Beyond Forest School at Frensham Heights

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Outdoor Ed with a difference

At Frensham Heights, learning outside goes far beyond the outdoor education programme which runs from Nursery all the way through Sixth Form. We truly believe that as much, if not more, learning happens outside the classroom as within. Forest School, DofE, expedition trips and many other outdoor ed opportunities are firmly bed into the school’s co-curricular life. Alongside, we have now launched two key outdoor learning opportunities in Key Stage 3 (Yrs 7-9), when many students across the country normally find themselves stuck inside for most of the school day.

Worthy Earth Kitchen Garden

Working with the organisation Worthy Earth, Year 7 students have begun the foundations of an agro-ecological, regenerative kitchen garden. The garden is an interactive and animate learning resource designed to give students an awareness of the social reality of food production and an understanding of sustainability and biodiversity. Students are involved in all stages from planning, building and planting through to maintenance and harvesting. Along with the development of personal skills and community engagement, the students gain a better understanding of where their food comes from and are better equipped to make decisions taking into account ecological responsibilities. Ultimately, we hope the garden will provide at least some of the fresh vegetables for the school kitchen.

The Year 8 Village

The Worthy Earth kitchen garden blends with another Frensham project called the Village which sees Year 8 students building and running a self-sustaining village in the woods on the school site. They build their sleeping structures, work together to manage who will build the fire, who will keep it going, who will cook the food, who will clean up. They are introduced, by experts, to foraging and hunting with a hawk. They spend time working down at the kitchen garden and hopefully harvesting a bit of produce to provide meals for the Village. During their time living at the Village, the students jump far out of their modern comfort zones (it’s a zero tech environment). The benefits in terms of resilience, self-reliance, teamwork, problem-solving, creative-thinking, independence, leadership (and the list goes on) are invaluable.

As with all outdoor education projects, the kitchen garden and the Village are programmes which begin with learning the skill set that prepares the students for the experiential learning – the real adventures. As their practical skills develop and the experiences widen, the students develop massively in confidence, empathy, resilience, collaboration and communication. They learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and to be adaptable in changing situations. This is a real chance for those children whose courage may not come through in the classroom to really shine.

Year 12 Knoydart

By the time they reach Year 12, many students are ready to go even further outside their comfort zones and everyday experience. They can apply to be part of the team which heads off to the Knoydart Foundation in Scotland every year. This is a true outdoor expedition with overnight seakayaking, canyoning and trekking combined with community work and cultural immersion. Students fundraise for materials before they go, manage the budget for the duration of the trip and take it in turns to lead the team for the day – planning, assessing and managing risk – developing true leadership skills.

Frensham truly aims to embed a spirit of adventure into all students from an early age. Come and see for yourself! Join us for an Open Morning (www.frensham.org) or visit us at stand 612 at the Independent School Show in Battersea.

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