Launch of Forest Schools Programme for Outdoor Learning

The Lough Erne Landscape Partnership working in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Marble Arch Cave UNESCO Global Geopark is delighted to announce an amazing opportunity to become a Forest School this year.

The Forest School Awards Programme, delivered by the Northern Ireland Forest Schools Association, is aimed at promoting sustainable outdoor education programmes to inspire innovative teaching methods, encourage curiosity and exploration whilst instilling a sense of community and civic pride within young people.

Speaking about the programme, the Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Chris Smyth said;

“This is a wonderful initiative, and I would encourage school to register for this innovative programme. We have, right across the district, a number of parks and open spaces which are ideal for students to take learning out of the classroom and into the great outdoors. We are really fortunate to have such excellent natural resources for children to enjoy and learn in for free.”

The Lough Erne Landscape Partnership programme manager, Elmarie Swanepoel, stated;

“We are delighted to be able to support the Forest Schools Programme. This programme will enable pupils to gain a clear understanding and appreciation of the unique landscape and natural heritage we have available in the Lough Erne region.  We encourage schools to become involved in this magnificent programme and look forward to realising the benefits of outdoor education.”

Commenting on the programme, Martina O’Neill, Acting Manager, Marble Arch UNESCO Global Geopark said;

“The landscapes and places within our UNESCO Global Geopark are the perfect ‘outdoor classrooms’  – rich in both habitats and species and on closer inspection tell fascinating stories of a geological history spanning nearly 900 million years and human endeavours spanning almost 10,000 years. We are absolutely delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues in the Council’s Biodiversity team and Lough Erne Landscape Partnership on this Forest Schools initiative and would encourage schools in the area to avail of this fantastic and unique opportunity’.

The Forest School Development Package that will be FREE to each of 10 participating schools (eligible groups are pre-school, primary and secondary that are affiliated with Education Authority/Department for Education) aims to support schools to:

  • Identify a local Council Park, Geopark site or public space (permission required) that is accessible to the school of an appropriate place within school grounds;
  • Develop this area as an outdoor classroom;
  • Train a member of staff or volunteer in Forest School Leadership and become confident and competent to deliver outdoor sessions on a regular basis;
  • Inspire children to explore their local environment and by doing so, teach them to respect their local natural environment.

10 selected schools will receive:-

  • A six-session programme (one session per week) as agreed between the school and NIFSA.  This will provide training and assessment to enable the selected teacher to qualify as a Forest School Leader Level 3
  • A Forest School Starter Kit Bag including Learning Resources
  • NIFSA Nature Ranger Certificates for participating pupils
  • On successful completion of the-six session programme and the submission of a learning portfolio, the teacher will receive a Level 3 Forest School Certificate.

To have a chance in taking part in this exciting programme, schools are requested to complete the online application form (click here) by 6th November 2020.  The programme can accommodate 10 schools per year, so even if you are not selected this season, more spaces will be available in due course.  Please be assured that the programme is flexible and NI Forest School Association will organise any visits with schools to suit ongoing COVID restrictions.

Details of the full qualification are available at www.forestschoolawards.org/  or contact the Heather Gott E:heather.gott@rspb.org.uk

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