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New outdoor learning centre to inspire kids about nature

A new outdoor centre has been opened in Hampshire in the south of England, giving young people the chance to learn about the natural environment and support their mental and physical wellbeing.

The Youth Options Outdoor Learning Centre in Eastleigh will deliver a schedule of unique programmes for local children outside of a typical school environment.

The surrounding nature will provide the main focal point for activities to develop children’s’ social and emotional capabilities, engage with learning and make positive decisions. The centre includes forest school sites, wild spaces, and two polytunnels to deliver horticulture programmes.

The mental health benefits of connecting with the environment are well known and this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was themed around nature. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.

The site is now well in use, with programmes organised to support young carers, young people with long term health conditions, and children in care.

Madeleine Durie, CEO of the charity Youth Options said:

The impact the outdoors can have on mental and physical wellbeing is huge, and we can’t wait to support the local community. We are also incredibly grateful to all the funders, supporters, and organisations who made this possible.

Work on The Youth Options Outdoor Learning Centre began in October 2020. The site was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant for Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, who hoped it would support young people in their area thrive post-pandemic.

The Lord Lieutenant, who is also President of Youth Options, said:

The pandemic has greatly affected everyone in many different ways. The potential that this site has to support children and young people overcome these issues is fantastic, and I could not be more excited to not only open the site, but to see the impact if will make for years to come.