An exciting initiative has been launched for schoolchildren to explore the nature, history and culture of the South Downs.

Schools across Hampshire and West Sussex are being invited to take part in Explorers of the South Downs, which will offer a range of fun activities for young people to connect with the natural world and learn about the national park.

Children will enjoy an outdoor adventure and learn new skills, such as building a shelter, bush craft, tree identification, bug hunting, mindfulness activities, environmental art, team building and photography – all focused on the landscape, culture and history of the South Downs.

The project is a partnership between So Sussex, a Sussex-based outdoor education organisation, the South Downs National Park Authority, and Friends of the South Downs, whose donation has made the project possible. The aim is to support schools with a number of disadvantaged pupils and/or children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Emma Bruce, youth and community engagement officer for the national park, said: “It’s really exciting to be launching this new initiative to help connect young people with nature. We surveyed more than 200 schools in the area and all of them believed outdoor learning was good for mental and physical health, while more than three-quarters said it raised attainment in children.

“The national park is an education resource we want schools to use and enjoy. There are so many opportunities to learn in the great outdoors and that’s what this scheme is all about – giving young people that connection with the environment that will hopefully last a lifetime.”

Andrew Lovett, a trustee of Friends of the South Downs, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund this excellent project. Helping children to understand and love the downs is one of our top priorities – 2023 is our centenary year and this project is a great way to celebrate.”

Caroline Fleming, who helps to run the Schools Without Walls programme for So Sussex, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for children and young people to discover and explore the South Downs, to connect to nature and learn about their own local environment.”

The scheme will run until September and is open to primary and secondary schools. Any schools interested should email Caroline at [email protected]