West Lothian College has been shortlisted for an Educations Building Scotland Award for their outdoor classroom project.

The classroom, which was constructed in a forest zone on the campus grounds and was built using recycled materials from around the college, has been shortlisted in the Innovation in Delivering a Sustainable Learning Space category.

The theme of sustainability comes through in the lessons taught in the Forest Classroom as students are encouraged to be creative in using recycled or natural materials for play and teaching. Some activities include using plastic bottles to create bird feeders and using materials bound for landfills to build dens.

The classroom is also helping to address the gender imbalance within early learning and childcare careers. It shows a different side to these careers in an environment which may appeal to more males than the traditional learning environment.

Centre Head for Childhood Practice at West Lothian College Claire Glen said: “We are delighted that the work on our Forest Classroom and Men in Early Years project has been recognised by being shortlisted for the sustainability award.

“It was really important for us to respond to this key Scottish Government driver and to meet local workforce demand by ensuring our learners were truly prepared for employment.

“Our goal was to create an open, accessible and sustainable space for learning and teaching that was flexible and could support new and creative activities and I think you can see from the positive feedback from our students and the excitement from the children and young people using the area that we have made a really positive start.”

Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People, recently visited the Forest Classroom and spent time talking to staff and students at the college. On her visit she said: “The college’s use of the forest classroom and outdoor learning goes a long way to challenge boys’ perceptions of working in an early years environment.

“Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve wellbeing and resilience, supports healthy living through physical activity and allows children to use the natural world to help develop their curiosity.”