Wood you believe it?

DONCASTER College is to implement a Forest School which will see youngsters and adults engaging in outdoor classrooms. It is hoped the school, based at the College’s High Melton campus, will create a unique learning experience encompassing the broadest spectrum of learners in a natural environment.

It will benefit people of all ages from nursery school age, with well-structured activities and accelerated learning programmes and helping to develop an understanding and respect for the natural world.

The idea was the brainchild of the College’s Deputy Director of the Academy of Health and Social Care Kathryn Dixon who had visited other Forest Schools across the country before presenting her idea to senior College managers at an internal ‘Dragon’s Den’ event earlier this year.

Kathryn said: “I visited successful Forest School centres in Cumbria and Somerset and thought it would work very well here in Doncaster. We have attracted funding to start it up and we’re hoping to have something in place by Spring 2009. The larger project is in its planning stage and may include a purpose built sustainable building which links the indoors to the outdoors.

“The School will help people develop the transferable skills that would enhance the employability and educational progression of those who attend. These skills may include self regulation, teamwork, independence, problem solving skills, and a positive self-esteem.

“The aim of our Forest School is to engage different types of learners – those who find it hard to study in a normal classroom environment. Forest School is very successful at working with those not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs), Entry to Employment (E2E) students and those with learning difficulties.

“There is a suggestion that a young person that has been disengaged in school is unlikely to be re-engaged in further education without some period of transition or alternative approach – Forest Schools offer this and re-introduce students back into education in small steps.”

The College has secured extra funding from Higher Futures and three staff are on training courses to become professional Forest School practitioners.

The College’s own Early Years students in further and higher education would benefit from the implementation of such a School with the chance to witness and work alongside young people in a different environment. University research could also be carried out at the Forest School.

Kathryn added: “The list of people that could benefit for this experience is endless. It has been highly successful in other parts of the world and would work perfectly here because we are lucky enough to have access to a unique piece of woodland at our High Melton campus.

“And it won’t just be used by youngsters; this is a place where College staff, including senior managers, could engage in the out door environment. This would offer a stimulating alternative to the stressful office atmosphere, even allowing some meetings to be held outdoors. Businesses could also use the space for team building activities and activity days .”

The School is currently in the early planning process but could include a couple of new buildings, an outside cooking area, a pond area and an amphitheatre. Activities could include den building and other practical projects with a woodland theme.

For more information, please contact Doncaster College Publicity Officer Matt Needham on 01302 553765 or email matt.needham@don.ac.uk

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