Mud, Glorious Mud, with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust
Adam Moolna is Communications Officer for The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Forest Schools project getting kids muddy and engaged with nature in urban Manchester. He’s seen the real difference that muddy outdoor learning makes for kids’ confidence, and shares his tips and enthusiasm for having wild, outdoor fun. “It’s as much about engaging parents as the children” explains Julie Barker, class teacher at our partner school St Mary’s CE Primary, “Forest Schools take place whatever the weather and that is a key part of the process… let’s face it, in the UK if we only went out in dry sunshine we’d never get out at all!” We’ve been running a special Forest Schools project in urban Manchester for over a year now, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Forest Schools sessions are about kids exploring wildlife and learning outdoors. This allows children to build on their creativity and confidence while fostering resilience through risk-taking. Find out more here. The children taking part in sessions change into a spare set of ‘outdoor clothes’ that they’re free to get muddy so there’s no worries about keeping clean holding them back from getting fully engaged. That can just be some old beat up trainers and old ragged clothes. What’s important is that children feel free to throw themselves right into the activities, whether that’s turning over wood piles searching for minibeasts, collecting woodland materials into environmental art, or even just feeling a handful of mud ooze between their fingers. Corryn Nicholson at Bowker Vale Primary School explains “children have loved the opportunity to play in the mud and the freedom”. In a Year 5 child’s own words “when do we ever get the chance to get dirty? Our parents always tell us to keep our clothes clean!”. We run our Forest Schools as a 6 week programme with each class of children. In the first week we find children are overcoming their reluctance to get dirty, worrying about getting in trouble, but by week two they’re throwing themselves into full volume fun without inhibition. That’s what Forest Schools is about. Giving children supported risk-taking and exploration, controlled mud-making and hands-on inspiration. And that’s something we can all do for our own children. Give them the opportunity, whether in a local park or even just at home, to put on some old clothes and able to explore nature and the accompanying mud. It’s not just an interest in nature that children discover, for so many kids we’ve seen them discover an inner confidence that they didn’t realise they had. That carries back into the classroom – mucky hands might not be an obvious mathematical aid, but they often bring confidence to tackle those hard maths problems!