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Students learn new teaching methods from Mother Nature

December 11 2013

Childhood and Family Studies undergraduate students from Glyndŵr University have participated in a unique learning experience that saw the outdoors become their classroom.

The 55 first year students spent the day at Alyn Waters Country Park’s Forest School near Wrexham, which is run in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, to gain insight into the benefits and value of children learning outside.

Senior lecturers from the university teamed up with the organisation's education team to provide the students with an opportunity to experience first-hand how the great outdoors can be an effective setting from which children can learn about the environment and gain practical life skills.

As part of the tasks, students built shelters and a campfire and created jewellery using only the natural resources around them. 

The students heard how learning outside the classroom is important for children at primary school level as they begin to develop literacy and numeracy skills and a practical understanding of science.

They were shown how children can learn through outdoor play and use their creativity and imagination to develop storytelling in the natural environment.

The undergraduates were also shown how experiential outdoor learning can help a child with key life skills, including socialising and teamwork, as well as teaching them practical skills, such as shelter building and using tools to make things using natural materials.

Joanne Murphy, from Chester, said: "I really enjoyed the day and gained so much insight into how the outdoors can help children’s learning. Being involved in the Forest School helped all of us understand how being surrounded by nature can spark creative ideas in children and offer them a unique and engaging learning experience."

Ffion Hughes, Education Delivery Manager for North Wales for Natural Resources Wales, said: "The students who attended our taster day at Alyn Waters took part in a range of activities and were all engaged and enthusiastic.  As for the learners we work with, there is only so much that can be done within a classroom setting, so it was great to get them outside and for them to have some hands-on experiences and put some of the theory they have been learning about into practice."

Ruth Davies, Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Family Studies added: "The Forest School day enhanced students' team-working skills and developed their understanding of how the outdoor environment can be utilised to aid children's holistic development."

This activity day is part of ongoing departmental research into the effects of experiential learning on students’ attitudes and perceptions of the outdoor learning environment.

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