An education day in Norfolk brought hundreds of children together to learn about and experience the countryside. Lee Murphy takes a look at how grants from the CLA Charitable Trust help make events like this possible.
Through member contributions to the CLA Charitable Trust (CLACT) a variety of organisations are benefiting from grants to support their work in delivering exceptional outdoor learning experiences that focus on farming, food and countryside experiences.
One such recent beneficiary is Countryside Learning, a charity that has a mission to educate, inform and inspire children, so that they can enjoy and appreciate the countryside, while having a greater understanding of the wide range of issues surrounding it. The CLACT is providing more than twenty thousand pounds over three years to support this work.
Countryside Learning runs around 300 school education days across England and Wales and reach up to 20,000 children per year with their programme of events. Through their Farms for Schools programme, which involves organising school trips to farms, they reach a further 300,000 children.
Speaking at one such event where 800 children had gathered at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, Countryside Learning Chief Executive, Gary Richardson, said the positive experiences children have of the countryside can provide immeasurable benefits.
"The vast majority of schools that we deal with are urban schools," said Gary. "I've seen kids of inner-city schools get out to our events and just touch grass and experience green and open space for the very first time.
"I think once children get over their dependence of looking at digital screens, which is a very insular world, their minds open up very quickly," adds Gary. "Teachers we work with tell us that they see a different child once they're in the countryside. They are more engaged, they absorb information better and when they go back into the classroom their attention spans are so much better.
"Essentially, we're trying to reconnect children to the countryside. There are obvious learning experiences to be had such as where your food comes from and how the natural environment is managed. But one of the key messages is to get kids out and about, off their screens and start engaging with the world around them."
Bridget Biddell, Chair of the CLA Charitable Trust, said: “It is wonderful for us to be able to support the work of charities such as Countryside Learning and to hear of the positive impact their work is having on the lives of the young people involved.
“The countryside can be a wonderful source of education and inspiration and we are delighted that through our members’ contributions to the CLACT we are able to support organisations in this way.”
In recognising the support of the CLACT, Gary said: “It’s essential to be honest. We get no funding from the government and we don’t charge schools to come to our events because the financial pressures of schools and families are already immensely great. We are hugely grateful to all the individual donors, trusts and supporters that we have.”