Research has shown that 82% of teachers would like to participate in outdoor learning. To enable this Forestry Commission England’s learning team has developed an Early Years Teachers' Pack. This free online resource is made up of a series of programmes linked to the Early Years and Key Stage 1 curricula and is filled with activities to familiarise children with the forest in a fun and engaging way. There are also fun Gruffalo-themed forest activities for children to do with their families at home.
The pack is divided into three programmes. In programme 1, children look at physical and human features of the forest, use directional and locational language and make their own maps from natural materials. In programme 2, they plan, design and make shelters, musical instruments and bridges out of materials found in the forest. And in programme 3, they learn all about the animals and birds that live in the forest, and use their own senses to explore.
Whether it’s hunting for minibeasts, or learning about the importance of trees, the positive impact of outdoor learning on young peoples’ achievements and development is widely acknowledged. However, research has shown that children are losing their connection with the natural environment. More than one in nine children have not set foot in a park, forest or beach for at least 12 months, according to a two-year study funded by the government.
This means, more than ever, that schools have a role to play in providing young people with opportunities to experience natural environments and 97% of teachers believe that schools need to use outside spaces effectively. Cost and knowledge have been cited as barriers that teachers face when planning lessons outside the classroom, with 82% feeling that their schools are not making enough use of this valuable resource.
In autumn 2015 Forestry Commission England surveyed more than 350 teachers to discover how they could help them to overcome these barriers and to find out what teachers wanted from their learning offer. This resulted in the development of the Early Years Teacher’s Pack.
The Forestry Commission consulted with teachers and early years practitioners when designing the pack, drawing on their expertise to ensure the content was relevant and useful to them.
Rachel Giles, Forestry Commission Learning Manager says:
“It was very important for the pack to be designed with teachers as we wanted to ensure it equipped them with the tools and activities that would give them confidence when delivering learning outside the classroom. Top tips for teachers are available throughout the pack, helping them to get the most from their self-led sessions.
“The pack is free to download and can be used in any local wood or forest, or even the school grounds. It also includes links to fun Gruffalo-related activities that teachers can give to children to do with their families, providing a valuable link between school and home.”
For further information on how to inspire and enthuse young people about the natural environment download the pack here.
Notes to editors:
1. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england
England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/englandsforests
• More than one in nine children have not set foot in a park, forest, beach for at least 12 months, according to a two-year study funded by the government – Monitor of engagement with the natural environment (2013 to 2015), Research connecting children with nature – Natural England
• 97% of teachers believe that’s schools need to use outside spaces effectively to enhance their pupil’s development – Learning Through Landscape (2010), Research shows benefit of outdoor play
• Cost and knowledge have been cited as main barriers that teachers face when planning lessons outside of the classroom, with 82% feeling that their schools are not making enough use of this valuable resource – Learning in the Natural Environment (2012), A review of social and economic benefits and barriers – Natural England
Stuart Burgess, Media Relations Manager
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