An educational initiative which encourages teachers to take the classroom outdoors and connect children with woods and wildlife has signed up its 10,000th school.

The Woodland Trust’s Green Tree Schools Award, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, sees schools gain points for completing activities, progressing through bronze, silver and gold levels until they reach the prestigious platinum title.

Woodland Trust Schools and Communities Engagement Manager Karen Letten said:

“It’s fantastic that so many schools want to engage with nature and instill a passion for the environment in their children.

“Outdoor learning has been shown to improve pupil engagement with many youngsters going on to remember their experiences well into adulthood.

“Our free Green Tree Schools Award is the perfect way for them to get hands on, to explore the natural world around them, use their imaginations and have fun while learning. We hope many more schools will sign up and help us continue to create the next generation of woodland custodians.”

The 10,000th school to register is The Hammond School in Hoole, Chester.

The first school to sign up to the scheme, in May 2008, was The Lanes Primary School in Beeston, Nottinghamshire.

The first school to get to gold (before platinum was introduced in 2011) was Market Harborough C of E Academy in Leicestershire.

Year 5 teacher and the school’s eco co-ordinator Julie Guiver said:

“When we signed up to the Green Tree Schools Award ten years ago, we had no idea where the journey would take us – and I would say to new schools about to sign up that this is an exciting starting point to get the whole school community working together for the good of the environment in which we all live and are responsible for. There is no end point. New people join your community, become threaded in and bring fresh ideas. You are continually evolving. Who knows where it will take you!

“When I signed up for the award originally, it was because we were already doing a lot of the requisites for the award and then we became motivated to do something extra in order to achieve it.

“Ten years ago, our journey was really about the Green Team inspiring the school community to get involved in more initiatives and that is exactly what happened. It led us to become the first school in Market Harborough to get Fairtrade status, and we are still the only school to achieve that.

“Our first teacher has qualified as a Forest School Leader with a second one due to finish the training in February. Our outside space has been hugely developed in many areas – phase 2 of our Forest School is due to start this year, we’ve developed nature areas for Foundation and Year 1 children and have a Discovery Shed full with the wonders of nature. We have won Harborough in Bloom awards for the school garden and just three weeks ago, this was developed with the addition of a poly-tunnel.

“We recently collected almost 7000 batteries for recycling and children got friends, families and neighbourhoods involved. This is how good practice spreads.

“The benefits of working for the award are that it weaves into the Christian ethos of our school – the caring for our planet, trying to improve our environment, working together to achieve goals, proving that actions speak louder than words, and developing a whole school approach to the 3 R’s – Reduce, Recycle & Re-Use.”

Schools that sign up can choose a wide range of curriculum-linked activities to choose from including:
• Planting trees;
• Visiting a local wood;
• Using words and images to share a woodland experience;
• Exploring different viewpoints through photography
• Creating woodland art
• Becoming a Schools Woodland Ambassador;
• Delivering a specially-themed assembly;
• Setting a recycling challenge;
• Reducing co2 emissions; and
• Using Shakespeare-themed spotter sheets.

The Trust has also developed a range of KS2 and KS3 curriculum-linked resources to help staff teach their pupils about woods and trees.

The materials can be downloaded from the Trust website and used to support and inspire outdoor learning, as well as classroom-based lessons. They range from tree planting to natural crafts to the study of ancient trees. Subjects covered include maths, literacy and science.

To watch a short film about the award or to sign up, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/schools