The best classroom in the world – Teaching Trees with RFS

Nicki Jempson is the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Teaching Trees Education Officer for the East Midlands and explains why she loves showing primary school children how much can be learned from a wood environment.

My playground

As a child, my playground was a little spinney in the corner of the field behind my house. I wasn’t aware at the time how lucky I was to have spent most of my childhood in that spinney, climbing trees, making dens, burying treasure and inventing games with my friends. At the same time, I was learning about the seasons, about woodland plants and animals, and how create all sorts of imaginative pieces of artwork from natural materials!

Learning in a woodland environment

It wasn’t really until I was in my first teaching post at a city primary school that I realised not all children are as lucky as I was and some children haven’t even set foot in a woodland, let alone experienced the adventures of den building and tree climbing.

After 24 years as a primary school teacher, I left the classroom last year to work as an Education Officer for the Royal Forestry Society delivering their Teaching Trees programme at Battram Woods in Leicestershire. It was a job I had dreamed about – the perfect opportunity to show children how much can be learned in a woodland environment.

Trossachs primary school gathering hazelnuts from which to grow young tree

Trossachs primary school gathering hazelnuts from which to grow young tree. Credit WTPL / Jane Begg

The best classroom in the world!

In the woods, I can teach groups of children from different schools all about the importance of trees and how we care for them and manage the woodland habitat. The children and their teachers love coming to the wood, there is always something new to learn. It may be the names of trees, or a reason why trees are important or just that a woodland is a lovely place to visit. The teachers who accompany the children all say that they learn new things too and they are inspired to follow up the sessions back in the classroom.

When the children get back on the bus to go back to school at the end of the day, I am looking forward to the next day when a new group of children can come and experience learning in a wood. It is the best classroom in the world!”

RFS Teaching Trees links primary schools with local woods, providing free 2hr sessions linked to Key Stages 1 &2 of the National Curriculum. Find out more on the RFS Teaching Trees webpage.

Love nature? Love trees.

The UK’s woodland is one of our richest habitats. A single mature tree can support hundreds of species, so imagine how much wildlife can live in one wood. We need to look after and properly manage the trees that make up this important habitat.

Your stories will help us create the building blocks of a charter which will ensure woods and trees get the support and care they need.
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