Pupils in Sunderland are learning more about the great outdoors with help from local camping experts and support from ward councillors.
The council’s East Area Committee has funded a ‘Camping Exchange Programme’ with access to grants, training and camping equipment available to the 24 schools in the area including tents.
It follows the success of a pilot project in neighbouring Easington where teachers and pupils at primary schools were loaned tents and taught how to put them up and look after a campsite.
School groups then camped out on their own playing fields to give children the experience of sleeping away from home in a tent overnight, and then on neighbouring school’s playing fields as confidence grew – hence the title ‘ Camping Exchange Programme.’
The project is designed to help encourage more children to get out into the fresh air and become involved in more outdoor education.
Hundreds of pupils at the schools involved are learning new camping and team-working skills, and an awareness of how camping provides a great option for family holidays.
As well as improving individuals self-confidence, leadership and problem solving skills it also helps schools with studying local history and geography which is part of their core curriculum.
Chairman of the East Area Committee, which is funding the project, Councillor Ellen Ball, said: “Every year the council’s five area committees help fund local projects in communities and neighbourhoods across our city, to provide the kind of extra resources and facilities which can improve people’s opportunities.
“In the east we support dozens of community groups, including schools with extra-curriculum help, and we were happy to help Hudson Road Primary and other local schools with access to the Camping Exchange Programme.
“The chance to spend nights under canvas, learn more outdoor and skills associated with camping are great opportunities for youngsters.
“Apart from the new experiences, everyone learns more transferable skills such as planning ahead when it comes to the weather or teamwork when you’re cooking and putting your tent up.
“And, of course, camping can also be experience that can be a lot of fun.”
Manager at Reynolds Outdoor Centre in Derwent Street, Anthony Reynolds, said: “We’ve worked closely with the council and with the school to help provide young people with the opportunities, encouragement and practical skills and advice needed to get involved with camping.
“Our region has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and what better way to enjoy that than with friends and family out in the great outdoors.”
Local schools to be involved include Hill View Infants, teacher Catherine Scott, said: “We have used the tent to create an outdoor space for the children where they can learn more about local nature and wildlife.
“Everyone seems to really enjoy being outside under canvas in the fresh air, and next year we plan to buy more tents and set up a camping club for children and their families.”
Headteacher at Hudson Road Primary, Cathy Westgate, added:” The children have really enjoyed discovering the joys of camping and exploring outdoors.”
“The reception children have loved being in the tent in the wild part of their outdoor area.
“We have used the tents as a base camp for our treasure hunt, and Key Stage Two pupils have been learning how to put up a tent which is great for their teamwork skills.”
To find out more about how about how community groups or organisations can benefit from area committee support and the Strategic Initiatives Budget (SIB), visit sunderland.gov.uk/areas