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Woodcraft Folk guide teachers in how outdoor education can align with curriculum

Being outside with young people is key to mental and physical health, it improves focus and relationships and teaches key life skills. In December 2023, Elaine, youth organisation Woodcraft Folk’s Project Officer went to St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Harehills, Leeds to help the teachers use their field, tiny patch of trees and new outdoor benches as a place to learn in a fun, relaxed way with their classes. 

Children in the UK spend on average less time outdoors than prisoners who legally have to spend one hour outside a day. It also disproportionately affects young people living in poverty because deprived areas have less trees and parks and in most cases, the parks that are there might not be safe places for children to play in. This has a really significant impact on their wellbeing and their connection to nature. 

Woodcraft Folk Green Mentor Elaine said:

“Some of the biggest challenges for teachers are time and money. Time to write risk assessments and time and money to buy resources make things difficult. I provided St Patrick’s Catholic Primary Schooldraft with risk assessments and easy ‘how to’ guides for outdoor activities that require almost no resources like den building, bird feeders and fire lighting. The teachers learned to build their own fire safely and then they had marshmallows on the fire to help them see how delicious and easy it is to take school outside. I also taught them about coppicing their willow trees so in future, they can make their own willow sculptures and den poles/fire wood.  Sometimes it’s just about making use of the resources you’ve got”.

Elaine also shared lots of ideas with the staff about how they can cover the curriculum outside such as running activities like free writing, reading and guided reading, music and art outside on the grass, to cooking bread on a fire, making cave art using their own charcoal and creating their own prehistoric dyes from berries. Also, covering how to follow a scientific method with the children of getting their classes to explore and observe things in nature carefully and make their own science experiments and discoveries. 

Elaine is confident her work will allow all the young people at the school to spend more time outside as their teachers will feel safe and excited to utilise the outdoors to teach the curriculum. 

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