Lessons in the forest
A PAIGNTON woodland is echoing with the noise of school children learning about the great outdoors.
Primley Park, opposite Paignton Zoo, is being used by forest schools leaders in Torbay.
The forest school movement is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning. The idea is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences.
Primley is a local nature reserve managed by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, which runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.
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The partnership between the Trust and Torbay Council started when Primley Park was used to train local teachers as forest schools practitioners.
As part of the deal, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust contributed the woodland space, prepared the site and helped liaise with partners.
Trust reserves warden Dave Ellacott said: "This is part of our mission to educate. The children get so much out of it — they are broadening their horizons for the future. Plus, we hope that if we can get children to enjoy woodland responsibly at an early age, they will have more respect for their natural surroundings later in life."
Cllr Chris Lewis, executive lead for children, schools and families, added: "With the forest schools approach, children get to work, play, learn and grow in confidence outside the classroom.
"Teachers see changes in behaviour and what they do feeds back into work in the classroom."
The reception class from Upton St James Primary School in Torquay recently used the woodland for its weekly forest schools sessions.
Mr Ellacott added: "Schools have been using the reserve informally for a while, but the forest schools movement has gathered pace in recent years, with many more supervisors being trained in the area.
"We were approached by council staff who wanted to carry out more formalised visits to the woods under the forest schools banner.
"Primley is a good place for forest schools sessions because it is on the doorstep for many schools.
"We offer two woodland areas where groups can have their own space but also play freely. On top of that we have the open grassland which allows groups to run wild."
The children carry out practical tasks and creative activities in a woodland environment, developing personal skills.