Belfast Telegraph

Schools branch out with cross community forest fun

About 150 children were let loose on Throne Woods last week as Loughview Community Action Partnership (LCAP) celebrated the success of its Forest Schools environmental programme.

It was delivered by Groundwork NI to pairs of north Belfast schools - including Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain, Ballysillan PS, Currie PS, Seaview PS, Wheatfield PS, Holy Family PS, Hazelwood Integrated PS, Star of the Sea PS, Sacred Heart PS, Cave Hill PS -over the past three months.

Last week's event saw the P2-P7 pupils participating in five outdoor activities ranging from wood whittling to tree planting and from den making to mammal trekking.

Thomas McKinley (9), Seaview PS said: "I really enjoyed these days in the woods and I enjoyed answering questions on nature but the thing I liked most was pretending to be birds and hunting for worms! I have met new friends from other local schools and it's been massive fun."

Sylvia Gordon, Director of Groundwork NI explained that Forest Schools, which originated in Sweden in the 1950s, allows schools to get together to share their learning experiences and to develop new friendships and mutual trust from a young age. "This innovative approach, using the great outdoors as a backdrop, to working in partnership and building tolerance is a perfect vehicle to achieve this," she said.

"It also engenders respect for nature and for others. This project compliments our core work in the LCAP area within North Belfast and we are grateful to all the parties who have contributed to making this programme a success."

The project was made possible through Loughview Community Action Partnership (LCAP) with funding from OFMDFM.

Groundwork NI staff member Madeleine Kelly and volunteer Michael McKinney worked with the schools on the programme. Madeleine is now a registered Forest School practitioner.

A representative from Loughview Community Action Partnership (LCAP) explained that the Partnership's aims are to build citizenship, good relations, leadership and capability among and between communities in north Belfast. "This Schools Environmental Programme is equipping local children with all of these skills and most importantly is building bridges between schools from different backgrounds and breaking down barriers between children."

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