Welcoming schools back to the nation’s forests

Forest Activity Bag Sherwood Pines

Welcoming schools back to the nation’s forests

The spring flowers are out and the forests are full of bird song. Spring is definitely here and summer is just around the corner.

For far too long, the quiet murmur of excited school children exploring the forests has been missing from the forests. Now, as lockdown restrictions are eased we are delighted to welcome you back to the nation’s forests.

Member of staff Sarah Wood smiling against a backdrop of trees

Meet Sarah Wood

We talk to Sarah Wood, our national learning manager, as she discusses the benefits of learning outside in a forest environment and what can be expected when you visit one of the nation’s forests over the summer term.

As a child I was very lucky to have grown up on a farm and being outside everyday felt natural and normal. Looking back, I have to admit that I didn’t fully appreciate the freedom or the wonderful natural benefits the great outdoors had on my health and wellbeing.

What are the benefits of learning outdoors?

This last year has reminded us all of the importance of connecting with nature and the many benefits it brings.

It helps reduce stress and feelings of anxiety, improves concentration and increases confidence, and on top of all that it brings enormous benefits to our physical and mental health.  Just one day in the forest can have a positive impact – unless you forget your wellies and waterproofs on a cold, wet day of course!

Young kid splashing in a puddle in wellies

Teaching in the outdoor brings a whole range of benefits, not only to the students but to teachers as well. Last year Natural England’s The People and Nature Survey for England: Children’s survey found that 8 in 10 (83%) of the children interviewed agreed that being in nature made them very happy.

This figure was even higher for those who spent time outside looking at nature and wildlife (94%) and 8 in 10 children (82%) agreed that they would like to do more to protect the environment.

8 in 10 children agree that being in nature makes them very happy

Now more than ever, as children settle back into school life, it’s so important we help them to build their social and concentration skills, their resilience and confidence.

A visit to the forest helps provide opportunities for children to develop as individuals, it fuels curiosity and encourages scientific enquiry, it provides a wonderful backdrop for team working and an open space to play, naturally, helping them to make sense of their emotions and express themselves.

Tell me and I forget,

Teach me and I may remember,

Involve me and I learn.

I have never been very good at sitting still, and this quote resonates with me. It is why I believe being outside in a forest is a perfect place to explore, discover and learn through hands-on experiences.

Over the years I have worked outside in many environments and explored many habitats with school groups from beaches to chalk downlands. I may be a little biased but a school trip to the forest must be one of my favourites. No visit is ever the same.

As soon as you step into a forest it makes you feel calm and at ease. You can hear the children breathe out a long slow sigh as they stop, look and listen to what is around them . The gentle rustle of leaves, the sounds of birds singing and scurry of squirrels as they leap from the ground quickly disappearing into the leaf canopies. Admittedly it doesn’t last long because as soon as you stop then the questions come tumbling out. "Look!" "There’s a bird", "What’s this?", "Miss, I have just found a HUGE slug".

How to plan a visit to the forest

We know the thought of organising a school trip can be a little daunting. But don’t worry, help is on hand. Our local learning teams can chat through what opportunities are available in your area and explain the changes we have introduced to keep you safe. Click on the links below for more detail:


Boy counting tree rings on a very old tree that's been felled.

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Bedgebury National Pinetum Marshal's Lake view dawn sunrise winter

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Child looking at bug through magnifying glass, near pink flowers

Learning resources, tips and ideas for educational visits to the forest.