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Schools in Scotland encouraged to join LEAF programme

Posted 24.08.23 by Sophie Ward

Environmental education programme expands after successful pilot

Environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful has announced the expansion of its Learning about Forests (LEAF) programme (click here for more) after more than 50 establishments participated in the pilot programme.

LEAF, a programme from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) (click here for more), advocates outdoor learning and hands-on experiences, resulting in pupils gaining a deeper and more involved understanding of the natural world.

The key aims of the LEAF programme are to reconnect children and young people of all ages with natural environments while promoting and expanding outdoor education and improving their knowledge of forest-based ecosystems.

LEAF is an extension of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Climate Action Schools, a framework of education initiatives to support Scotland’s educators, young people, and children to progress Learning for Sustainability and climate change education.

The Scottish Government’s recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan 2023-2030 (click here for more) stated that learners “asked for more opportunities to learn outdoors and be in nature and to be empowered to make actionable changes in their educational settings to fully embrace the ethos of LfS.”

The LEAF pilot programme, which ended earlier this year, was a fantastic success with 53 schools and nurseries across 21 local authorities taking part, undertaking a variety of nature-based activities, including identifying trees and wildlife that depend on their local nature, working with local councils to make schools better for wildlife, and planting trees, flowers, bulbs, fruit and vegetables.

LEAF increases opportunities for pupils to learn outdoors, while allowing students to take the lead in improving their school grounds and local community for the benefit of nature. The programme can be adapted to fit with learners in nurseries, primary and secondary schools and to pupils with additional support needs.

Nicola Davidson, Education and Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “LEAF is a fantastic opportunity for schools and nurseries to get involved in a project that supports mental and physical health of pupils and teachers, as well as giving pupils the opportunity to expand their learning in an outdoor environment.

“Outdoor learning and nature connection are not an extra to be fitted in, they are key components of education that are being demanded by pupils, as seen in the recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan.

“Our LEAF pilot was full of enthusiastic participants, from those delivering the programme to the young people learning from it, and we’re excited to now be able to offer this to even more schools across Scotland.”

Annette Valentine, teacher at Midlothian’s St Andrew’s RC Primary School, said: “It was lovely to have a reason to be outside. As our outside time was contributing to our LEAF award we made a point of going out and not putting it off until next week. Our playground has been transformed, we have an area outside each classroom where pupils can garden and observe wildlife. We have also cleared an area of woodland on our grounds to become an outside classroom. The buzz about the gardens and wildlife was something we did not have before and is there in abundance now.”

Numbers for second LEAF programme are limited and schools are encouraged to enroll early to avoid disappointment. Registration forms must be completed before the beginning of October.

For more information about the LEAF programme, click here to visit the dedicated webpage on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website:

Young child with long dark brown hair smiling while standing next to a tree. They are wearing an orange jumper, scouts badge and neck tie

News: Scouts welcome new programme for early years children

Posted 9 Sept, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Scouts Scotland has introduced a new branch to the Scout family, designed to support early years children to learn skills for life.

The new Squirrel programme, tailor-made for four and five-year-olds, will encourage children to be active, explore nature and have fun learning with friends. Building on a successful pilot programme, the Squirrel programme will launch initially in nine locations across Scotland. More are expected to follow.

The emphasis will be on outdoor adventures, making new friends and learning new skills, creating a positive, safe environment for young children to develop as they build essential skills for life.

Squirrels will, like older scouts, earn badges, and some of the new  badges to be introduced include Feel Good, Be Active, Explore Outdoors, Brilliant Builder and Exciting Experiments.

Katie Docherty, Chief Executive of Scouts Scotland said:

“Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic. If you’re four, you’ve spend a third of your life in lockdowns. Our mission at Scouts is to equip young people with skills for life, and we know how important early years is in terms of developing these skills. We know this has especially impacted children in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. That’s why we are opening up the first Squirrel dreys in those communities that need it the most.”

Bear Grylls, Chief Scout, said:

“I’m so glad that younger children will now have the chance to join our family of Scouts and develop skills for life. We know from our pilot programme that four and five-year-olds can really benefit from the activities that Squirrels offers. All of us at the Scouts believe that by offering opportunities at this early age, inspiring a sense of wonder, fun and curiosity, we can have a long-lasting, positive impact on young people’s lives.”

The new Squirrel dreys will initially be launched in Dundee, Dunfermline, Kelty, Condenbrath, Stenhousemuir, Fordbank, Greenock, Craigalmond and Bridge of Allan.

As part of the programme, Scouts Scotland are also encouraging adults to step forward as volunteers. As part of their #ItsGoodForYou campaign, designed to recruit new volunteers, they are emphasising how volunteering not only helps young people, but is good for grown ups too, supporting wellbeing and building skills for employment and education.