Elements Forest and Garden School started in September 2020, in the teeth of the lockdown. We have since held over a hundred Forest School sessions, two Summer Schemes, Birthday Parties, Art classes and have had literally hundreds of happy children and adults take part.

We combine art, science and being outdoors.

But who makes up Elements? We are a group of educators, artists and scientists who have several decades of amongst us.

Working out of the Steiner-Waldorf and Montessori background, Elements combines love for nature, imaginative play, artistic activities and skills to deliver a set of outdoor based activities tailored to fit the age group as well as the environment it finds itself in.

Elements is a social enterprise initiative assisted by the Ards and North Down Council Social Enterprise Scheme. It is our ambition to eventually become a co-operative of like minded individuals who are enthusiastic about our planet and the people who look after it.

Who are we?

Jonathan as headmaster in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Jonathan McMurray

Jonathan is an Educationist with a broad range of experiences in many settings These include everything from Alternative teaching through to special needs provision, as well as delivering entertainment shows for family audiences. All of this has given him a real appreciation for how children really learn, what helps make them healthy and what is important to them. By far the work he did with Stephanie in a forest school setting made the biggest impression as having such a striking impact on children who attend and he is very happy to be part of such a positive enterprise.

Jonathan’s role is now advisory and largely administrative.

Stephanie during a farm stay

Stephanie Sim

Stephanie hails from Singapore. When she was 18 she received the prestigious Public Service Commission Scholarship from the Singaporean Government to study in Literature in England for three years. After she returned, she worked for the Singaporean Government for five years in PR.

She moved to Northern Ireland in 1997, completed her MA in English Studies from the University of Singapore, and has lived in Northern Ireland ever since. During that time she worked in the Playhouse in L’Derry, a software developer in Derry/Belfast, and for ten years with the RSPB in PR. She also spent two months working in a rainforest restoration programme in Indonesia. 

In 2010, to fulfil her lifelong interest in Steiner education, she enrolled in the three-year Teacher Training course and graduated in 2013. She began working at the school in 2012 and is still working there as a Main Lesson Teacher.

She also qualified as a Forest School instructor in 2013. Stephanie was also the school’s gardening teacher between 2012 – 2018. During that time, with the help of volunteers, she established the school gardens at the back and taught a range of children between the ages of 6 and 14.

She has also conducted Forest School every year between 2012 – 2018. 

We also invite and collaborate with other facilitators, teachers, parents, conservationists and crafts people as and when required. Our friends are invited based on their love for nature, interest in education and expertise in their field.

Here are some of them.

Gabriel Knight

Gabriel trained at the Art College in the 80s. She has worked as a Steiner teacher for the past 30 years. Gabriel’s extensive knowledge and experience enables her to bring a thoughtful, methodical style to her lessons. She takes the participant on a step by step journey which is relaxing, funny and makes it seem oh so easy.

If you are an experienced artist or a beginner you will doubtless learn something from Gabriel’s class. Her first sessions were sold out by the end of the four lessons.

She is our very own Roberta Ross.

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Emma Foley

We are so thrilled to have Emma Foley join our little band of artists who love what they do and want to share it with you. Emma is committed to excellence of product and experience. She is a consummate storyteller and a mine of information about wool and other textiles.

Here’s a bit about Emma in her own words.

“Textiles, Costume and Folklore are the passions I carry throughout my professional life and these courses are an incredible opportunity  to share that passion with you. 

It is my great hope that you will feel and embrace the tactile power of the materials under your fingers and the transformative power of creation in your minds and hearts. I am here to facilitate this for you with over 25 years of experience, expertise and enthusiasm.

Above all else, ‘Making’ is a way to connect to yourself and to the world around you. 

Creativity is a process and a practice which just cannot be overrated.

My experience as a teacher over the years ranges from Kindergarten handwork classes and soft crafts through to extensive felting and fibre workshops, interiors and dressmaking classes and the pursuit of my own practice as a writer and fibre artist.

The only warning I issue is that working like this is addictive, get ready to be seduced by the integrated worlds of artisan craft and story!

Contact us by emailing hello@elementsschool.net