Nature’s Footprints Wins Forest School Award!

November 11, 2013

in Forest School Awards, News

Jo Liversidge of Nature's Footprints Receiving her Best of the Best Forest School AwardJo Liversidge from Nature’s Footprints has been awarded a Best of the Best Forest School Award.

Jo received the award from Sarah Blackwell of Archimedes Training, the biggest Forest School training company in the UK, at a ceremony in Sheffield.  Jo was nominated for the award by her friend, Lisa Holmes, who has seen her to grow her idea into a fully-fledged Social Enterprise over the last 2 years.

As part of her nomination Lisa said, ‘Jo is a fantastic and inspirational Forest School leader, and her passion and enthusiasm for Forest School is infectious.  In a very short time she has established herself as an essential part of the local community, working with many of the local schools and Children’s Centres, children and families.  She is a member of local groups, such as the Youth Action Group, and has built up a strong working relationship with the Friends group at Beaumont Park where she is based.  She has even been involved in setting up a local network for the growing number of Forest Schools and Forest School practitioners.  And on a personal level she has reawakened my love of the outdoors (to the extent that I have just completed my Level 2 training!) and given my daughter, and other children like her who struggle at school, a place to be themselves and show their strengths.’ (Read the full nomination below)

Jo said, ‘It was a lovely evening.  It’s always great to be recognised for the work that you’re doing – Forest School is still quite a new concept and as Jo Liversidge of Natures Footprints and Other Award Winners at the Forest School Awards in Sheffieldtrainers and practitioners we can be quite isolated.  So it’s also lovely to be able to meet up with other like-minded people – some of whom I’ve previously only met via Facebook and Twitter – and share ideas.’

The ceremony was held at the Lantern Theatre in Sheffield and was combined with a screening of acclaimed documentary, Project Wild Thing – part of a campaign to get us all outside and reconnecting with nature, set up by one dad who noticed that his children didn’t play out any more.

Jo said, ‘I’d recommend this film to everyone.  It’s brilliant, funny and engaging and shows just how important beings outside is to all of us and the effect it (or lack of it) can have on our lives.  Forest School is just one part of a growing movement, supported by organisations like the RSPB, Woodland Trust and National Trust, to encourage play and real world experience as an essential part of growing up.’

Jo works locally in a number of schools as a Forest School Lead and Consultant, as well as running a monthly Family Forest Club and regular Holiday Forest School sessions in conjunction with Beaumont Park.

Forest School is a type of outdoor education in which children (or adults) visit forests/woodlands, learning personal, social and technical skills. It has been defined as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment”.  It allows children to have fun and learn in their own way in a less formal and more real world environment than school.  A basic Forest School activity such as building a den, for example, can involve teamwork, leadership, communication, science, design and technology, problem-solving, art, imagination, creativity.  It can be included as part of a school curriculum or can be a separate activity like scouts and guides.

Jo Liversidge – Nomination for a Best of the Best Forest Schools Award

Jo is a fantastic and inspirational Forest School leader, and her passion and enthusiasm for Forest School is infectious.  In a very short time she has established herself as an essential part of the local community, working with many of the local schools and Children’s Centres, children and families.  She is a member of local groups, such as the Youth Action Group, and has built up a strong working relationship with the Friends group at Beaumont Park where she is based.  She has even been involved in setting up a local network for the growing number of Forest Schools and Forest School practitioners.  And on a personal level she has reawakened my love of the outdoors (to the extent that I have just completed my Level 2 training!) and given my daughter, and other children like her who struggle at school, a place to be themselves and show their strengths.

She originally trained with Archimedes in order to set up and run a Forest School at the Primary School where she worked as a teacher.  It was so successful that it was mentioned by Ofsted as one of the best features of an ‘outstanding’ school and Jo became a licensed Archimedes trainer so that they could train up and share ideas and best practice with other schools.  However, at the same time she realised that she no longer wanted her teaching to be confined to a classroom and that she could combine her teaching experience and Forest School skills to do more with both children and adults.

She started small by running a monthly Family Forest club at Beaumont Park where parents could come along with their children and do something fun and different.  Then, just over a year ago, she left her job in order to run Nature’s Footprints full-time.  She now works part-time in a federation of schools in a deprived area with a diverse ethnic mix where she has been setting up and rolling out a Forest School programme, starting with Early Years and then moving up through the school.  Her work has been particularly successful with the high proportion of children in school who have additional needs, are developmentally delayed, have English as a second language, or who come from difficult family backgrounds – some of whom won’t even have
played outside or got dirty before!

As part of this initiative, she also works with a number of vulnerable families with children ranging from newborn to teenagers and uses Forest School to help get them involved in and interested in learning and help them bond and work together as a family.  As a result of this programme the children are doing better in school and aren’t getting into trouble so much, some of the parents have started reading, singing and doing things with their children for the first time, and some have had the confidence to get a job for the first time.

She spends the rest of her time setting up similar programmes in other schools, as a consultant, running the full range of Archimedes training courses and running children’s Forest School activities in the school holidays, funded by the local council and Beaumont Park.

She is now in such demand that she is in the process of setting up a social enterprise company so that she can apply for funding herself and expand her activities.  She has recently put together a number of teams of Archimedes-trained people who will work with her on a self-employed basis in order to facilitate this and take the Forest School message to a wider audience.

In summary, then, Jo and Nature’s Footprints Forest School are making a difference to both individual lives and her community as a whole.  Her work allows children from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds, with very different needs and abilities to mix, learn and have fun together.  She is giving people opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have with great results.

For further information about Nature’s Footprints and Forest School Training and Workshops, Forest School for Schools, or Holiday and Weekend Forest School Sessions, please contact jo@naturesfootprints.co.uk, 07843 673011.

 

 

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