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A woodland is opening the eyes of inner-city children to the wonders of the natural world.
Pupils from Meadowlane Primary School in the St Mellons area of Cardiff are making weekly visits to a small mixed broadleaf woodland on the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) Cyncoed campus.
It’s all part of a year-long Forest School project being run by the Forestry Commission Wales Woodlands for Learning (WfL) team in partnership with the university.
As well as teaching the eight and nine-year-olds about the environment, the sessions enable UWIC students to work in the outdoors as part of their education degree course.
FC Wales Education Officer Cathy Velmans, who is leading the sessions, said, “Woodlands provide a stimulating outdoor learning environment for everyone.
“Many of these children have never been in a woodland setting before and it’s fascinating to watch their confidence and self-esteem grow by the week.”
As part of a Forest School programme, children learn to appreciate the value of looking after the environment and enjoy their time in the woods whilst learning to respect the natural world in the future.
WfL team members and UWIC staff have been observing the children taking part in activities such as cooking over an open fire, building a shelter, using tools, painting with mud, learning about habitats and properties of leaves and trees.
“We are looking at their social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills and knowledge and understanding, to see whether they develop in any of these areas during the project,” said Cathy.
“It’s been interesting to observe changes in their attitudes and behaviour as they have become much more confident and more able to lead their learning experiences.”
The benefits that using woodlands for learning can bring to mainstream education is now widely accepted, and some of the UWIC students have based their third year dissertations on Forest School.
Kate Stork, a teacher at Meadowlane Primary School, said the children were benefitting enormously from the experience.
“Not only have they witnessed first hand the effects of seasonal changes throughout nature, but they have had opportunities to explore and experience the natural world through practical activities, gaining confidence, independence and self-esteem.
“The children use the natural resources of the woodland for problem solving and to enjoy a variety of activities, and it’s evident that they have learnt a great deal about the outdoors.
“The children are transferring all of these newly-acquired skills into the daily school curriculum with very positive results."
Meadowlane Primary School head teacher Lee Thomas enjoys some woodland fun with pupils.
FC Wales Education Officer Cathy Velmans shows pupils how to use a Kelly kettle.
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 on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
For more information about Forest School in South Wales, contact Cathy Velmans on 0300 068 0115, mobile 07786 027675, email email@example.com
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org