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OWL takes off!

Children enjoy Outdoor Weeks of Learning to beat COVID fallout

Our children returned with tales of fires, chickens and farm animals, challenging rope courses and construction where teamwork was needed, cooking and helping their peers, and night hikes.

Now in class, children are communicating more effectively with their peers with higher levels of concentration and resilience.
Toni Mason, Head Teacher, St John the Baptist School, Hackney

The first residential visits took place this autumn for The OWL Collaboration, one of the Trust’s most recently established programmes.

Devised in response to the trauma experienced by young people during COVID-19, the programme provides opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to experience the recognised benefits of an Outdoor Week of Learning (OWL).

It was with great anticipation that young people from Kingbury Green Academy, Wiltshire, Goresbrook School, Dagenham and St John the Baptist School, Hackney embarked on their residential weeks at Ufton Court Educational Trust in Berkshire and Jamie’s Farm both in Hereford and Lewes.

Activities include everything from feeding and mucking out farm animals, to walks in the countryside, music or art workshops. Each OWL residential has an element of support and therapy, to help children deal with the impact that COVID has had on their lives, so the benefits carry on once they have returned home and are back in the classrooms.

So far, seven Outdoor Learning Centres have teamed up with the Trust as part of The OWL Collaboration, with plans to offer places to at least 30 schools and 700 pupils across the UK.

All the selected centres are farming and environment based and have a particular focus on working with small groups of young people who would benefit from therapeutic support.

We are offering much more than just a week away to have fun. We will be measuring the impact on the children, to ensure it has long-lasting effects. For example, we will look at nature connectedness, which is how much more the children feel connected to nature as a result. We’ll also look at how they are feeling in themselves afterwards and how they engage in education.
Dr Victoria Edwards OBE, Chief Executive,
The Ernest Cook Trust

Outdoor Weeks of Learning are offered to eligible primary, secondary and special schools. The Ernest Cook Trust is the primary funder, with initial support from grant-making charity, The Dulverton Trust. Funding covers the cost of the residentials, transport for the schools, and membership for each school to the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, which helps teachers and educators develop their outdoor learning skills.