‘Tree-mendous’ Rotary Club help for academy’s new forest school

Portfield forest school
Portfield forest school

An overgrown patch of land is being transformed into an outdoor learning area.

This September, with the help of The Rotary Club of Chichester Priory, Portfield Primary Academy is opening its very own Forest School within the school grounds.

Chantal Lushington, the academy’s business manager, said: “As part of the school curriculum, each class will receive outdoor learning time.

“This will help reconnect children with their natural environment and learn to understand the natural world.”

The Rotary Club’s support is part of a worldwide drive by the organisation. Its international president, Ian Riseley, is determined to meet a worldwide Rotary goal where every Rotary member plants at least one tree and changes the environment for the better.

In the hope of seeing over a million trees planted around the world in forests under threat of disappearing, the project invites members to ‘put on your wellies and join forces with Rotary Clubs in your area for a tree-mendous challenge’,

Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland President Denis Spiller has invited the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest conservation charity, to support the organisation in this challenge.

The trust is not only supplying a vast quantity of saplings, but is also providing advice to ensure the plants’ best chance of survival.

If all Rotary members in Great Britain and Ireland take part, over 47,000 trees will be planted - the equivalent of a forest the size of a hundred football pitches.

Activities vary from extending and under-planting existing woods to enhancing parks and open spaces.

Ian said: “The help of the public will dramatically increase this figure. This challenge is a lovely way to involve communities.”

Chichester Priory Rotary is ‘really pleased’ to be working with Portfield Academy Primary on this project.

Chantal said: “The aim is to restore an overgrown area the size of two tennis courts into an outside teaching area and plant suitable trees to enhance the learning environment.”

As part of the project, Porfield is arranging for a member of staff, Mr Potts, to attend a Forest School Leader training and management course: “He will be fully qualified to take the children safely on their journey of discovery.”

To date, children from years one and two have already planted saplings in the new Forest School area under the careful supervision of Mr Potts and with the assistance of the Rotary Club.

See www.rotarygbi.org and www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

Risk, enjoyment, resilience

Hands-on learning out in the woods should not only be inspirational, but should also offer everyone the chance to achieve and grow in a natural, tree-filled environment, according to the Forest School Association (FSA).

The professional body for forest schools in the UK, the FSA was launched in 2012 and helps give young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world,

Today, forest school is an ethos shared by thousands of trained practitioners across the UK and beyond.

Rather than an ‘actual place’, the FSA says it is a programme that works with people in a vareity of outdoor natural spaces for an extended period of time, often a full year. So, while schools cannot become ‘a forest school’, they can provide forest school programmes for their pupils.

The movement is based on the UK’s rich heritage of outdoor learning - going back to the 19th century or even earlier.

However, it caught fire in 1993, when a group of nursery nurses from Bridgwater College, Somerset, visited Denmark to look at its pre-school system, which has an open-air culture known as ‘frulitsliv’.

Inspired, they started their own ‘forest school’ for children attending the college creche and, according to the FSA, watching their creativity blossom.

Today, regular forest school sessions have become part of the mainstream timetable in thousands of schools andhopes are that this opportunity will be provided to all children in the UK.

Everyone taking part in forest school is entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge and to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world.

They are also invited to enjoy the ‘ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons’ in sessions which are filled with ‘discovery and difference’.

In return, according to the FSA, children become ‘resilient, confident, independent and creative learners’.

At present, all forest schools under the FSA’s umbrella are run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

Schools interested in establishing a Forest School programme can either employ or contract a Level 3 Forest School practitioner or train an existing member of staff.

To find out more, see www.forestschoolassociation.org