Mid & East Antrim organisations branching out with free training

Brian Poots (NIFSA) with attendees at the free Forest Schools workshop.
Brian Poots (NIFSA) with attendees at the free Forest Schools workshop.

High demand from organisations wishing to become accredited ‘Forest Schools’ has led to free training being delivered in the borough.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Northern Ireland Forest School Association (NIFSA) facilitated a one-day workshop to enable interested organisations to begin their Forest School journey.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Lindsay Millar, said: “Forest Schools are based on a Scandinavian idea that considers children’s contact with nature to be extremely important from an early age.

“By incorporating innovative approaches to learning, such as undertaking small and easily achievable tasks, children are encouraged to develop their curiosity and motivation to learn. This is particularly important for those who find it difficult to assimilate knowledge in a strictly classroom situation.

“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is committed to promoting our parks and open spaces as important educational and recreational resources.

“The number of Forest Schools in Northern Ireland is increasing and we are proud to be at the forefront of this initiative.

“All schools in the borough have the opportunity to apply to become a Forest School each year and three schools receive the full Forest School package which includes a six session programme, Forest School Starter Kit, NI Forest Schools Association Nature Ranger Certificates for participating pupils, and to ensure the sustainability of the programme one teacher is funded to qualify as a Forest School Leader.”

Ashleigh Moran, a teacher at Seaview Primary School, Glenarm, who attended the workshop, said: “I really enjoyed the Forest School Training with Denise and Brian. It was so beneficial to speak to other professionals attending the course to share good practice. We were provided with both the theory of the benefits of forest schools and practical advice on taking children outdoors.

“Outdoor learning in my experience is invaluable. The children interact better with each other, problem solve using real life materials, communication skills are developed and thinking skills utilised.

“The children just love being outside and often describe it as their ‘favourite part’ of school life. Sometimes, however, teachers, including myself, can be daunted by the possible hazards and health safety dangers when taking children outside.

“But there are easy, practical steps that Brian showed us, such as using bamboo canes as boundary markers which proved to us that taking children outdoors is manageable with just a little preparation.”