Taking learning out of the classroom and into the woods

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Published Date: 

23 Apr 2014 - 12:32

Argyll and Bute Council’s adult literacy and numeracy learners donned waterproofs and wellies and headed for Dunollie Woods, Oban to take their learning sessions to a new dimension, in a project named ‘Wood Word’.

A grant from the national Forest Education Initiative has enabled the meeting of Forest School and the council’s Adult Literacy and Numeracy service in a pilot project which is the first of its kind.

Working together the tutors and learners aim to develop a programme combining traditional adult numeracy and literacy activities with environmental education activities outdoors, with the aim of removing the barriers to learning that some students find in a classroom environment.

For three hours each week those attending ‘Wood Word’ are supported in the development of their literacy and numeracy skills, viewing these from a completely different angle whilst also learning about the environment, woodlands and themselves. The outdoor and group setting brings an alternative feel to previous office or classroom type learning experiences.

Ross Preston, of Rowan Ecology and Education Support, said, “Forest School is a useful tool for children and adults throughout Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe. However, this is the first project targeting adult numeracy and literacy specifically. This allows for increased self-esteem, confidence in learning ability, skill development and general well-being.’’

The council’s Policy Lead for Community and Culture, Councillor Robin Currie, said, “Reading, writing and using numbers helps us handle information, communicate with others, express our ideas and opinions, make decisions and solve problems. It helps us manage daily life as members of a family, at work, within our communities and as lifelong learners.

“However, for some people the prospect of learning in a classroom environment may be off putting. This is understandable, so by taking learning outdoors we hope to overcome those concerns.”

The results and evaluation of this pilot will be published in a project report and will also be discussed at the National Forest Education Initiative annual conference to be held in September.

Through its adult literacies service the council provides people with opportunities to improve their skills, learn new ones and so improve their health and wellbeing and that of their family. It also increases people’s ability to get a job and stay in employment.

Forest Education Initiative aims to increase the understanding and appreciation of the environmental, social and economic potential of trees, woodlands and forests and the link between trees and everyday wood products.