Skelton Grange Environmental Centre has been a powerhouse for nature for more than 25 years.
The centre, near the site of the old Skelton Grange Power Station, has helped train and educate more than 200,000 people since its inception in 1992.
The nature resource in Stourton is a partnership between national charity The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and National Grid. They also get support from Leeds City Council.
Harry Bratt, an administrator at Skelton Grange, said: “Our bread and butter from when we started was really about getting young people and children outside and active. Teaching them environmental education. Much of that was aimed at children who might not have the same opportunities to get outside as others.”
These include children from disadvantaged backgrounds with little or no experience of the great outdoors.
Mr Bratt added: “It’s bringing classes, mainly from primary schools, and teaching them about things they can do outside and things that tie in with the curriculum. So mini beast hunting and even history topics. We teach some stone age days as well.”
Skelton Grange doesn’t just help children. TCV runs a wide range of activities for all ages. Adults of all abilities are welcomed. Some get involved with volunteering and with traineeship opportunities.
Skelton Grange also stages teambuilding employee action days for those who want to do something more involved than paintballing, like building a dry stonewall. Mr Bratt added: “Really it’s about getting people outside and active, and contributing to something a bit larger.
“We send volunteers away on a conservation job and they work to get that job done. At the end of it they realise they feel a lot happier that they have been outside and been contributing to something together.”
He said one of its most recent examples was the School Green Gym initiative. It evolved from a programme for adults, which helped measure people’s well being and physical and mental health while they volunteered.
The administrator said: “This is a new scheme which we are trying with younger people. It’s doing really well. We notice the children build their confidence and resilience. It is exciting to see, because sometimes children can’t get that from a normal classroom environment.
“For example we have children who normally in the classroom might not be the best behaved or they might have trouble concentrating.”
But once they get outside sometimes their problems become less of an issue as they become engrossed by what they are doing. He said: “It’s as if the group changes because they are in a different environment and they are doing something together outside or burning off that physical energy.
“You can think the children are very shy, but when you get them outside doing a group activity they really come out of their shell.”
“It’s surprising to say, it’s not necessarily a given that children will have experienced being outside that much anymore.
“It’s a new thing and an exciting thing and they have different perceptions of what things they are going to find.”
“Having a very visceral introduction to that experience is a really strong part of the learning for them.
“It’s not just about teaching them about insects, nature and trees.
“It’s about letting them experience it for themselves.”
Skelton Grange in Stourton has a whole host of events planned in the run up to Easter and beyond.
Families and child can experience one of the environmental centre’s monthly nature activity days on Monday, April 1.
The 10am to 1pm event is self-guided where families can explore the nature area independently. A £3 donation per child can be paid on arrival, with proceeds going towards The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), the charity that runs Skelton Grange.
There is a bushcraft event on Wednesday, April 3 from 10am to 4pm where youngsters can learn skills like shelter building and campfire cooking.
Skelton Grange is also hosting an Easter playscheme from Monday, April 8 to Friday, April 12. The paid for event, which runs from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, is aimed at eight to 13-year-olds.
The centre’s popular Easter egg trail will be held on Good Friday, April 19, from 11am to 12.30pm at the environmental centre on Skelton Grange Road.
Tickets cost £5 and will aid the charity’s mission to get young people outdoors and learning about nature.
Plans are also in the pipeline for the TCV Big Green Weekend open day at Skelton Grange on Saturday, September 21.
It will tie in with TCV’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
For more information about any of these events please see: www.tcv.org.uk/skeltongrange/courses-events.