We have had an amazing month. We have made ink, charcoal, cordage, bows and arrows, held a birthday party already and had more than twenty children through our doors. We have soil tested, counted up frogs, learned how to clear dead wood and remove ivy. And we have only just started.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, especially Joan Woods and Tina Kearsting, our fairy godmothers – without them nothing would have been possible. And of course, the elementals themselves, who have been with us every step of the way. Thank you guys!
(Our first press release, hopefully the first of many!)
New Forest School brings Children, Art and Science Outdoors
Elements, a new forest school which aims to bring the best of learning and play together in the great outdoors staged its first session on 8 September. The social enterprise sees lifelong educators Stephanie Sim and Jonathan McMurray make their dream of creating a holistic educational environment in an outdoor setting come true.
“Northern Ireland is full of amazing outdoor spaces and the opportunity to enable children and families to connect to it in a meaningful and enriched manner was something I had always hoped to do,” said Stephanie Sim, co-owner of the initiative.
“There is a very strong body of academic knowledge confirming what many teachers know: getting outdoors is great for not only health, but learning as well,” said Jonathan McMurray, also the co-owner. “With many teachers having extra restrictions and controls put on them, this year socialising, playing and learning outside with our expertise behind it is sure to make a huge difference and we are so excited to offer it in a range of great sites.”
Elements will deliver forest school sessions from a variety of locations – the most recently secured venue is The Quarries Farm, which is situated on Gransha Road on the outskirts of Bangor. The farm, owned and run by Joan Woods and Tina Kersting, provides a perfect location. It is sensitively managed and has an incredible variety of habitat.
“When Joan showed me round the farm I was astounded,” said Stephanie. “The older woodland dates back to the 1830s and the new woodland which was planted by Joan and Tina is around 15 years old. Both complement the other and provide the perfect setting for a Forest School. Here children are able to be free, learn about the incredible biodiversity found on the farm that ranges from frogs to insects and birds.”
“We are thrilled that Elements will be using the space as a Forest School,” said Joan. “The farm serves as a resource for the community as well as an important lifeline for nature. We are very glad that children – and adults – will be able to come and appreciate this very special place.”
Elements will run two days a week – on a Tuesday afternoon from 3.30 to 5.30 pm and on Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm. The cost is £18 per child, with a discount for siblings and long term bookings.
“We would like to acknowledge the great debt of gratitude to the Ards and North Down Social Enterprise Programme which gave us invaluable support and guidance,” said Jonathan. “They have been so helpful. We would especially like to thank Alison McCaw who has tirelessly helped us shape our business plan and gave us good advice.”
Alison added, “ANDSEP has been delighted to help Elements get started and refine their ideas to become such a beneficial business. Not only does it contribute to the well-being and sensory development of children through rich outdoor experiences, but the ethos of the programme is particularly beneficial at this time to support children holistically. We wish Jonathan and Stephanie the best of luck and hope that their endeavour will continue to grow.”
Emma Foley, mother of two children who have been on sessions with Elements had this to say. “The time my daughters spent in the woods with Stephanie was magical. They got to enjoy and investigate and create in their surroundings guided by her knowledge and storytelling. They cannot wait to go back.”
Elements is also holding a weekly session in Hillsbrough Forest Park on Wednesday from October and is available for birthday parties and family groups. For more information or to book a session go to www.elementsschool.net. OR to book a session go here. You can also email them at email@example.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.