The Garden Classroom

A forest school in the city

Engaging with green space is essential for children’s mental and physical health. It helps their cognitive development and emotional resilience, too. But what happens in a London borough with the second lowest level of green space of any local authority and where 71% of residents don’t have a private garden? That’s where the Garden Classroom comes in.  The charity takes primary school pupils into their local greenspaces for child-led outdoor learning experiences.

Our award of more than £28,000 will allow 324 primary children from schools in the London Borough of Islington join the Garden Classroom’s Very Urban Forest School. Children take part in hands-on activities, experiences and games that stimulate their emotional, cognitive and social growth. The community gardening, tree planting and rewilding the children get involved in will also improve the biodiversity of the urban parks.

  • The Garden Classroom is bringing vital time outdoors in greenspace to children in Islington – a borough where only 13% of the land is greenspace.
  • The free Urban Forest School will directly support 324 children aged 4 to 11.
  • In the longer term, potentially every child in 12 Islington primary schools will benefit from Urban Forest School.

Learning links with nature

Most forest schools tend to happen in more rural or greener settings than north London. But the Garden Classroom makes the most of the green spaces in Islington, such as New River Walk, Gillespie Park and Newington Green. Sessions are linked to national curriculum objectives and cover maths, literacy, science, humanities and more. Every session makes the most of the opportunity to learn from nature.

The Garden Classroom aims to offer free Urban Forest School to 12 of Islington’s state primary schools by 2024. They will work with heads, teachers, governors and parents to embed the importance of nature connections into schools, working towards their ambition that every child in these schools will, at some point, benefit from Urban Forest School sessions. For many participants, this will be first time they will have visited nearby parks and gardens. But the Garden Classroom’s hope is that their experience at the Very Urban Forest School is just the beginning of a long connection with local greenspaces.

“Providing as many children as possible with access to an Urban Forest School programme at this time will be a powerful way to restore some normality to their lives, help them to heal, overcome anxieties and rebuild relationships and friendships with staff and other children.”

Anne Dwulit, Headteacher at Moreland Primary in Islington

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