One aspect of outdoor learning that many practitioners can forget is making the link between outdoor experiences and how this impacts indoors. Where outdoor learning is an established way within a school or setting, the indoor environment reflects this.

Masefiled Poem

This is the start of one of my favourite poems, “Sea Fever” by John Masefield

Natural materials are used creatively as part of displays. Found material is incorporated into play and learning activities. Historical artefacts appear in different places. There are lots of interesting objects for children to look at, touch, feel, smell and play with. The indoor environment will inspire children to explore and learn about the world around them. It will do this in playful and creative ways.


Two weeks ago I spent a couple of nights at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel whilst attending a Beach School course. It was one of the most interesting hostels I have visited because of its creative approach to linking past history and present context into the hostel itself It is a fantastic source of inspiration about the contribution an indoor environment can make to what is happening outside and vice versa.

Welcome sign

Throughout the hostel there is a hearty sea theme. The whole space is awash with driftwood, which has been used in so many ways. Many of the displays, such as this sea glass boat had driftwood borders.

Sea Glass art

Sometimes the drift wood has been used directly for art work, such as the rather sweet painting of ships.

Sailing boats

This set of pirates was sitting on the mantelpiece just waiting for a child to play with them:


 My favourite pirate touch had to be the use of the hats as lamp shades:

Pirate light

There was quite a collection of sailing ships. These were to be found on shelves, by windows and in many nooks and crannies. Look at this window ledge to give you a feeling for the sheer amount of ships and other objects around the place.


Hobby horses were also scattered throughout the main part of the hostel. These have been beautifully made. Check out the use of a wooden stump as a holder:

Hobby Horses

Have a closer look at the detail of the heads. Each horse has a name. In one school where I worked, a parent had made lots of hobby horses which were very popular at break times and got huge amounts of use.

Hobby Horses 2

This hostel was very child-centred in lots of ways. There were lots of families staying and it was lovely to see and hear so many children around the place. At the reception there were lots of activities for children to undertake which were clipped up on the walls. There were at least three different hunts such as looking for the golden coins, fish and “wanted” posters.

Treasure hunt

As well as free-range plastic dinosaurs, army men seemed to pop up on various ledges:

Army figure

Even good use was made of the ceiling and rafters. In the dining room, there was all sorts of buoys, drift wood, rope ladders and even a dummy!

Dead Man

Recently, I’ve seen sand make a real comeback in popularity, inside and out. Lots of places seem to be creating beaches. At Boggle Hole, the training room had a beach with a rather fetching backdrop:

Indoor Sandpit

The toilets did not get missed out. Children love toilets that are quirky. One had a hidden “Cabinet of Curiosities” filled with all sorts of old and dusty objects. All the toilet holders were bespoke creations such as the one below!

Toilet roll holder
The walls had so many things to look at. This rather stunning silhouette reminded me of the children’s writer and illustrator, Jan Pienkowski or maybe it was an ode to Tim Burton and the Pirates of the Caribbean…

Pienowski art

The information boards in the dormitory had not escaped a sea-themed makeover. Strong glue has been used to attach the driftwood, stones and shells.  Rope was used decoratively throughout the hostel, on walls, as borders for displays and other things.

Notice Board

One of my favourite items had to be the beautiful slab of wood that had been used to create a chess board. I’d seen noughts and crosses boards made from wood slices but not something on this scale.

Pebble chess set
This is why I like visiting different places – ideas and inspiration for applying to working with children. Boggle Hole felt like a much loved place where children could freely play and were truly welcomed as visitors. It was more than family-friendly. It was play-friendly. Any visitor of any age could see the fun, creativity and care that exuded from this hostel and the personal touches that gave it a distinctive style and ethos. How does your classroom reflect the local outdoor area? What makes your indoor space unique?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kierna August 24, 2013 at 14:32

Wow, what a quirky & welcoming place to stay.


winniewimp August 25, 2013 at 07:50

I had a wonderful time there and you made the training extra special by being there as fab company Juliet 🙂 Thanks for the link, the hostel is one of the best that i have stayed in 🙂 x


peta nugent September 6, 2013 at 21:48

ahoy there! so pleased you liked our hostel I am sorry andy and myself were not there to welcome you, we were on holiday. We have been the managers at Boggle for 18 years and most of the things we have found on the beach outside the hostel, we are very lucky to work in such an amazing place and are delighted that you and lots of guests like boggle. hope to see you again. Peta & Andy


Juliet Robertson September 12, 2013 at 07:18

Aha! Thanks Peta and Andy for your comment. It did feel like there was some ongoing love! All the best places have continuous input over many years. And to think I haven’t even talked about all the outdoor structures!


frank bennett August 19, 2015 at 18:17

hi there just a quick email to say how impressed with your site i make things from driftwood found on beaches near my home on the west coast of ireland my work is emlagh driftwood art on pintrest kind regards frank bennett


Juliet Robertson August 20, 2015 at 05:38

Thanks Frank – I’ ve had a quick look and that’s a super Pinterest board you’ve put together.


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