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Children throughout Wales captured the gold medal spirit of a sensational sporting summer after the Forest Education Initiative (FEI) in Wales offered grants of £250 to every cluster group in the country to run Woodland Olympics events and activities.
FEI handed out money to schools and education groups to help them celebrate the London Olympics and Paralympics by getting fit and having fun in the woodlands.
FEI cluster groups bring people together to network and work on projects and ideas which encourage children and young people to understand and appreciate the woodlands of Wales.
The groups used the grant to staff, resource and run hands on sessions in their local woodlands.
Children created their own Olympics medals out of wood cookies, a sustainable product made from coppiced trees, to be awarded at the games. Some groups painted these gold, silver and bronze and others decorated or engraved them using wood burning tools.
Impio FEI cluster group in North Wales held an Ancient Greek Woodland Olympic event for local schools at Bod Petrual, where the “athletes” followed a gold medal trail through the woods to find Olympia, learning about ancient Greece along the way.
The atmospheric closing ceremony was held by a river where the children built rafts to hold an Olympic flame (night light) which was floated down the river.
Newport and Monmouthshire FEI cluster groups ran a variety of activities in woodlands throughout the summer term, when children enjoyed traditional sporting fun such as obstacle courses, willow hoopla and long jump using sticks to measure the distance.
In Montgomeryshire, the group used the funds to hold an open day at a recently established Forest School site in Llanidloes. The day started with a procession from Llanidloes town centre to the Forest School site, where Woodland Olympic Games were held, as well as bush craft activities and campfire cooking.
Radnorshire cluster group shared the grant between three regular group members: Rhayader Church in Wales School, Llanelwedd Church in Wales School and Llanfihangel Rhydithon CP School.
During the summer term, each school ran its own Woodland Olympics day in the school grounds, making use of their woodland, conservation and garden areas.
The children took part in activities which combine the ethos of Forest School with the Olympics theme, such as a woodland workout, willow weaving to make the Olympic rings logo, using tools and knots to make hurdles for a hurdle race and using fire to make Olympic torches.
The grant paid for resources and materials and medals for the children.
The South Powys FEI cluster group held a willow weaving training session run by Out to Learn Willow. The session included information about growing and harvesting willow and also developed skills for weaving cut willow.
Attendees then ran a Willow Olympics event in their school or setting with activities such as weaving the Olympic rings logo and weaving hurdles for a hurdles race.
Neath Port Talbot and Cardiff and Vale FEI cluster groups plan to continue the excitement by running their own Woodland Olympics events in the autumn term.
Neath Port Talbot have organised a green wood working workshop with Dragonfly Creations to make wooden rounders sets, and four schools will participate in Olympics themed events at Porthkerry Country Park in Barry, in the Vale.
Ten schools will bring children to the Cardiff event at Fforest Fawr, just north of the capital, where there are plans to set up five woodland areas to represent the five rings – each staging different events designed by some of the schools involved.
The events include willow ring hoopla, rope bridges, wellie throwing, woodland workout / aerobic session, possibly run by students from Cardiff and Vale college, javelin (stick whittling), mud pie throwing and a triathlon obstacle course.
Karen Clarke, FEI Co-ordinator for Wales, said, “I am astounded at how much Woodland Olympics fun has been squeezed out of this grant funding.
“The children and staff who have got involved are an inspiration. Everyone’s a winner!”
All the events aim to introduce potential new FEI members to the interesting and diverse range of learning opportunities that can be delivered in a woodland environment and to raise awareness of both the FEI and woodland education.
Caption: Children from Pembroke Primary School celebrate a successful Woodland Olympics.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3% 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 Forestry Commission Wales Woodlands for Learning team delivers woodland based learning experiences, supports the development and delivery of Forest School and facilitates the Forest Education Initiative on behalf of its partners.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
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