Recently I took the opportunity to have a professional learning week in Cornwall. By this, I mean that I made time to meet people and visit organisations which I would not normally have time to do. I learned more about their work with children outdoors and we shared experiences. The idea is really very similar to the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, except I just spent less time and didn’t go abroad 🙂
There is so much good practice happening in the UK, that I could easily spend many more weeks visiting other parts of the UK and finding out what is going on. I have a hunch that we tend to view other countries more positively and perhaps do not value our own work as much as we should. In recent years there has been a significant expansion of interest and activity around getting children outside and into natural environments to play and learn. Whilst there’s still a lot of work to make this a normal part of every child’s day, progress has been made and to be able to discuss and reflect upon this and other issues with practitioners from the other end of the UK was beneficial.
Even within Cornwall, I know I missed out on various exciting developments such as visits to schools which have embedded the outdoors in different ways. However I’d officially like to thank everyone who made the time to meet with me especially when we are all so busy. So here’s what I got up to…
Firstly I stayed at Coombe Mill Farm. This is a family-run self-catering holiday accommodation near St Brewards and was ideal as I was travelling in all directions. The place is probably the most family-friendly destination I’ve come across. Below is Guy – he’s the train driver. You can catch this train every day at 5pm – for free (all the activities are free).
Richard Irvine – an Outdoor Learning consultant got in touch and we arranged to meet at his favourite beach, Duckpool. Richard wears several outdoor hats but is well-known for his popular outdoor workshops and Forest School sessions. He and his children found this knotted rope treasure in their #2minutebeachcleanup. This Twitter campaign encourages people to spend two minutes doing a quick beach clean every time you visit a beach and to post their finds on Twitter.
The Eden Project education team also invited me to visit. Having not been to Cornwall for over 25 years, it was my first visit to this remarkable place. The biomes are great but I loved the range of local food served up in the cafe and the layout of the gardens just as much. Also the place promotes plants – which are often considered less exciting than animals. The education team are very busy providing experiences on-site. However they also have an outreach service and can provide school-based activities, workshops and teacher training. I spent the day with Gill and Bran – we had a lot to talk about, finding a lot of overlap in our work.
Highway Farm Activity Centre was a key destination for me. I know one of the co-founders, Martin Besford, through Facebook. The centre houses the Little Explorers Outdoor Pre-school, an after school club and a holiday club. All are outdoors. Expect a blogfest over the coming weeks about this place. Check out the hobbit house below.
I also gave a Learning in Natural Environments (LINE) workshop through the Natural Connections Project which Sue Waite and her team based at Plymouth University run. The research and data being gathered is really interesting and should provide some useful results in due course.
Finally, I finished the week at a Forest School Taster Session being run by Nature Workshops. I met the founder, Jane Acton a couple of years ago and always promised a return visit. Sara Dowler ran the session and was extremely good at explaining what Forest School was, and how it was more than simply a few different activities taking place in a woodland. For anyone who is interested, Nature Workshops is a Forest School Training Provider in Cornwall. For those who live elsewhere, then the first point of contact is the Forest School Association.
Finally, the reason why I was in Cornwall was to give a keynote presentation at the Cornwall Outdoors Dirty Teaching Conference. There were lots of workshops and the day was rounded off with a magnificent keynote from Andy Kirkpatrick – an author, climber and stand-up comedian. My thanks go to Andy Barclay for organising this and inviting me to present. He also very kindly made time to meet me and a member of his team Sandi to chat and exchange our thoughts.
The week was busy, full-on and if you are waiting on a response to an email you’ve sent recently, then I can only apologise. I came away feeling inspired by all those with whom I came into contact. Thanks again.