New outdoor classroom at People's Park in Ballymena
A Forest Schools hub is to be established at People’s Park in Ballymena in a bid to promote outdoor learning.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been working with the Northern Ireland Forest Schools’ Association (NIFSA) and Public Health Agency to set up a permanent Forest Schools hub.
NIFSA is currently advertising three positions for the new People’s Park Nature Ranger Centre. The new staff members will be funded by the Public Health Agency.
From next March, an after-school facility will be provided through a 12-month pilot project.
Forest schools provide nature based learning through activities such as shelter building, foraging, insect hunts and tree climbing.
In addition, 13 schools have completed their first NIFSA school awards programme. Glynn Primary School in Larne, St Brigid’s PS in Ballymena and Model Primary PS and Sunnylands PS , in Carrickfergus, have been selected as Forest Schools.
The Forest School Awards supports the training of teachers, youth leaders and families in their own community ensuring there are no barriers for participation.
Initially, it was anticipated that the Forest Schools hub would have been able to open last month but this was not possible due to Covid. It is now expected to be up and running by next March with family events to be held ahead of the opening.
Meanwhile, work has started on phase two of the play area in People’s Park, which will see the addition of a number of new, inclusive pieces of equipment for children of all abilities, including a wheelchair swing.
The sum of £380,000 has been approved for new equipment and £145,000 for teen facilities.
The playground upgrade is expected to be completed by next March.