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Parklife programme hailed as best in class

14 Feb 2018

A Belfast City Council-pioneered education programme has been hailed as “best in class”.

ParkLife, which is run by the Council in conjunction with Ulster Wildlife, is an education programme which uses and promotes the Council’s parks and open spaces across the city as a resource for outdoor learning. It is designed to encourage children and their families to get outdoors and explore their local parks.

The ParkLife programme has three main elements, which in turn focus on schools, Saturday Clubs and community groups.

The Council recently commissioned Dr Karen Kerr from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast, to undertake an evaluation of the schools’ aspect of the programme.

The study found that, as a result of taking part in ParkLife:

• more children visited their local park more often or took part in a wider range of outdoor activities;
• more children expressed a closer connection to nature, and a sense of responsibility for the natural environment;
• an increased number of children showed an interest in environmental sustainability, and issues such as littering, animal welfare and pollution; and
• more children were more positive about their energy levels, and felt that learning outdoors helped them pay more attention in school.

“As a result of the positive findings from this evaluation, it is apparent that learning outdoors in local parks through the ParkLife Education Programme, is a very positive experience for children across all the primary and secondary outcomes measured,” concluded Dr Kerr.

“As a result of the findings, the ParkLife Education Programme should be considered as good practice and Belfast City Council should consider sharing their learning from the programme with other councils and organisations.”

The findings were warmly welcomed by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister, who this morning (Friday) herself took part in one of the ParkLife sessions, along with Dr Kerr and pupils from Botanic Primary School. She said:

“The ParkLife programme aims to encourage children, and their families, to get outdoors and explore their local parks, and to both appreciate and interact with nature and the natural environment.

“Dr Kerr’s report recognises the positive effect that being outdoors and connecting with nature has on our physical and emotional wellbeing, and demonstrates that ParkLife is undoubtedly making a significant contribution to this. Needless to say, having run the programme for 11 years, the Council is committed to the continued delivery of ParkLife and the benefits it brings to both our young citizens of the future and to our city itself.”

Parklife Lord Mayor