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The Growing Need to Get Children Outside

A comprehensive look at the UCL study, Greenways Forest School's role, and what you can do at home.


Introduction

In a digital age where screen time often trumps outdoor play, the urgency to get children connected with nature has reached a critical point. A groundbreaking study by the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL) in collaboration with The Wildlife Trusts has provided compelling evidence on the transformative impact of nature on children's wellbeing. This blog post aims to delve into the study's findings, discuss the importance of outdoor experiences for children, explore how Greenways Forest School is leading the charge, and offer actionable tips for parents to encourage outdoor activities at home.

The UCL Study: A Clarion Call for Change


The UCL study involved 451 children, from 12 areas across England. These children participated in a variety of outdoor activities led by The Wildlife Trusts. The research yielded significant findings:

  • 79% thought that they had better relationships with their class–mates

  • 84% felt that they are capable of new things when they try

  • 79% felt more confident in themselves

These numbers aren't just statistics; they're a wake-up call for society, highlighting the necessity of integrating nature into children's lives.


Why Is This Important?


Psychological Benefits

The study found that children who spent time in nature showed an overall increase in personal wellbeing and health. Nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, making it a natural antidote to the mental health crisis facing today's youth.


Educational Gains

Children reported feeling that their experiences in nature could help their schoolwork. Outdoor learning can enhance focus, problem-solving skills, and cognitive abilities.


Environmental Stewardship

The study also revealed an increase in pro-environmental values among children. Early exposure to nature fosters a sense of responsibility and care for the environment, which is crucial for the planet's future.



Championing the Outdoor Revolution


At Greenways Forest School in Hackney, we've been championing the cause of outdoor learning for over a decade. Our mission is simple: to get London's children back into nature.


Our Unique Approach

  1. Child-Led Learning: We follow the children on their individual learning journeys, setting realistic but challenging tasks to help them gain greater self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-belief.

  2. Holistic Development: Activities like science experiments, bushcraft, and games help children learn more about the world and themselves, aiding in holistic brain development.

  3. Community Involvement: We are open to all—schools, settings, families, childminders, and organisations. Our aim is to spread the practice of outdoor learning across London and beyond.

Each week we create brand new experiences for the children to learn something new about the world around them, and themselves.

Activities We Offer


Bug Hotels

Teaching children to care for creatures by building bug hotels. This not only fosters a love for animals but also teaches them about different species and their habitats. Here's a guide on how to build your own bug hotel.


Woodland Crowns and Leaf Art

Learning about the trees by making woodland crowns and leaf art. This activity enhances their understanding of different tree species and the importance of forests. Check out this leaf art activity.


Shelter Building

If we need to put up a shelter, children learn sourcing, knot-tying, and teamwork. These skills are not just practical but also build confidence and social skills.


Nature Art

Creating masterpieces with paintbrushes made from woodland materials, mud faces, and leaf printing. This allows children to express themselves while connecting with nature.


Woodworking Skills with Hand Tools

We introduce children to basic woodworking skills using safe, child-friendly hand tools. They learn to create simple items like birdhouses or picture frames, which instills a sense of accomplishment and hones their fine motor skills.


Paint Making with Berries

Children learn how to make their own paint using berries. This teaches them about natural resources and allows them to explore their artistic side in an eco-friendly way. Here's a guide on how to make your own berry paint.


Campfire Cooking

We teach kids the basics of campfire safety and cooking. They get hands-on experience making popcorn, roasting marshmallows, and even baking cakes over an open flame. This activity not only makes for a delicious treat but also teaches important survival skills.


Each activity is designed to offer educational, psychological, and physical benefits, contributing to the overall wellbeing of the child.


What You Can Do At Home


Nature Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of items for your children to find in your local park or garden. This activity not only gets them outside but also helps them learn about different plants, rocks, and animals.


Recycling Crafts

Use recycled materials to create bird feeders or bug hotels. This teaches children about sustainability while they enjoy time outdoors.


Plant a Tree or houseplant

Teach your children the importance of trees and plants by planting one together. This is a long-term investment in both your child's future and the planet.

Paint Making with Berries

Children learn how to make their own paint using berries. This teaches them about natural resources and allows them to explore their artistic side in an eco-friendly way. Here's a guide on how to make your own berry paint.


Make a Bug Hotel

Teaching children to care for creatures by building bug hotels. This not only fosters a love for animals but also teaches them about different species and their habitats. Here's a guide on how to build your own bug hotel.


Conclusion


The UCL study serves as a compelling reminder of the growing need to get children outside. At Greenways Forest School, we're committed to this cause, offering a variety of outdoor experiences that align with the study's findings. But the responsibility doesn't lie with schools alone; there's plenty you can do at home to encourage your children to embrace the great outdoors.



References

  • UCL Institute of Education Study

  • The Wildlife Trusts


The time to act is now. Let's take collective action to ensure our children grow up with a meaningful connection to nature. Share this post and join the movement to get our kids back into the great outdoors! 🌳🌼🍂

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