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Education experts from all over Wales will gather in Cardiff later this year to celebrate the tenth anniversary of an outdoor learning philosophy which has influenced the way we teach our children.
Forestry Commission Wales helped to introduce the concept of using woodlands to awaken children's senses away from the confines of the classroom back in 2000 - and Forest School began to develop.
Since then, thousands of children and young people in Wales have benefited from the freedom of learning in a stimulating outdoor environment as Forest School has become embedded in the life of many schools and groups.
The progress of Forest School since those early days will be the subject of the FC Wales Woodlands for Learning (WfL) team's annual conference, which takes place this year in the St Mellons Hotel in Cardiff on October 27 and 28.
Hundreds of Forest School leaders in Wales and others interested in woodland-based education will be joined by Magnus and Siw Linde, who launched their Rain and Shine nurseries in Sweden 25 years ago.
Here, children learn to respect and gain knowledge about nature and take part in regular physical activity. The nurseries are very proud of their low absence rates, a believed consequence of this style of learning.
Members of the WfL team went over to Sweden on a fact-finding trip earlier this year to see how children as young as three were benefiting from spending the majority of their day in the outdoors, come rain or shine.
As well as celebrating the achievements of Forest School over the past 10 years, the conference will also seek to influence the direction in which Wales takes Forest School in the next 10 years.
Sue Williams, head of the WfL team, said, "The conference is, first and foremost, a celebration of Forest School, which has come such a long way. Ten years ago, there was no Forest School in Wales. It has developed so quickly that decisions need to be made on where we go over the next 10 years and we want as many people as possible to be involved in those decisions."
Over the two days delegates will have an opportunity to visit Forest School sites, take part in skills workshops and learn a new activity to try out with their own groups.
Among the trips on offer will be:
- A visit to the Forestry Commission Wales centre at Garwnant, five miles north of Merthyr Tydfil, to see how the Rhondda Cynon Taf Youth Offending Team Project is helping 12 to15 year olds gain new skills and become independent learners.
- A presentation by Plas Derw Forest School, Flintshire, North Wales at Mescoed Mawr Woodland, Newport, on how it works with teenagers to gain qualifications in practical woodland skills.
- Ty Gwyn Special School will give a presentation on working with young people with severe learning disabilities at Fforest Fawr, near Cardiff, using a sensory curriculum.
- A visit to an inner city Forest School in Cardiff, for a presentation on how Forest School is delivered in an early years setting.
- There will also be trips to sites in Margam Park, Port Talbot and St Brides School in the Vale of Glamorgan.
On the second day of the conference, Magnus and Siw Linde will discuss the culture of outdoor learning in Sweden – where children gain independence through an emphasis on learning and playing outside in all weathers.
The day will also be marked by the presentation of recently completed research into the long term benefits of Forest School carried out with children from Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd at their Forest School site near Ruthin in Denbighshire.
The WfL team will highlight the support it offers to Forest School leaders in Wales, Owen Hayward of Conwy Council will offer advice on staying safe in the outdoors and Forest School Wales will outline their membership benefits.
Spaces are filling fast so for more detail about the two-day programme and booking information, contact Carol Travers, WfL team Education Officer, on 01873 790005, email email@example.com or go to http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-86wjhw
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.