The Mayor of Swindon was invited to Lawn Primary School to open its newly renovated Forest School Area for the children to explore.
There was an official ribbon-cutting at the school, where the Mayor and Mayoress, helped by Cllr Lawrence Elliott, pronounced the Forest School open.
Upon cutting the ribbon, the Mayor addressed all the children gathered round to witness the opening.
The Mayor said: "Enjoy nature, and take care!"
The area has natural woodland space for the pupils to explore with hedges and trees, and also a firepit area with seating and a canopy. Work to make the area safe and useable for the children was carried out by volunteers from Rope and Rail.
Cllr Abdul Amin, Mayor of Swindon added: "It is fantastic that the Lawn Primary pupils have access to this natural area. We have come out the other side of two years of lockdown and a lot of kids have felt this impacts of this on their mental health. In my opinion, having this forest area will enrich their learning and help the children mentally as well.
“A big thank you needs to be said to all those involved – to the teaching staff and all the volunteers who helped to make this happen.”
Once opened, Lawn Primary staff served cake and drinks to the children, staff, and visitors from Rope and Rail within the Forest School area. Qualified Forest School leader Mr Staffel then gathered the pupils together for a clay sculpting session, where they would need to gather natural material to make a piece of art.
Children were given free reign of the forest area and were tasked with gathering their natural materials to arrange on a sheet of paper alongside their clay sculpting. They could create an image of their favourite place, or somewhere they wanted to visit, or an animal or natural scene.
Pupil Nienke (pictured above) said she wanted to make 'a random creation of her own' whilst pupil Safy (also pictured above) chose a tree design to sculpt out of clay.
Mr Staffel said: “I think this forest school area is excellent for the children. It’s going to give them a lot of free time to go along and explore and be creative within nature. We’re hoping this is going to benefit the pupils in their classroom environment as well.”
School staff were approached earlier in the year, by one of the local parents, Nick Underwood who owns a local company called SAS Rope and Rail.
He offered to undertake all the work free of charge with the help of his team. Staff at Lawn Primary explained that this offer meant that the school would be able to use the money it had put aside from the PE grant, to build a new trim trail adventure area in one of the playgrounds instead.
The work on the forest area was started before the summer and was finished this autumn. Volunteers from Rope and Rail pitched in to complete the job which would have cost an estimated £20,000.
Forest School activities aim to provide the pupils with a different educational experience which will benefit them in a variety of different ways.
It aims to allows pupils the opportunity to explore, take supported risks, experience success and to develop self-esteem and confidence through hands on learning in the woodland. The pupils will take part in a variety of challenging, motivating tasks which will give them the opportunity to develop their learning.
Forest School lessons include activities such as, collecting natural materials, scavenger hunts, natural art, shelter building, using knots and lashing, fire lighting, tree investigation, bug hunts, climbing and balancing, woodwork (using tools to create objects such as decorative items) and team games.
Headteacher at Lawn Primary, Sally Robins said: "We have been really excited to open our forest school area here at Lawn Primary. We have been very privileged with the space that we have at the school, and we thought it would be great to develop this natural area for the children to get the most out of.
"We’re really grateful to have had this work done voluntarily from members of our own community. It’s been a really lovely example of community spirit, coming together to make something that the children can really benefit from.”
Lawn Primary says Forest School is suitable for all ages and abilities and aims to develop children by helping them to grow their confidence, teamwork, and communication.
More information about Rope and Rail can be found online at https://rope-and-rail.com/