City schools go wild in the woods

Six Plymouth schools will be heading to a city woodland for a week of fun and educational activities with a host of Plymouth organisations and volunteers.

Plymouth City Council’s Stepping Stones to Nature team is running the event in Woodland Woods, Whitleigh, from Monday 30 June until Friday 4 July.

The Summer Woodland Woods Week follows on from the successful Autumn Woodland Week, but has been made bigger and better for the children, with many local volunteers offering their skills and knowledge to help to run activities.

Plymouth Woodland Project will be running deadwood and woodland plant surveys to help the children learn more about the woodland ecosystem and develop understanding of our woodlands.

The National Trust will be offering opportunities for children to gain stickers towards their ‘50 Things to Do Before You Are 11 ¾.’

Aaron Farr, teacher from St Peter’s Roman Catholic Primary School said: “Children will be going outside to learn not only in the woodland, but the stream and the meadow and will have the opportunity to be creative, with volunteers running sessions on sculpture building and literacy as well as science surveys.”

Rachel Instone, who teaches at Shakespeare Primary School, said: “Learning in natural environments can transform pupils’ and school performance by increasing teaching and learning standards, allowing innovation and helping to inspire children.”

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 the environment Councillor Brian Vincent said: “I’m delighted to see some our schools involved in this outdoor learning project.

“Children today play outdoors less and less and spend more time in front of the TVs and computer screens. Here in Plymouth we recognise this and are actively trying to do something to counter this trend, by making our green space and woodlands attractive and better used through activities such as this.

“It’s perfect. Children get to play outside, learn outside, find out about the nature on their doorstep and get inspired. It’s great to see more and more people use our woodland.”

All the schools involved recognise the importance of outdoor learning and are involved in the Natural Connections project – which is being run by Plymouth University, the Council and Natural England.

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.