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Applegarth and Hutton’s LEAF journey

A blog post by John Doherty

To celebrate the end of our LEAF pilot programme, we're delighted to feature this wonderful blog by Applegarth and Hutton's Principal Teacher John Doherty, who shares the school's various LEAF projects.

We signed up for the LEAF Award as we are in the fortunate position of having a forest area directly attached to our site. It has always been well utilised by children at playtimes, however, as a community we felt that we could make better use of this valuable asset, by improving the resources available for both playtimes and for lessons.

Having looked at the LEAF themes, we decided to focus on Forest Creativity and Innovation and Forests and Biodiversity. We used these themes to target two aims:

  • Improve the structured learning resources in our forest classroom to increase usage of the forest as a learning space
  • Improve the quality and quantity of resources for play based, child led learning.

To develop structured learning resources we built a bird hide, enhanced our existing grab bags for outdoor learning, numbered the trees in our forest using wooden discs and created reversible letter and number discs using sustainably sourced wood from a local sawmill.

To improve play-based child initiated learning we created a "Wild Workshop" in the forest where children could create their own inventions from fallen branches, twigs and recycled offcuts. We increased the number of resources such as additional rope, scaffolding planks and tyres. We also defined an area of the forest as a "green gallery" where children could design their own temporary pictures using natural materials.

A handmade Olympic Torch!
Working in the Wild Workshop

To help increase student’s knowledge of biodiversity we took part in the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch (using our newly constructed bird hide and biodegradable birdfeeders we made) using the RSPB App to support our identification work. We also started to identify and categorise the trees in our forest using the Woodland Trust Tree identification App.

Using the Woodland Trust app
Getting to grips with writing outdoors!

As is clearly evident, the two themes we have focused on are carefully interwoven. Our use of technology to give greater insight into the biodiversity of our forest also aligns with our theme of innovation.

The numbered discs on our trees have aided our tree identification activities as a reference point for our biodiversity work, however, they have also been a fantastic asset in numeracy lessons, for example, recently children were asked to tag three trees that make 50.

Once we have completed our tree identification of the whole forest, we will invite a local Arborist into the school to check our work for accuracy.

We are currently applying for funding and risk assessing the potential of a beehive into the edge of our forest to make use of the wildflowers we have growing on our forest flower and further increase the biodiversity of our school.

LEAF is a programme from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). This programme is an exciting opportunity for schools and nurseries to meet their Learning for Sustainability goals and also promotes and expands outdoor education and connection with nature for young people.

The programme is an extension of our Climate Action Schools framework and aims to reconnect children and young people with natural environments, promote and expand outdoor education and improve their knowledge of forest-based ecosystems and help Scotland restore nature and increase biodiversity.

Visit LEAF | Keep Scotland Beautiful for more information.

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