Launch of the new ‘Forest School Association’

Saturday 7th July 2012 saw the launch of a new national body for those working in UK Forest School settings – the ‘Forest School Association.’ The launch event was seen as a milestone in the growth of Forest School in the UK with almost 200 participants braving the elements to undertake workshops and networking sessions, which all took place outside. The event saw the first Directors elected, a group of whom will function as Officers to the body and aim to represent the variety of those involved with Forest School. The association will be a voice for Forest School, support practice, ensure quality training and push forward on research.

(Information taken from


The new association will take time to develop and more information will be available on the IOL website in coming weeks, see:

Engage Students in STEM Learning with Biomimicry

Workshop to Be Held in Findhorn, Scotland

Prince Charles says of biomimicry:
“…the emerging discipline of biomimicry puts what zoologists and biologists know about natural systems together with the problems engineers and architects are trying to solve, in order to produce technology that mimics how Nature operates.”

Learn about biomimicry, and how to teach it, while exploring five habitats in coastal northeast Scotland. Join Biomimicry 3.8 Institute for a weeklong Biomimicry Educator Training Workshop, August 25–31, 2012, hosted at Findhorn College, the educational arm of the famous Findhorn Ecovillage.

Biomimicry is a design discipline, a branch of science, a problem-solving method, a sustainability ethos, a movement, a stance toward nature, and a new way of viewing and valuing biodiversity. At its most practical, biomimicry is a way of seeking sustainable solutions by borrowing life’s blueprints, chemical recipes, and ecosystem strategies.  At its most transformative, it brings us into right relation with the rest of the natural world, as students learning to be a welcome species on this planet.

Biomimicry’s sensible, eco-friendly approach to design has tremendous appeal for both educators and students. Designed to meet the interests and needs of k-12, university, and informal educators, the Biomimicry Educator Training Workshop offers instruction in the fundamentals of biomimicry, an introduction to Life’s Principles, and communication strategies for sharing biomimicry with students of any age. Participants will learn from local plants, animals, and ecosystems while exploring tidal bays, rivers, forests, and heather dunelands on the fringe of the Scottish highlands. They will return home with a plan for incorporating biomimicry education into their own curricula and programs as well as a toolkit of supporting resources. Register today for this innovative and inspiring program at

The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute focuses on supporting educators and encouraging them, and their students, to work collaboratively and consciously to bring innovative and sustainable designs to fruition using biomimicry principles.

Ali Solomon, Biomimicry 3.8 Institute

Empty Classroom Day – Taking Learning Outdoors!

Friday 6th July 2012 marks the Empty Classroom Day, a day where pupils will head outside to learn, and we would like you to join us! This exciting initiative seeks to uniquely tackle recent concerns, from both the National Trust and Natural England, that children are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ and that there is an ‘extinction of experience’ when engaging with the natural environment.

The Empty Classroom Day is happening right across the UK, but was created by a collection of organisations who met at the London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF), all supporting learning outside the classroom, school grounds and growing. The day was developed to help schools benefit from outdoor learning and share their best practice with other schools.

Schools are signing up to support outdoor learning and to show that one class will be learning outside for one lesson on Friday 6th July. Pupils will be:

  • Doing their maths lesson in the playground
  • Making art on city farms
  • Doing bug hunts at nature reserves
  • Running races for school sports days
  • Bird watching in their playgrounds
  • Writing stories in the local park
  • Following maps in Zoos
  • Weeding in the school vegetable patch.

What are the benefits?

Learning outside the classroom can be fun, memorable and healthy. Everyone benefits from learning outside:

  • Young people will get the chance to learn in new, more relevant and exciting ways – in particular these can benefit those who find classroom learning difficult
  • Teachers will be able to broaden and deepen their teaching skills and subject knowledge while working with more motivated pupils
  • The school can use these new approaches to raise achievement
  • The wider community can benefit through involvement in, for example, developing school gardens of all kinds, leading to a wider understanding of issues such as healthy eating, sustainability and caring for the environment.

How does my school join?

Schools can sign up to the event by following this link:

For those schools that have signed up there are special offers for visits, tours, treasure hunts and lots of activity packs with ideas for what your class can do in your school playground.

We hope you and your school can join us on this fantastic initiative and that we can take learning outdoors together!

– By Sarah Simmons, NAEE Member

Playoutdoors – ‘NAEE’ makes the front page!

A GROUP of prominent British and World academics has slammed Gloucestershire County Council’s closure of the Wilderness outdoor learning centre at Mitcheldean.

What do YOU think about the closure? Comment below here or at NAEE UK on facebook

In a strongly-worded letter addressed to the world press and first released to the Review, the full text of which is given below, they draw attention to the fact that 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, remembering that across England local authorities like Gloucestershire led the way with action plans and investments in community-based initiatives and resources like the Wilderness Centre.

And as the Review went to press this week the letter was still receiving additional weighty signatories.

The academics have also sent a copy of the letter to HRH Prince Charles at Highgrove.

The Review has asked Gloucestershire County Council for their views on its content.

The signatories endorse the text :

“Does an environmental/outdoor education centre have a role to play in what various political leaders around the world have declared as the greatest moral challenge of our time and the need for an education revolution? We think so. And we write to you from different parts of the world to express our concern and opposition to the decision to close down and sell the Wilderness Centre at Mitcheldean.

“2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit. With ‘Think global, act local’, the event challenged the world’s communities to develop their own Local Agenda for environmental sustainability. Across England, councils led the way with action plans and investments in community-based initiatives and resources. Villages and towns tackled issues around waste, biodiversity, the local economy and fair trade – efforts that translated Rio’s lofty goals into practical actions. A key venue for this work in Gloucestershire was the Wilderness Centre in the Forest of Dean.

“Where are we now? People still want sustainable economies, vibrant ecosystems and flourishing communities. Talk of ‘transition towns’ and the ‘green economy’ are very much in fashion. Rio won’t go away – in fact, Rio+20 will be held in June.

“The return to Rio invites the world to take stock of actions on environment and sustainability since 1992. Education has always been the undisputed lynchpin to the work of Rio, it was required as much then as it is now. In fact, teaching and learning about global and local issues in the classroom are only half the story; our education and experiences in the local environment are equally fundamental. All this education has to happen somewhere, if it is to happen at all. And what better place to start than in a dedicated environmental education centre in the heart of the Forest of Dean?

“Closing the Wilderness Centre in 2011 has proven shortsighted. Selling it off in 2012 will only compound matters. It damages not just the green credentials of the county council but sells short the people of Gloucestershire – its current and future generations.
“The agenda at stake is much larger than balancing council budgets.”


Professor William Scott, President of the UK National Association of Environmental Education Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition.

Professor Justin Dillon, Professor of science and environmental education Head, Science and Technology Education Group (STEG) Department of Education and Professional Studies King’s College London.

Associate Professor Alan Reid, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Education, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

Bob Stevenson Ph.D., Professor and Tropical Research Leader (Education for Environmental Sustainability) Director, Centre for Research and Innovation in Sustainability Education, The Cairns Institute and School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.

Associate Professor Phillip Payne, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria, Australia.
Paul Vare, Executive Director, South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition.

Prof Stephen Sterling, Head of Education for Sustainable Development, Teaching and Learning Directorate, Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth.

Dr Kelly Teamey, Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath.

Ann Finlayson, chief executive SEEd (Sustainability and Environmental Education).

A spokesman for The Friends of the Wilderness welcomed the statement as a contribution to their efforts to take over the running of the centre.

Commenting on the letter Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Gloucestershire County Council’s Leader, said: “Gloucestershire County Council took the decision to close the Wilderness Centre over a year ago, as part of the difficult decisions we had to take to balance our books, so we could protect crucial services, like care for the elderly and protecting vulnerable children.

“We have given extra time and financial support to help Friends of the Wilderness Centre develop a plan to operate the site themselves.

“I am unsure whether any of these five academics have even visited Gloucestershire, but, if they would like to make a contribution, they could best do so by supporting Friends of the Wilderness centre’s fundraising activities.”

•A public meeting which looks at the Wilderness Centre closure has been called for Friday night (Miners Welfare Hall, Cinderford, 7pm).

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