By Roxanne Green, Programmes Coordinator at Groundwork
Since Groundwork was founded nearly four decades ago, the important focus on the link between the outdoors and our wellbeing - both physical and mental - is integral to what we do and what we stand for as a charity.
We know that time spent outdoors in nature can have a profound impact on mental health and wellbeing. We also know that mental ill health is widespread in secondary schools, and many long-term mental health conditions begin in teenage years. A lot of outdoor education activities, projects and research have focused on primary schools, and we believe there is currently an unmet need in secondary schools and alternative provision institutions (APIs) to incorporate nature into everyday learning.
Groundwork is one of the partners delivering Nature Friendly Schools in secondary schools and APIs. Over the course of the project we will work with over 60 secondary schools and APIs in the North West, West Midlands, East of England, and London. We are focused on providing tailored support to school staff to enable them to feel confident in using the outdoor environment to build resilience in their school community.
This project brings together a number of strands of our organisational experience. Nationally we deliver a wide range of outdoor education activities through initiatives including natural play and forest schools. We also work within secondary schools and pupil referral units to provide personalised coaching support to young people at risk of being Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET).
Groundwork’s Nature Friendly Schools Education Officers are doing just that. By providing in-depth mentoring and training to teachers, we aim to remove barriers to teaching outdoors. We are working with schools to develop individual plans and deliver tangible benefits, including physical improvements to school grounds, a tailored resource pack and curriculum-linked lesson plans to ensure teachers have the tools they need to permanently embed outdoor learning throughout the school.