What’s in your woods?

Sarah Parker
Authored by Sarah Parker
Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 07:03

Schools around Plymouth will be heading to city woodlands, beaches and local parks for a day of fun and educational activities with a host of Plymouth organisations and volunteers.

The events have been organised by Plymouth City Council as part of the Natural Connections project that it hosts in the city.

The project supports schools to use the natural environment as an outdoor classroom and over 30 schools are currently involved in the project.

City organisations ranging from the Plymouth Woodland Project, Whitleigh Big Local, Whitleigh Arts, Plymouth University, Marine Biological Association as well as staff from the City Museum and Art Gallery will be offering their skills and knowledge to run activities.

In Woodland Woods, the Plymouth Woodland Project will be running woodland plant surveys to help children learn more about the woodland ecosystem and university students will help them learn about the quality of the water in the stream and the animals that live there.

Jon Spree, teacher from Brook Green Centre for Learning, who will visit the wood on Wednesday, said: “Children will be going outside to learn not only in the woodland, but also the stream and the meadow and will have the opportunity to be creative, with volunteers and teachers running sessions on a range of topics.”

Marine Academy Primary will be visiting Mount Batten beach with the Marine Biological Association to explore discover and learn along the shoreline.

Beach Rangers project officer Harriet Yates-Smith said: “Plymouth has a fantastic shoreline with many hidden muddy creeks, beautiful beaches and a diverse rocky shore.

The Beach Ranger team help families discover more about the nature on their doorstop by offering free beach activities, including snorkelling, rock pooling, fishing and beach art. These activities also give parents and children great ideas about how to play and learn about marine life in Plymouth Sound.”

Despite evidence about the benefits of playing in woods, fields, parks or shore, recent surveys show that most children are losing touch with their local natural environment – and those who live in cities are particularly at a disadvantage, leading to childhood obesity and mental health issues.

Cabinet member for Streetscene, Councillor Brian Vincent said: “Natural Connections is a great project that’s designed to help teachers take pupils outside more, using activities and locations to inspire learning across the whole curriculum, from mathematics to music, biology to physics, languages to literature.

“Outdoor learning can transform pupils’ and school performance by increasing teaching and learning standards – with so many children today spending so much time in front of the TVs and computer screens, it’s fantastic to be able to have such events.”

All the schools involved recognise the importance of outdoor learning and are involved in the Natural Connections project run by Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council.

This regional project aims to support schools to develop their outdoor learning capacity and also monitor the impacts on children and schools of Learning in the Natural Environment.