they make better connections about the world around them and are more physically active.
“Working with pupils out into the woods is not without its problems, but there are huge rewards. Understanding risks and being able to assess risks are all fundamental life skills and yet young people are often constrained or lack the freedom to explore the natural world on their doorstep.
“Taking learning into a forest – especially if parent helpers are present – can be an education for everyone.”
Forestry Commission Scotland and the Forest Education Initiative work with a range of partners to deliver the key outdoor ‘Forest School’ programme across Scotland.
For a number of weeks each year, pupils are taken out with skilled teachers to a nearby woodland setting to carry out their learning.
The programme, taken from Scandinavia, has helped increase activity levels, boosted confidence and improved social skills in the children, as well as learning about the environment.
To maintain impetus in outdoor learning, Forestry Commission Scotland is to continue funding a Forest School Scotland co-ordinator.
Notes to news editors
1. The European Network for Forest Pedagogy is a European wide forum for information and communication about forest pedagogics. It aims to demonstrate and share activities, materials and ideas between forest pedagogues, foresters and others interested in forest-related education for sustainable development across Europe.
2. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
3. For news, events and recreation information log on to www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests For Twitter www.twitter.com/dmlaberfoyle
4. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidhean-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
5. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.