Environmental education programme expands after successful pilot
Environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful has announced the expansion of its Learning about Forests (LEAF) programme after more than 50 establishments participated in the pilot programme.
LEAF, a programme from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), advocates outdoor learning and hands-on experiences, resulting in pupils gaining a deeper and more involved understanding of the natural world.
The key aims of the LEAF programme are to reconnect children and young people of all ages with natural environments while promoting and expanding outdoor education and improving their knowledge of forest-based ecosystems.
LEAF is an extension of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Climate Action Schools, a framework of education initiatives to support Scotland’s educators, young people, and children to progress Learning for Sustainability and climate change education.
The Scottish Government’s recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan 2023-2030 stated that learners “asked for more opportunities to learn outdoors and be in nature and to be empowered to make actionable changes in their educational settings to fully embrace the ethos of LfS.”
The LEAF pilot programme, which ended earlier this year, was a fantastic success with 53 schools and nurseries across 21 local authorities taking part, undertaking a variety of nature-based activities, including identifying trees and wildlife that depend on their local nature, working with local councils to make schools better for wildlife, and planting trees, flowers, bulbs, fruit and vegetables.
LEAF increases opportunities for pupils to learn outdoors, while allowing students to take the lead in improving their school grounds and local community for the benefit of nature.
The programme can be adapted to fit with learners in nurseries, primary and secondary schools and to pupils with additional support needs.
Nicola Davidson, Education and Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said:
“LEAF is a fantastic opportunity for schools and nurseries to get involved in a project that supports mental and physical health of pupils and teachers, as well as giving pupils the opportunity to expand their learning in an outdoor environment.
“Outdoor learning and nature connection are not an extra to be fitted in, they are key components of education that are being demanded by pupils, as seen in the recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan.
“Our LEAF pilot was full of enthusiastic participants, from those delivering the programme to the young people learning from it, and we’re excited to now be able to offer this to even more schools across Scotland.”
Annette Valentine, teacher at Midlothian’s St Andrew’s RC Primary School, said:
“It was lovely to have a reason to be outside.
“As our outside time was contributing to our LEAF award we made a point of going out and not putting it off until next week.
“Our playground has been transformed, we have an area outside each classroom where pupils can garden and observe wildlife.
“We have also cleared an area of woodland on our grounds to become an outside classroom.
“The buzz about the gardens and wildlife was something we did not have before and is there in abundance now.”
Numbers for second LEAF programme are limited and schools are encouraged to enroll early to avoid disappointment.
Registration forms must be completed before the beginning of October.