Engaging children and young people with the natural world has never been more important. The benefits of outdoor learning span from increased nature connection to improved self-esteem and physical wellbeing. But with so many potential risks and barriers, how can we help practitioners feel confident and capable in an outdoor setting and therefore improve access to green space for children and young people? The education team at the National Forest Company set out to tackle this challenge. The National Forest was established in the early 1990s in a post-industrial area of the English Midlands. It covers 200 square miles and has seen a huge transformation from black to green over the last thirty years through an intensive program of tree planting and habitat restoration. However, nature was not designed to be the only beneficiary of this work. Green spaces were created near to where people live, work and learn to promote engagement with nature. It became clear early on that working with schools and youth groups across the Forest would be vital to making this happen. Here we describe the varied ways that outdoor learning provision has been supported and improved in the National Forest – from traditional in-school settings to engagement through arts and culture. We address some of the challenges facing outdoor learning providers and offer a pathway to success that can be followed elsewhere. By offering a variety of ways to engage with the local treescapes, the National Forest hopes to foster the next generation of custodians of this ever-changing landscape.
Connecting children and young people with trees.
Occasional Paper Series,