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It’s hoped the London Olympics will inspire a new generation of sporting heroes, but the Games have already captured the imagination of pupils at a mid-Wales school.
More than half the 23 pupils at Ysgol Syr John Rhys in Ponterwyd, near Aberystwyth, took part in a year-long Forestry Commission Wales study to measure how visiting a local woodland can help children’s development.
The children visited Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian’s Forest School site for one afternoon each week to experience a range of activities closely linked to the school’s science lessons.
And, as the study drew to a close, 13 junior pupils aged from seven to 11 drew inspiration from London 2012 by making their own wooden Olympic torches and Olympic rings by weaving willow found in the woods.
It was just one of many exercises to demonstrate the versatility of wood carried out under the watchful gaze of Woodlands for Learning (WfL) team Education Officers Kate Jones and Leigh Denyer, who are both qualified Forest School leaders.
The activities were planned in partnership with class teacher, Rhian England, to ensure they helped to deliver National Curriculum objectives.
The children’s natural instinct to play and explore was monitored, along with their interest in and knowledge of the natural world, as well as their confidence, physical skills – and how they feel about getting dirty.
They explored different habitats such as ponds, grasslands and woods, and took part in a science competition to see who could keep water the warmest by insulating it with woodland materials and who could melt chocolate the fastest.
They also found out how materials changed when heated, by cooking a variety of food including sausages, bread spirals and popcorn over the campfire, and made charcoal.
Throughout the programme, an in-depth evaluation was carried out to measure the benefits of long term Forest School programmes for children in a rural school setting.
Education Officer Leigh Denyer said, “We were keen to find out if the children developed their interests, confidence and physical skills, and how they explored and played in the woods.
“Initial findings show that all of the children increased their physical stamina, became more competent with small tool use and have developed confidence with exploring the woodland environment.”
All the data gathered during the year will now be assessed by the Woodlands for Learning team to evaluate the benefits of attending Forest School for children all over Wales.
Caption: Left to right, Chloe Worsnop, Eleri Reading and Cerys Burton with their own version of the Olympic rings created from willow.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
The Woodlands for Learning team delivers woodland based learning experiences throughout Wales, supports the development and delivery of Forest School and facilitates the Forest Education Initiative on behalf of its partners.
More information about Forest School is available at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-77ldzd
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org