Tomorrow’s children? The most important seeds we need to sow: a parent’s perspective

As we launch our action in response to changes to the school curriculum - which we fear could threaten opportunities for school trips and outdoor learning in England – we welcome a special guest blog from our Head of People Engagement, Graham Blight, who has spent 10 years at the Trust working with schools and communities around the importance of nature in education for children and young people. Over to you, Graham…

“Year 1 of our local primary school spend part of their lessons outside today. Each Tuesday, whatever the weather, the class of 5 and 6 years olds enjoy learning in the energising environment of a local wood. What better way to build an understanding of the environment than through first-hand exploration at an early age? 

Image: courtesy Larkman Primary School, Norfolk.

Pupils from Larkman Primary School, Norfolk, proudly displaying their Gold plaque from the Woodland Trust’s Green Tree Schools Award scheme.

They learn not just to care for the world in which they live but put into practice their literacy and numeracy skills through a range of practical and fun tasks – the secret is, they don’t know they’re learning. Children also develop their listening skills, collaborative working, problem solving and social skills and, because of this, the class as a whole benefits. Now, not every primary school has access to a local wood, park or green space so the school trip is a valuable way to connect children with nature.

I can see in my nearly 6 year-old son how important these early, formative years will be for helping shape his thoughts, ideas, values and behaviours. Joining one of these lessons as a parent helper, I was struck by the sheer joy as the group of 28 curious minds discovered magic in the mundane – their world is full of possibility. At the end of the session the children walk back to school discussing their woodland adventures with their walking partner. As every parent knows it’s difficult getting to know what your child did at school that day but after school on Tuesdays we get to hear it all.

Every child should have this opportunity, whether close to home or a trip away. While the current curriculum supports teachers in developing young minds to care and protect the environment, proposed changes could undermine all that. As a parent I encourage people to voice their concerns. Be quick, the consultation ends 16th April.”

We believe that learning about caring for nature from an early age is an essential part of every child’s education, and that memorable days out on school trips enrich young lives. Help us make sure that children can learn about caring for nature from an early age, and can get outside to experience nature first hand as part of the school curriculum. We’ll be blogging on this topic again tomorrow and Thursday this week.

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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22 Responses to Tomorrow’s children? The most important seeds we need to sow: a parent’s perspective

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  7. argylesock says:

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… It’s nearly two weeks since Kaye Brennan at Woodland Matters wrote this article. Two weeks in which I’ve been watching spring arrive at last, here in Northen England, and sowing seeds for the growing season ahead. I’ll add my voice to the other commenters on Kay’s post: kids need the outdoors. For me as a child in the 1970s it was all about gardens, pets, walks and camping – that’s how I learned to be me.

  8. Kaye Brennan says:

    We have added all your comments (anonymously) as an appendix in our own submission to this consultation – thank you everyone for sharing your views

  9. Yvonne Aston says:

    Children do not have the freedom to roam these days and these school trips give them an invaluable insight into just how nature works and how joyous it can be to be out in the fresh air, enjoying the beauty of the trees and plants . It will also show them how important it is that we hold on to our precious open spaces. Even a short trip into the countryside will give them so much happiness and they will return to their studies refreshed.

  10. Mrs. J. Setchfield says:

    It would be difficult to quantify the benefits of out door learning in woods and fields. For so many children who are taken to and from school by car, bus, train etc. they never have the freedom to just run around, shout and use their imagination in play. I was born in 1937 and had plenty of freedom to roam the countryside and woods. It never occurred to my parents to come with me or worry about where I was. All school holidays were spent with friends building dens and riding bikes etc. Most schools also had large playing field too so games were played regularly. If children were allowed to develop more slowly, by the age of 7 they would be better able to learn to read and write. Their motor skills are better developed by then so writing becomes easier to master. Pushing them on at too early a stage in their natural development is is very counterproductive.

  11. Pingback: Save England's School Trips!

  12. Rose says:

    As a child, I was taken on walks in the countryside by my parents, who taught me names of birds, trees, flowers etc. My playground at the time was a ridge and furrow field, with a walk to the local wood a special treat: my friends and I loved being outside and learning about nature. As an adult, I’ve observed the wonder in young children’s faces as they walk in the countryside, especially through woods. They learn so much about nature and also many skills, including the ability to be still for a few moments to listen and observe. To remove this type of activity from the curriculum would be to deprive children of something wondrous.

  13. Shirley Knibb says:

    I am 64, so when i was at school there were not the opportunities to go to an outdoor school. However I did have parents interested in the countryside and their seed was set in me. Which in due course i passed on to my children and now my granchildren.
    When i lived in England I diid study the environment and later helped at outdoor schools, which I am sad to say many were closed down. But as you say they are a wonderful asset and a great deal from the curriculum can be taught in the woods. What I did find they were valuable especially fo children from the inner cities to allow them to get close to nature.
    One school i helped in allowed me to manage a spinney area and turn it into a nature area. For one young lad in particular this proved an ideal classroom as he found academic work difficult. He went on to win an environment award for his succinct work about coppicing.
    In this world of technology and buzzing gadgets the woods brings you into a world of calm, different sounds and reality.
    I feel the government should invest more in environmental schools starting with the very young as this helps them to develop and groe into better balanced human beings.

  14. Averil Wood says:

    I have never been an ardent fan of Mr. Gove but he needs to re-think this one. He’s really demonstrating to us all that he ‘s not qualified to undertstand teaching and learning at all. I’m 78 and grew up in a City – lucky enough to have more freedom in those days to explore and lucky enough to have access to woodlands – oh! the joy ! changing seasons and a wealth of wildlife and plant life, I learned so much about so many important things that would not have been observed by sitting in a stuffy class room. Many more parents work nowadays and without school trips children will miss so much knowledge and real experience of the wonderful natural world we are lucky enough to have inherited

  15. Marian Davidson says:

    As a society we are becoming more and more removed from the natural world of which we are a part. In order to become a positive part of that world, not a negative and destructive one, children need to gain an understanding of it.By making this part of the school curriculum you are not only assuring that this is achieved but also stimulating children in a way that will have more general effects across the curriculum.

  16. Amanda Cerasale says:

    I used to love to go on school trips when I was younger so I say yes to the school outings its another way for children to learn new things.

  17. Tony says:

    Picking up on Cheryl’s comment about real world education. I can see “defining the real world” as soon becoming a curriculum choice of its own. I have linked this post elsewhere, FB, LinkedIn etc. and I would urge others to do the same. The natural world is where we all live I hope, whether our home is a council house, cosy cottage or an inherited mansion, we are all the same or are we

  18. Cheryl Rudd says:

    Outdoor learning is a massive part of children’s real world education and Forest schools and outdoor learning should be encouraged in all walks of life, especially educational settings. Getting hands on with nature, can only be a positive thing in helping our future generations respect and care for their environment. Linking foundation learning to these topics gives teachers and care givers a reason to use these everyday resources. But what better way to learn.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Too true Cheryl, thanks for your comment. I’m not a parent but I remember being outside with school and being taken on trips as a child with my class – I know people who weren’t and whose parent’s didn’t bother to take them into the woods or anything either, and they are just not connected to nature in the way they would like to be…

  19. Hi Kaye
    Nice piece on this and such an important issue. Should we make clear that this just applies to England? Scotland have very good commitment to outdoor learning in their Curriculum for Excellence. http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningteachingandassessment/approaches/outdoorlearning/index.asp
    Sian

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