Project dates: 2019-2022
Funder: Department for Education, with support from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Natural England

Despite disruptions to education over the last year, the Nature Friendly Schools project has worked with 90 schools, enabling 16,000 pupils to benefit from learning in nature, training 500 teachers in outdoor learning and supporting pupil’s mental health – and transforming 30 school grounds.

Stories from the first year of Nature Friendly Schools:

“Nature Friendly Schools has been transformative for our pupils and our school. Every class now spends at least an hour learning outside each day in our forest school area, which is brilliant for the children. Their senses come alive, encouraging creativity and confidence. After the year children have had – much of the time being stuck at home and away from their peers – learning and playing together in nature isn’t just helpful – it’s essential.”

Stephanie Dowley, Headteacher at John Randall Primary in Telford

Burlington Junior School in Yorkshire renovated a neglected pond and held classes in nearby woodland as part of their participation in Nature Friendly Schools. Teacher Matthew Clark, who led the project, said many students came out of their shell when learning outside. He said:

“Some pupils don’t get talk about their feelings at home, while others feel hemmed in inside a classroom. Being outdoors gives them the opportunity to think and feel and express themselves in different ways.”

“Nature Friendly Schools has been so beneficial for our pupils and our school. Many children come into school with different anxieties, but when they’re learning outside, they are present in the moment, and their worries just seem to fade away. Being outdoors also works wonders for their creativity and enthusiasm for learning – and improves behaviour as well. Learning in nature has become a keystone part of their education.”

Kim Leathy, Teacher at Westminster Academy in Blackpool

Nature Friendly Schools year 2:

The second year of the Nature Friendly Schools project began in April 2021. Over the following 12 months the project partnership aims to develop teachers’ confidence and ability to drive forward outdoor learning in around 100 schools in areas experiencing poverty across England.

FSC is excited to be part of the Nature Friendly Schools project partnership which includes some of the UK’s leading outdoor learning and mental health and wellbeing organisations. The partnership is led by The Wildlife Trusts and supported by YoungMinds, Groundwork UK and the Sensory Trust. The project is funded by DEFRA and the Department of Education and supported by Natural England.

Through training, mentoring and a CPD journey Nature Friendly Schools staff will empower teachers to deliver outdoor learning independently. Supporting them to overcome barriers and challenges to deliver outdoor learning in their settings. Including making the most of limited outside space, managing behaviour outdoors, and helping teachers measure the impact of outdoor learning.

The project will work with school staff and pupils to ‘green’ their school grounds, creating outdoor classrooms and greener, more natural spaces around school buildings. FSC is excited to offer residential overnight visits to some schools taking part in the project, as well as providing our famous fold-out wildlife guides to all schools taking part.

During year 2 of Nature Friendly Schools the partnership aspires to enable nearly 30,000 school children to take part in learning outside the classroom, in their school grounds, local green spaces and at FSC centres. Supporting their well-being, mental health, and engagement with school and benefitting their learning.

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Example Timetable

DayMorning – 9am startAfternoon 1pm startEvening 7pm start
112.00-12:30 Arrival School arrives and enjoys packed lunch brought from homewith time to unpack, settle in.
Teachers meet with FSC Tutor to double check arrangements and requirements.
13:00 Building a team What makes a good team? Pupils work in groups and consider what makes a good team and team member.
14:30 Drink/snack break
14.45 Game time 2! Pupils completi a variety of challenges in the centre grounds.
16:15 Whole team challenge Applying team work and group review
*17.30- 18.15 Dinner And time to settle into bedrooms
19:00 Campfire cook out – cook outside on the fire.
Time to reflect on the afternoons activities and look forward to tomorrow. Cook an evening snack on an open fire and sing some campfire songs!

Staff should bring along their singing voices and songs!
2*08.00 Breakfast Make/collect packed lunches
9:00 Exploring the local landscape Investigating the landscape at different scales.
10:00 Investigating a stream What is this stream like? How might it change?
10:30 Digging deeper The river habitat. Students will have opportunity to design a short investigation into the animals (invertebrates)
11.30 Walk back to FSC centre
13:00 Departure

*We will try to adhere to these times where possible, however due to COVID-19, timings may change to ensure appropriate time for cleaning and preservation of distinct ‘bubbles’.
Activities/sessions may change due to unforeseen circumstances, such as weather or staff availability. We will always do our best to find a suitable alternative.

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