Every month, we will be dipping into the Culture Challenge Directory to explore the wealth of dedicated cultural and creative professionals we have on our doorstep. This June, as our thoughts turn to spending more time outdoors, we feature providers who specialise in delivering workshops around the theme of Nature and Adventure.
We are spoilt for choice in our region when it comes to interesting venues to visit and explore the great outdoors. Just north of Bedford, Bromham Mill provides a fascinating insight into how reliant people once were on the River Great Ouse in order to work and feed themselves, and even to this day, the Mill remains a community hub in the village, through their popular Apple Day, cafe and frequently changing art exhibitions held amongst the historic machinery. Historical visits to both the Mill and extensive nature walks can be organised for schools.
Speaking of the river, it’s all aboard the John Bunyan Boat for a unique view of the Great Ouse, snaking its way through Bedford, and for schools taking cruises on a Tuesday or Wednesday, they offer a 25% discount. If it’s dry land you prefer, then we have a host of forest schools including Forest Owl Adventures, Sunny Coppice and Wasseldine who provide multi-sensory experiences for children outdoors.
Both Teaching Talons and The English School of Falconry provide the opportunity for schools to engage with animals. Both providers will visit your school accomapnied by their feathered friends and, in the case of Teaching Talons, a menagerie of creatures including snakes, tortoises, tarantulas and even giant snails can visit your school for the day!
Did you know that Milton Keynes has over 5000 acres of parks, lakes and landscapes? The Parks Trust manages both Linford Lakes and Howe Park Wood which are open to the public for schools to learn more about the natural environment.
The setting of Howe Park Wood is ideal for studying comparative habitats and for generally experiencing the natural world. The Visitors Centre provides a base for local schools as well as those from further afield to come out for a half day or full day of environmental education activities with use of the facilities for lunch and access to toilets.
Linford Lakes consists of a large lake, woodland and small meadows which are interlaced with a series of ponds and smaller lakes. The secluded location of the reserve makes it an oasis for wildlife, which provides a great opportunity for children to learn about the natural environment.
Finally, if you are looking to escape the bustle of life in the town, both Warden Abbey Community Vineyard and The Chellington Centre can offer the opportunity to re-connect with the great outdoors, deep in the Bedfordshire countryside. Warden Abbey Vineyard provides Years 7 & 8 with the opportunity to learn about the history of the Abbey, and the monks who first planted vines on the site in Medieval Times. There’s plenty of opportunity to gain practical skills when getting involved with seasonal tasks and even exploring the calligraphy once practiced at the Abbey.
The Chellington Centre is located ten miles north of Bedford just outside the small riverside village of Carlton. With stunning views across the countryside, the building itself is a historic 12th Century church which has been transformed into a 30 bed youth residential centre, hosting one day or overnight breaks and is the ideal location to appreciate the outdoors. Schools can use the centre’s facilities, games and kitchen, with a main hall and 2 break out rooms. Activities can be added to a day like Forest Skills, Archery or Kayaking.
The benefits of teaching outside the classroom are widespread and well documented. For those who may find it difficult to concentrate in the traditional classroom environment, educating outdoors can offer a complementary approach to the curriculum and many opportunities to engage pupils using a variety of methods. We are lucky to have such an assortment of providers in the locality who choose to engage with the outside environment to deliver a diverse portfolio of educational experiences to young people.