Volunteers sought for new Natural Connections project

Authored by JenniferJ
Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 11:33

An innovative new project that is working with hundreds of schools across the South West to provide greater learning opportunities for schoolchildren in natural environments is appealing for volunteers to help realise its goals.

The Natural Connections Demonstration Project, which is being funded by Natural England, DEFRA and English Heritage, and delivered by Plymouth University, aims to get more pupils regularly learning in the natural environment by removing barriers and increasing schools’ abilities to teach outdoors.

Around 200 schools from Cornwall to Bristol will be involved, along with 2,000 teachers over the course of the next three years. Now organisers are looking for volunteers to help Plymouth school teachers deliver exciting activities across the whole curriculum: from scientific investigations to literacy work, IT to numeracy, to raise pupil’s aspirations and improve performance.

Volunteer Officer Emily Cannon said: "Natural Connections is probably the largest outdoor learning project in the country at the moment. We are working with 40 schools – primary, special and secondary – across the City to help teachers use their local green spaces to deliver the curriculum.

"We are looking for people from all walks of life and all ages who have experience, skills or an expertise to pass on, as well as people who can help with more physical tasks, like clearing scrub so children can have lessons outside. We have a free training day coming up, as well as lots of volunteering opportunities available at a school nearby, so if you have some spare time and want to help Plymouth’s young people get outdoors, please get in touch."

Prospective volunteers are invited to come to the Natural Connections training day on Thursday 27 June between 9am and 5pm. This free volunteer induction training session will be at Portland Square, Plymouth University. Places must be booked in advance with Emily Cannon.

The first opportunity for volunteers to put their Natural Connections training into practice will be helping teachers with their outdoors lessons on ‘Empty Classroom Day’ on Friday 5 July, with many more opportunities to follow.

Emily added: "All the evidence shows that learning outdoors has a whole raft of benefits for children, from improving health to making lessons more inspiring. In return, these volunteers will gain an understanding of the national curriculum, acquire new skills from working with a wide range of school children, and benefit from the new experience of delivering innovative lessons outside.  All volunteers will receive training, a reference and the opportunity to be part of this fantastic ground-breaking project."

To register interest as a volunteer, please contact Emily at emilycannon@plymouth.ac.uk or on 01752 585397.