Stomping Grounds

Stomping Grounds

By Col Stocker

Forest School and outdoor learning activities can have a real impact on engaging communities in outdoor activities which reconnect them with nature. To give children and families from all backgrounds the time and space to connect with nature, build relationships with the land and grow communities. Stomping Grounds Forest School North East focus heavily on equality of access, prioritising work to those who would most benefit, which include those with the least access.

We want to provide a mirror into the world of the great outdoors, so that all people can see themselves in wild spaces and therefore access the benefits. This includes committing to Positive Action practices to pro-actively support historically excluded groups access our services.

John Harrison is their Development Manager and actively works on new partnerships and projects, especially with communities that may not get the opportunities to experience the transformation that forest school can bring.

"We want to ensure all have equitable access to Forest school and want to use funding to ensure those from excluded groups can access our forest school activities. To provide forest school in communities that have historically not had access, giving individuals access to the outdoors and the opportunity to explore in a safe and secure environment." They were looking to work with a group of 15 children from historically excluded groups who normally wouldn't have access to the outdoors for a period of 12 weeks. To support this he applied to the Alpkit Foundation for help towards training a forest school practitioner from an under-represented group to deliver forest school. An award of £200 was used to help Umara undertake her Forest School level 3 training.

It was really wonderful to hear back on the impact that completing her Level 3 has made, reflecting the strength of forest schools and outdoor learning as a whole.

"Being a clinical psychologist, although I have been working in early year education settings for a long time whether it was Japan or Saudi Arabia, forest school has provided a totally new experience and way of thinking about education. I joined forest school recently after my little one started going to school, through Forest School Level 1 training and Level 2 in Mental Health and Well-being of children and young adults from Sunderland College in 2021.

Completing the Forest school Level 3 has further supported me in gaining skills, developing better communication, and growing my network in the forest school community. This helped me to build positive relationships and given me the chance to work with amazing colleagues from diverse background and share and collaborate ideas. By completing my Level 3 course, I'm now able to lead the sessions and bring my diverse background and higher education into practice.

It has promoted my emotional intelligence including self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation. I have learnt to cope with stressful or negative situations whether it is bad weather of other disliking situations. Nature and the outdoors activities really helps reduce stress, how to overcome obstacles and reflect on experiences even at home.

I find forest school activities quite interesting and engaging while one learns and teaches through play which in turn improves both teachers and learner’s attention and concentration. One of the major impacts forest school has on me is the development of physical skills and motor skills. Outdoor activities in forest school consists of a variety of other physical skills such as balancing, climbing, and sensory skills."

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