Three local Schools - Downshire Primary and Beechlawn School in Hillsborough and Rowandale Integrated Primary in Moira - have their roots firmly planted in the Forest Schools initiative this year.
The Forest Schools programme encourages schools to use open spaces for learning and is delivered locally by Northern Ireland Forest School Association (NIFSA) in partnership with Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.
Downshire Primary School pupils were the first to take part in the pilot programme using Hillsborough Play Park as their outdoor classroom, and were recently presented with their NIFSA Nature Ranger Award Certificates by Chairman of the council’s Leisure & Community Development Committee, Alderman James Tinsley.
Speaking at the presentation, Alderman Tinsley said: “The number of Forest Schools in Northern Ireland is increasing and the council is proud to be part of this initiative. What better way to educate our children than to use the outdoors as an extension of the classroom. To use our local green spaces to their full potential not only gives the children a wealth of knowledge it also provides them with a great sense of ownership and pride.
“I would like to congratulate all the children from Downshire Primary School who took part and I hope they are extremely proud of their well-deserved certificates.
“The council is committed to promoting our parks and open spaces as an important educational and recreational resource and Forest Schools is a great way to achieve this.”
Forest Schools activities can be linked directly to the curriculum, which allows teachers to ensure continued progress towards academic targets. The use of outdoor classrooms and change of venue is a fantastic experience for both children and teachers and has demonstrated to be particularly useful for children who do not normally thrive in the classroom.
For more information log on to www.nifsa.org.uk or visit www.forestschoolawards.org