‘PROPER NATURED’

Covered in mud and busy pouring water into a leaf filled hole he’d dug with sticks, next to the woodland camp he’d built with friends ‘I’m proper natured’ he told his mum as he proudly showed off his new home.

It was the last day of our three week summer camp, where over 30 children mainly from Moulsecoomb Primary had come along for a couple of days. Like a mini outdoor festival where for a few hours children could make art from materials they found in the woods, pond dip for baby newts, dragonfly nymphs and blood sucking leeches, make pizzas in our revamped pizza oven, scoff raspberries and blackberries, harvest vegetables, hunt for slow-worms, play hide and seek, have water fights, make wooden wands and natural fire and of course camps.

Thanks to funding from The Pebble Trust we were able to have plenty of adults around to offer lots of different activities and support, especially to those that had hardly left their houses or been away from their parents since lock down. We could be hands on when needed and step back and let them get on with their play when they wanted.

We’ve been working at Moulsecoomb Primary for 15 years and its stunning grounds need to be seen to be believed. Ponds, chickens, vegetable beds, orchards, a fairytale forest and so many more nooks and crannies and places to explore. It’s crowning glory are the ancient roundhouses that are used to teach the pre history curriculum to children across Sussex.

During lock down we helped the school deliver nearly 100 growing packs so children could continue the gardening that is part of their learning at school.

Just because it doesn’t have a roof doesn’t mean you can’t learn outside. It isn’t an opt out – its a way of teaching all children but especially those that learn by doing.

One little lad busied himself for two days in his camp; practical, inquisitive, problem solving, he struggles in a classroom, like putting a square peg in a round hole. What does that do to his self esteem?

Schools get backed into a corner by government targets and OFSTED, league tables and impossible demands with less money and a tired curriculum that doesn’t value the joy of learning or take the context of a school into account.

Now more than ever schools will need to be nurturing – and what better way to do that than to get proper natured and muddy while working out how to build your own camp?

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