'Forest bathing' on the curriculum at Edinburgh’s new woodland learning hub

A pioneering new learning hub will use fire pits, camping and ‘forest bathing’ to support youngsters who have come through abuse and trauma.

By Shona Elliott
Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 4:45 pm

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The innovative £1.95m hub is to be built by the Harmeny Education Trust, who specialises in helping children who have suffered early years trauma.

Designed by Loader Monteith Architects the new facilities will create a “joyful” “calm” and “uplifting” environment for young people past the age of 14 to attend.

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An artist's impression of how the planned forest learning centre in Balerno will look.

Located in 35 acres of woodland on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the new building will offer vocational classrooms, art spaces and a bike workshop, as well as multi-functional internal and external areas.

Nearly £1.2 million of the £1.95m funding target has already been raised and it is hoped work on the project, which has been led by Loader Monteith and SJM Architects, will be complete in summer 2022.

We are a step closer to providing young people with the spaces they need to thrive

Thanks to a grant of £75,000 from the Wolfson Foundation, Harmeny has achieved over £1.5m of its £1.95m fundraising target, with just under £400k to raise by the end of October.

A graphic showing an art and design workshop at the planned hub.

“We hugely appreciate the Wolfson Foundation’s support of our Learning for Life Appeal. Thanks to their grant we are a step closer to providing some of Scotland’s most remarkable young people with the spaces, support and opportunities they need to thrive”, said Mandy Shiel, Head of Education at Harmeny.

Harmeny is home to a community where children, currently aged 5 to 14, impacted by abuse, neglect and significant family disruption find the space to live, learn and grow. The charity’s Learning for Life Appeal is an opportunity to help increase both Harmeny’s capacity and reach. It will enable more young people to discover their potential and extend support up to the age of 18.

We believe passionately that this inequality is unacceptable

Research has shown care experienced young people are twice as likely as their peers to use drugs, have poor health, or commit crime. Exclusion from school is far more common, and the young people are more than three times as likely not to have a full-time job by the age of 26. They are also twice as likely to experience homelessness.

“We believe passionately that this inequality is unacceptable”, Mrs Shiel said, “and that no child who is in care, through no fault of their own, should have lower life chances than those who have had a secure childhood.”

She added: “We know that, with the right support at the right time, young people can build the confidence and skills they need to help them reach their goals for the future.”

Our new hub is more than just a building

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “It was clear to us that Harmeny has a transformative impact on the vulnerable young people in its care. We are delighted to be able to help Harmeny expand its remarkable education provision for young people up to the age of 18.”

“Our new hub is more than just a building,” Mrs Shiel added. “The Hub will support young people to develop vital skills for life and work, and enable them to move on to positive destinations such as employment, apprenticeships and further education.”

“Thanks to the Wolfson Foundation, we’ve passed a major milestone but we must keep going to reach our target. We are urging businesses and individuals to join us and help raise the remaining funds by the end of this year.”

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