Applications for the 2019 Forest Schools programme have now officially opened.
The popular programme promotes sustainable outdoor education programmes to inspire innovative teaching methods and encourage curiosity and exploration.
Funded by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and delivered by the Northern Ireland Forest School Association, the programme also hopes to give young people a sense of community and civic pride.
The concept is based on a Scandinavian idea that children’s contact with nature at a young age is extremely important.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Lindsay Millar said: “Council ran the Forest School programme last year and we received positive feedback from all those involved. Millquarter Primary School used The People’s Park in Ballymena, Victoria Primary used Bashfordsland Wood and Oakfield Glen, and Moyle Primary used Dixon Park Larne.
“I am very pleased that this programme has captured the imagination of our young residents and am delighted to announce the Forest School programme will run again in 2019. Every school in the borough has been invited to apply to become a Forest School and three successful schools will be chosen and notified in November 2018. The Forest School Programme will then from run January to June 2019 with a final awards ceremony in June 2019.”
Brian Poots of NI Forest School Association, who partner with Council on the initiative, said: “Research has found that outdoor learning is invaluable for children.Through Forest Schools children can increase their confidence, understanding of the environment, physical skills, social skills, motivation and concentration. Forest Schools can help to connect children to their outdoor environment, stimulating curiosity and inspiring a love of the natural world that is likely to remain long after the end of primary school. Ripple effects beyond Forest Schools have been noted, with children bringing their experience home and asking their parents to take them outdoors at the weekend or school holidays, thus helping to promote a positive family life and increasing physical activity. Motivating children and families to become involved in their local green spaces can increase local ownership of sites, reduce crime levels and vandalism, and improve the overall appearance of neighbourhoods.”
Schools must select a Council site to become their forest school ‘classroom’. However, the site does not need to be a ‘forest’, it can be a local park or beach. Application forms must be submitted by 12 noon on Wednesday, November 7.