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Forest School helps Leadgate families thrive.

Families placed under huge strain by school closures found some much-needed relief thanks to Stomping Grounds Forest School.

The forest school helped parents and children with outdoor respite sessions when restrictions eased, thanks to a £4,160 community grant from County Durham Community Foundation.

Serious need

School director Sophie Watkinson said: “We found that parents and children were even more in need of the sessions because of the impact that Covid-19 had on their health and wellbeing.

“Forest School allows young people to take managed risks and make their own decisions about what they learn and when.”

Through activities like campfire cooking, foraging, den building, woodland arts and crafts, nature games and tree planting, Sophie and the team helped children to relax, have fun and burn off energy.

Sophie added: “We worked with some of the most hard-to-reach families in Leadgate.

“Some of the children we work with struggle to engage in other clubs and educational settings because of barriers to taking part, such as autism and anxiety. But all of the children who took part in Forest School thrived.

“One girl who joined our after school club was very nervous at first.

“She was frightened of getting dirty. However, by the end she was very relaxed and mucky! The project seemed to give her the power to be herself in a new situation.

Newfound confidence

“I believe this has given her the confidence to try new things in the future.”

Stomping Grounds Forest School was founded in 2017 to help communities connect with nature. Working with local schools and community projects, the idea proved so popular that a waiting list began to build.

Restrictions throughout 2020 meant that after school clubs could not go ahead. Instead, the team planned full days in the summer using their grant from the Foundation.

Between May 2019 and April 2020, the Foundation made 631 grants to groups and helped 378 people facing hardship.

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