Green fingers for hundreds of London children immersed in autumn nature learning programme


Over 500 students have taken part in activities at Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath since schools reopened in September as part of a City of London Corporation initiative to get the capital’s children active outside by learning about nature.

The governing body launched a new Covid-safe outdoor schools programme for kids in London to explore nature at its green spaces, including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath – teaching them skills such as building dens, orienteering and lighting fires.

It has worked with Carlton Primary School in Camden to run three days in the Secret Garden at Hampstead Heath where children developed their bush craft and survival skills.

Barncroft Primary school in Waltham Forest also took part in the initiative through new ‘Nature and Wellbeing’ workshops that have been developed in response to concerns over the impact of Covid on mental health, and to support schools who may experience difficulty travelling to one of the sites.

Many children in London have limited access to green spaces, including those who are indoors without a garden.

Chairman of the City’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee, Oliver Sells QC, said: “It is a fantastic time of year for children to get outdoors and immerse themselves in nature.

“Our open spaces are absolutely stunning in Autumn and the perfect time for our young people get some fresh air and take the classroom to the forest.

“This new programme will connect children with the nature that is around them at a time when we are all recognising the true value of our sites.

 “They have been learning valuable, essential life skills, that cannot be properly taught inside.

“Spending time outdoors and learning about nature can lead to a dramatic improvement in both health and wellbeing.

“During the current pandemic which we are all navigating together, this is more important than ever before.

Shayne David, teacher at Carlton Primary School, said: “In these challenging times, the staff at Hampstead Heath made our first school trip since March one to remember.

“With clear risk assessments, excellent pre and post visit communication and an amazing days’ worth of survival activities, it was a joy to see another side of our students beyond the gates of the school.

“Additionally a huge thank you to the London Culture Mile fund which has provided us with this opportunity.”

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In April the City Corporation launched a new online learning initiative to get children and families learning about nature during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The programme got kids learning about the outdoors – even if they did not have access to a garden during Covid-19.

The project involved fun, nature-focused activities that promote learning through informative videos, craft activities and hands-on exploring which schools and families can then do themselves – including, videos teaching children how to do a bug hunt and create eco art, or worksheets demonstrating how to make a bird feeder or sun catcher.

Activity worksheets and videos were sent on a weekly basis to over 800 London schools, with teachers sharing them with the children at school and those at home.

The City Corporation managed to get the resources to food banks and children’s centres – reaching families who may not have access to a computer.

The activities were published on a weekly basis on social media platforms, then sent to schools – all for free. Some of these are still running.

Green Spaces, Learning Places, the City of London Corporation Open Spaces Department’s innovative, wider learning programme, launched in 2016.

The programme has so far has helped over 120,000 Londoners, in just three years.

This includes 42,000 school children, Grenfell families, young carers and children with autism, opening access to new opportunities to enrich their lives with outdoor learning, improving wellbeing and creating more access to nature.

Of these Londoners, 15,000 children eligible for pupil premium took part, and 80 young people benefitted from work experience placements and training.

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